Author: Sharon Cameron
Read: December 27th-30th
Release Date: April 28th, 2015
Genre: dystopian, post-apocalyptic, steampunk
In short: such a fascinating premise, and a well-told story! Also, bonus points for not being your average dystopian.
Goodreads: History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?
Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.
As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.
I was pleasantly surprised by Rook, because reviews for it seemed very mixed. I’m one of the few people who didn’t have issues with its length or its pacing; quite honestly, the story engaged me so much that I didn’t even have time to think about those issues. As long as you go into Rook knowing 1. that it’s not your typical dystopian novel and 2. that things can get a little draggy in the middle, you’ll love it.
≫ THE PLOT:
When you live in the Sunken City, you look evil in the face.
In a far away future, a post-apocalyptic Paris is restless under the thumb of its dictator and cruel Ministre of Security. A mysterious figure named the Red Rook is rescuing prisoners before they’re taken to the guillotine, and the government will do anything to their hands on the vigilante. The Red Rook will do anything to save her family from impending bankruptcy, even if it means marrying a vain Parisian stranger. When Sophia agreed to marry René, though, she didn’t expect him to be related to a high-up government official. She also didn’t expect for her family to get tangled in her mess—and perhaps even answer for her crimes.
There’s a lot of complaints about the pacing and length of the book, but I actually thought it worked well for me. By the time things started to get the slightest bit slow, I was already too invested in the characters. The twists were really nicely worked in, and I love that we got the perspective of the villain from time to time so we know little bits of his plan—it’s pretty terrifying!
≫ THE SETTING:
The world of Rook is post-apocalyptic, but reads more like the era of the French Revolution. Why, you ask? In the author’s note, Sharon Cameron explains that the planet has undergone some drastic pole shift, which messed up technology and caused the apocalypse. I don’t know about you, but I’m so into that. The issue is that I wish the setting had been addressed better within the novel itself; we get some glimpses and hints, but not the whole explanation. What I did like was the (pretty enigmatic) system of faith that our antagonist adheres to, and the description of the setting. Even if things aren’t explained very well during the course of the novel, I didn’t feel like the setting was really missing anything.
≫ THE PROTAGONIST:
When it came down to it, Sophia Bellamy simply feared boredom more than she feared death.
I really liked Sophia, even when she was being reckless or ridiculous. I liked that she didn’t fall into the typical YA dystopian heroine trap. I especially liked that she admits that being the Red Rook is not just for the greater good: it’s also for the thrill. She can certainly hold her own, and her perspective was very entertaining to read—especially her interactions with René!
≫ THE OTHER CHARACTERS:
The strong point of this book is definitely its characters; every one of them has a fresh, standout personality that sets them apart. From Orla to Madame Hasard, they feel like actual people, even if they aren’t around for much. Some of the most entertaining characters to read about were René (of course), Madame Hasard, LeBlanc, and even René’s uncles and Mrs. Rathbone, who aren’t around very much. I’m no expert on French-ness, but I thought that René especially carried off the Parisian dandy (with something more serious beneath) very well, and I loved the way he was written.
≫ OF VILLAINS:
LeBlanc: did you say fanatic? The villain of Rook is dedicated to the goddess Fate, and makes his decisions by the toss of a coin. But he can also be very cold and calculating. Like I said, I really liked that we got to see his perspective as well, no matter how chilling it could get.
≫ THE ROMANCE:
“Miss Bellamy,” he said, so that only she could hear. “You are the brightest of stars fallen to the earth.”
Sophia looked at him from beneath darkened lashes. “Isn’t that what the Ancients said about Lucifer, Monsieur?”
Confession: I haven’t mentioned that there’s a little bit of a love triangle. Sort of. Only a little. If it didn’t bother me, it probably won’t bother any other reader, because I am the pickiest when it comes to those. Besides, I thought the way the love triangle was written made it…less of a love triangle, if that makes sense? The half of it that’s not René and Sophia is actually quite well-explained.
More importantly: René and Sophia! They were extremely swoony together. I love the way that this romance progressed, and I would read dozens of books about their mutual understanding and Spanish escapades. If you’re on the fence about this book, let me tell you: it’s so worth it for them, if not anything else.
≫ THE ENDING:
The “final act,” if you will, was actually brilliantly written, IMO. When the POVs switched, the last line of one would be echoed in the first of the next, and it was absolutely amazing. If the climax was heart-pounding and edge-of-your-seat, then the actual end—the resolution of the remaining plot threads—was an uproar. Rook managed to give me both an action-packed ending and a hilarious, antic-filled one.
≫ TO SUMMARISE:
Not your average dystopian novel! Read this for French Revolution/The Scarlet Pimpernel vibes, a romance you’ll definitely root for, and characters that are wonderfully three-dimensional and entertaining.