Top positive review
My Favorite YA Read of 2015! A Wonderful Homage to the Scarlet Pimpernel.
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on August 1, 2015
I'm having a difficult time returning to reality and my ordinary life after reading Rook by Sharon Cameron. I liked it so much, that I read it twice, back to back, and even when I finished the second time, I was like, oh, no, please don't let this story end. I know I am a silly fangirl of fiction and I often write in superlatives when discussing books I love. But hey, there are no adequate words to express how much I love Rook by Sharon Cameron. I suppose these 'feels' are because Rook has everything I truly admire in a book. (1) It's written in third person past tense with more than one point of view character, which allows for a big story to expand. (2) The heroine has no special powers at all, she kicks butt because she's brave and has great moral courage. (3) The hero is to die for and he's not one of those dark brooding mysterious guys. No, he's got quite a vocabulary on him and he can party with the best of them. Also, he made me laugh. I wanted to kiss him a dozen times. (4) It's original in that it is set in the future, but has a historical setting, so it really reads like an alternative historical. (5) It has themes and depth, meaning pretty much everything counts. (6) It's got lots of plot, but never loses the power of character and action. The plot is awesome. The emotional story is just as awesome (7) It pays homage to The Scarlet Pimpernel and French Revolution in ways that just baffled me. I mean, it is such a good retelling of both for the young adult market and well, even adults should read it. It talks about history and how it works. (8) There is a bit of satire and irony along the way and you don't have to get it as a reader to enjoy the book but if you do, it makes the read so much more special. (9) It's a great love story all the way around and by love story, I mean something epic. Seldom do we ever read a love story like this in Young Adult. Love. Love. Love. Family. Boyfriends. Desire. Unrequited. Country. Sacrifice. Love rules. (10) Betrayal that means something and has great consequences. (11) It's a standalone novel, meaning no series, no cliffhangers, gimmicks, and other such nonsense. (12) Lovely banter and conversations among cast members. The dialogue in this book is quite remarkable. I read a lot of scenes over and over just for the dialogue. It's the kind of dialogue that fills your head and you, the reader can actually hear the individual character's voice.
A brief summary with a mild spoiler.
The story centers around Sophia Bellamy and René Hasard, the engaged couple, the former from the Commonwealth and in desperate need of money to save Bellamy House, her father, and her brother, Tom from debtor's prison. The latter, René Hasard, is from the Sunken City across the sea, French of course, with eyes the color of blue fire. Anyone interested, the blue in fire is the hottest part. He's rich, of course, but Sophia thinks he's an imbecile, which is so funny. If you have read The Scarlet Pimpernel, he's a fine homage to Percy Blakeney with his fine clothes, dry wit, and splendid conversations.
However, the two are not what they appear to be, at all. One of them is the infamous Red Rook, who rescues 'man, woman, and child' from the Razor (guillotine). The slight spoiler, which will be in chapter 1, so I am not giving the book away is that Sophia is the Red Rook, but René Hasard is far from the foppish aristocrat, too! When Tom Bellamy is arrested as the Red Rook and taken to the Sunken City to be tried and executed, both Sophia and René come together to rescue him. But there's twists and turns in every chapter, and Sophia doesn't know if she can trust René, whom she believes has an agenda of his own. Not far from the truth, but it's never what the reader suspects. So off the couple go to the Sunken City, each with secret agendas and plans. I love how everyone in this book is always making plans and then more plans in case the first ones do not work out. The intrigue is so real, because you never know what a character in this book is capable of, and in some cases, it results in grave circumstances. The love story is awesome. Sophia and René fall in love, despite everything and everyone, and it's one of those love stories you can believe in, it makes sense, it's not the dark brooding secretive guy or the naive young girl, it's like a real romance, of course dramatized for fiction. I really believe René fell in love first. Maybe it was in that first game of chess, where for a second of time, he let a part of him be known.
Lots of danger await this wonderful couple. They almost lose their lives several times. After all, the world is against them. But they make their own Fate. Other wonderful things about this book is the very large cast, some of which have point of views, who add depth and intricate subplots to the central story. There are villains, again a homage to The Scarlet Pimpernel, there are betrayals. Then there is the setting. It's set in the future, but it reads like an alternative history. How this is laid out is quite impressive and it provides irony and speculation. How does history work?
Rook is the best book I have read all year, adult or otherwise. It's clever, it's fun, it's romantic, and it's quite complicated in some ways. The reader doesn't have to think about science or the power of plastic or how time and history works to enjoy this story, but if the reader does, it's a masterpiece and highly recommended for readers. It's a wonderfully written book. I love it. I really love this book, so much. It's been transformative.