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About fifteen years ago, I checked out a book from the library, which I would like to locate again. It was a slim volume, recently published by a female author. I remember from reading the cover blurb that she was in her 20s and it was her first book.

I believe that the title had the word "Maze" in it, as that was what drew me to the book. I read some of it, but I did not finish, since the whole thing was written as a kind of opaque prose poetry. The protagonist had "swallowed the compass rose" at the entrance to a maze, and (guided by that direction-finding element) was making their way through the labyrinth, toward some unknown goal and meeting enigmatic other maze-dwellers along the way.

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  • Magical maze dwellers? That is, this is science fiction or fantasy?
    – Adamant
    Nov 8 '17 at 0:40
  • Prose poem? Isn't that contradictory?
    – Politank-Z
    Nov 8 '17 at 3:12
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This is Catherynne M. Valente's "The Labyrinth", not quite the "Maze" your memory told you. From the description at Amazon:

A lyrical anti-quest through a conscious maze without center, borders, or escape--a dark pilgrim's progress through a landscape of vicious Angels, plague houses, crocodile-prophets, tragic chess-sets, and the mind of an unraveling woman, driven on by the mocking guide who seeks to destroy as much as save.

Enter the world of the Labyrinth, where Doors do not wait to be opened, but hunt you in the night. This is Zarathustra in Wonderland, a puzzle which defies solution, a twisted path through language and madness...

But where will you hide?

On that same page, in someone's review, here's your clue about the Compass Rose:

The book tells us about the Seeker in the Labyrinth, who no longer seeks the Center. She has swallowed the Compass Rose which helps her direction.

It was also her first book, published in 2004 when she was 25, matching more of your clues.

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