Rook by Sharon Cameron
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from 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.
What I Liked:
Ah! I love Cameron's books! I'm three for three with her novels. The Dark Unwinding and A Spark Unseen were two excellent novels (a duology), and I have been excited for Rook for years! I absolutely loved Rook, possibly even more than I loved Cameron's debut duology. I've never read The Scarlet Pimpernel, but I loved Diana Peterfreund's retelling, Across A Star-Swept Sea.
The Red Rook has been spiriting away prisoners who are set to be executed with the Razor (think guillotine). LeBlanc, the minister of security of the City of Light, is not pleased. Meanwhile, Sophia Bellamy is set to be engaged to René Hasard, who is the cousin of LeBlanc. Sophia, her brother Tom, and even René are not who they seem, and as everyone converges to find the Red Rook, Sophia finds herself desperate to help herself, as well as her friends and family. The stakes get higher when someone she knows is taken to be executed. The Red Rook plans to do the impossible, but not enough LeBlanc catches this legend first.
From the start, I knew I would like Sophia. She is physically tough - she can wield a sword, climb up to roofs and walls, she's stealthy, she's fast. But she's very smart too - she can think her way through a difficult situation (which we see in the very first scene). Sophia is not passive, does not let others make decisions for her (she agrees to her arranged marriage/engaged for a good reason), she has a quick but reigned-in temper, and she has a quick tongue. She trusts no one, and she is selfless.
René and Sophie do not get along when they meet. Their engagement has been arranged by René's family and Sophia's family. Sophia is suspicious of René - he seems like a flirtatious, coy gentleman who has an empty head. But she doesn't trust this. And, as it would turn out, René is not who he seems. He is the cousin of LeBlanc (which everyone knows), and he is in on the scheme to find the Red Rook. René is wicked smart, just as clever as Sophia, and terribly good at getting himself out of sticky situations. He's also definitely a bit dreamy, and I may or may not have a slight crush on him. Wink.
That being said, the fake happy relationship and the banter was so great to read. I love those types of relationships, from hate to love, aggression to passion. René and Sophia share a lot of witty banter, and their interactions are always so entertaining.
The story is very intricate, with several plots going on all at once. It's not a confusing mix, as each plot intersects with another and relates to each other (though it may not seem so at first). Everything and everyone is related. We have LeBlanc's third person perspective, René's perspective, Sophia's perspective, all in third person. I like that Cameron decided to write with several perspectives featured here and there. Mostly, it's Sophia's third-person point-of-view, but sporadically, there is René's and LeBlanc's and I think a few others (but I can't remember specifically).
The story is very dense, which is not surprising for a standalone novel. A lot happens in the novel, at a pretty fast past. Sophia and René have their engagement party, but then René and Sophia must flee, in order to save people they each care about. They make a tentative agreement to help each other, but neither of them trust the other. The pacing is fast but not overwhelming. There was no info-dumping, no parts where I was totally lost.
The setting is incredibly cool! This one is sort of historical fiction, but really, it's not. It's set way into the future, way past our time. Plastic and technology are things of the past, from my understanding. The world has regressed to times like the late 1800s, it seems. But we know the time is of the future because there are many mentions of things that are known to this day (I think a Nintendo is one of the artifacts). Cameron does an amazing job of building the world, creating a very unique setting that is distinct and creative.
The romance. Oh, the romance was fantastic. It's one of my favorite tropes - the hate-to-love thing. René and Sophia don't like each other at all, though they must pretend to be happy and trust each other and whatnot (they're engaged). But eventually, they learn to trust each other, and they fall for each other. Sophia's childhood friend loves Sophia, but she only loves him as a brother. The romance is solely set on René and Sophia, and I love it.
The ending is so satisfying! It's a bit sad, with some death and unexpected action, but overall, the ending is very good. René and Sophia get a fitting ending, one that I wasn't expecting to be so good! Cameron wraps things up beautifully. I love René's family (his uncles are hilarious), and while Sophia's family aren't the most exciting, they are an interesting bunch. All is revealed at the end, and the ending is quite satisfying.
What I Did Not Like:
I can't think of anything specific! I know some people complained about the length of the book, but I think if the book wasn't as "long" as it is, it wouldn't be as amazing!
Would I Recommend It:
Yes! This book is quite a fun ride! Even if you don't like "historical fiction", keep in mind that this one isn't technically historical, since it's set in the future (though society has regressed to a historic setting ish). There is a steampunk vibe, and of course, a very slow-burn and sweet romance. It's a very intelligent yet fun novel, not juvenile at all, but younger and older readers alike could read this one and enjoy it!
4 stars. This one was a very enjoyable read! I'm slightly saddened that it's only a standalone, but extremely pleased that it's a standalone. It's a great novel, and I can't wait to read more of Cameron's future novels!
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