Okay, so, I could not put this book down.
Look, it is not often that I am genuinely surprised by a book.
Usually I have a gut instinct of whether I am going to like something or not and I am almost always right.
When I came to reading Rook, by Sharon Cameron, my gut instinct was totally, totally wrong.
I had major second thoughts about reading Rook. I ordered it on a whim, but then considered cancelling when I looked into reviews.
‘It is long.’
‘The Characters are cliche’
There were a lot of very negative things written about this book online. It was for this reason when I finally got the novel into my hands, I fully expected to stop a quarter the way through.
Rook is a stand alone – I think, although there are a number of hints that this may not always be the case at the end – it is important to keep this in mind as a LOT has to be crammed into the pages.
The premise is this: Sophia is the daughter of a supposedly wealthy family in the ‘Commonwealth’ (UK) and to save her family from ruin – because he brother who is the heir has an injured leg and therefore deemed unacceptable to inherit – she has been engaged to marry a Parisian named Rene.
The story is set in the very distant future, where the magnetic poles of the earth have shifted. When this happened, it destroyed the world’s reliance on technology and as a result, there grew a mindset sort of like the luddites where technology was perceived as evil. The world in this book, while futuristic, is a lot like revolutionary France, and for good reason.
Meanwhile, across the ocean in the Sunken City – Paris – a wicked man named LeBlanc is having scores and scores executed on the ‘Razor ‘ – Guillotine – without reason. These prisoners are being rescued however, by a vigilante who calls themselves the Red Rook.
In pursuit of the Red Rook, LeBlanc finds himself at the engagement party of Sophia and Rene (Rene is LeBlanc’s cousin and Rene has been approached to help LeBlanc capture the Red Rook, who LeBlanc suspects is Sophia’s invalid brother, Tom).
While Rene appears foolish and naïve it quickly becomes evident that he is not what he seems.
Nor is Sophia, as it is revealed that she is the Red Rook.
LeBlanc abducts Tom, assuming that he is the Red Rook, and whips him back to the Sunken City where he plans on executing him at the Razor, obviously it is up to Sophia, her childhood friend Spear and her unwanted fiancé Rene to save Tom.
I’ll admit, at first this book was a chore.
My copy is awful, with a horrible tacky cover that has crinkled so the pages aren’t straight, and all of this added to my suspicion that I would actually hate the book. (See photos… look at that awful crinkling down the middle! And how damaged the spine got from one read through!)
The first fifty pages are also quite ‘descriptionry’ mostly because they have to set the actual scene of the story. I would suggest you take this in your stride, concentrate hard, then afterwards you’ll love it.
After those first fifty pages, you find two of the most interesting characters I have come across this year.
Sophia is rough but gentle. She is actually an excellent female lead, because the author has not tried to make her ‘strong’ by imposing a stark personality on her, that is damaged and unemotional – like Katniss from the Hunger Games, or other dystopian female leads.
Sophia is strong, and brave, and cunning, but also soft, and caring and is not afraid to be a girl, despite not exactly loving the role society has carved out for her.
Rene is a perfect match for her as the male lead. Seeming at first rather witless, and conceited, obsessed with this high society life, he is the absolute opposite and you never know what he is actually thinking.
The super obvious romance which grows between the pair – from assumed betrothal, to actual genuine love – is excellently written, not overly gushy, does not once rob from their strength as individual people. It is good. Very, very good.
The setting is brilliant. This whole advanced society which actually ends up backwards, with their social structure and luddite ways, not to mention LeBlanc’s obsession with ‘Fate’ and his odd religious devotion to it. Cameron has put a lot of thought and planning into this world and you can tell.
I also appreciated the way this story didn’t end super abruptly, we saw proper conclusions, that were each tied up in their own individual way, rather than a broad brush stoke of ‘this one thing happened so everything is good and happy now.’
Another really cool feature, which you will notice if you are lucky enough to pick up this novel, is that the way Cameron has written it, almost feels like a movie. Chopping and changing scenes, and when she does so she will repeat a similar concept from each change of scene. This is done by repeating a similar thought or sentence or question that is associated with what is going on in one part of the story.
It was fast paced, written extremely well, and I enjoyed every part of it – once I got past the HEAVY introduction.
This book was magnetic. I basically was reading it in any spare time I had, and when I wasn’t reading it, I wanted to be reading it.
I highly, highly recommend it. This is one of the best books I have read in a long while and has earned a place on my permeant bookshelf.