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.
THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW
My main issue with Rook was the way in which the story hit every beat that has been hit a hundred times by hundreds of other stories. The idea was sound, I thought, but none of the elements of the story seemed to really come together. The characters came off as puppets, the plot was confusing since I had no idea where information was coming from, and the writing was pretty shy of the mark.
What Worked for Me
The Idea • • • I was intrigued by the Author’s Note in the back, how Sharon Cameron was inspired by the way the Earth’s magnetic poles have switched twice in geological history, and what would happen if the poles drifted just a little bit, leaving only pockets of humanity and useless technology and general devastation in its wake. Her inspiration was solid, and I liked how very The 100 it was with the tantalizing bits of history that poked through the story.
Entertaining Romance • • • Despite the lack of depth to either character, I did like the romance, not so much in hindsight, but at least while I was actually reading, because it seemed intriguing and funny and cutesy and at least not overly melodramatic. And there wasn’t a kiss until, like, 300 pages in, which I appreciated.
Plot • • • The plot didn’t catch me overall. I didn’t get the impression that Sharon Cameron had gotten to the meat of the story. Also, I was mostly lost, because I never had a firm grasp of what the stakes were. Yes, they were stated, but I didn’t feel them. This is where world building comes in a little bit because the stakes were tied to the world, which wasn’t very well defined, either. Ultimately, all the pieces were there, but the execution was a bit bungled. Information wasn’t presented in an effective matter. I feel several of the subplots could have been cut entirely since they didn’t really have an effect on the main plot. The sloppiness just frustrated me, and I ended up skimming or just skipping over entire sections in the last hundred pages.
Writing Style • • • I feel like, with time and more attention to craft and details, Sharon Cameron’s writing style could really work for me. The potential is there: she has some truly wonderful sentences smattered throughout the story that tell me she’s got the eye for standout writing, she just hasn’t hit her stride yet.
One thing that truly annoyed me, though and that happened consistently throughout the book, was the way the author would end a section with a certain action or phrase, then pick up the next section in a different POVs and parallel that action or phrase. For a few non-spoilery examples:
They were so intent that neither noticed Madame Hasard, not until she threw the contents of the water ewer over her son’s head. (end section)
(next section) Jennifer’s water bucket was empty…
“Take your hand from my arm,” René replied, “or I will kill you now.” (end section)
(next section) LeBlanc looked at Émilie’s hand on his arm…
This became irritating, and ultimately distracting, especially because the section breaks came more and more frequently during the climax, ringing off key. Doing this once or twice is a good way to subtly parallel two important sections. Doing it so that it’s noticeable, and doing it ad nauseam, did not work for me at all.
Characters • • • With the plot and writing style out, there wasn’t a whole lot of hope for the characters. This isn’t to say that I didn’t like or hate the characters, but to me, they had no depth and no originality. They all came off more as players or puppets than 3D reliefs who existed beyond the page. I appreciated that Sophia wasn’t a complete bubblehead, but she was so focused on her romantic interest that I didn’t really believe in her motives behind being a daring vigilante. Developing an intriguing love interest into a full blown love triangle only put the nail in the coffin.
All the elements for a great story were there; they just didn’t come together smoothly for me.
456 pages • Published April 2015 by Scholastic Press