Thursday, July 16, 2015

Rook by Sharon Cameron // Swashbuckling dystopia wheeeeee

Prepare yourself for all the Scarlet Pimpernel gifs. :-P

23399192History 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 started out wanting to like this book, but after the first few pages my expectations drastically dropped.
This is how I felt a few chapters in:

  • This is bad worldbuilding.
  • It's basically the French Revolution except it's the future and it's dystopic and everyone's abandoned technology and The Razor is just another name for The Guillotine. 
  • Our main character Sophia (i.e. The Rook - not a spoiler) is basically a young female version of The Scarlet Pimpernel.
  • I don't like this world-building AT ALL. It feels super lazy.

But this is how I felt by the end of the book:

  • Yessssss...
  • That was superbly exciting!
  • The climax was long and drawn out and thus EVER so dramatic and splendid and edge-of-your-seat.
You can see that my perception of the book changed quite dramatically.

*Sophia x Rene means multiple things, my friends. It is useful to share a name with the protagonist.

Now, the copy I read WAS an ARC, so perhaps in the finished version, the introductory worldbuilding is a bit clearer, and the other issues might be smoothed up. This book really had a lot of potential as an ARC, so I'm sure the finished version is fantastic. Particularly what I disliked about the beginning was that it took me a while to figure out the world - what had happened? how was it different from 17th century France? why couldn't it just have been set in 17th century France and all the dystopic future stuff avoided? why is this feeling so much like a genderbent rip-off of The Scarlet Pimpernel?

We get answers to these questions eventually, but for me they weren't answered soon enough.

Also, I came into this with an expectation for your usual YA dystopian drama and subtle-attempts-at-social-commentary. I usually like books that make me think, and that are written so as to hit me in the feels extremely hard - books written by people like Victor Hugo and Maggie Stiefvater and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Wein. So, I tend to avoid any sort of chic-lit-type-stuff, because I know it won't satisfy me.
I like books that rise above trivialities.

YA dystopians with their subtle social commentary (whether it's effective or not) get a nod from me because at least they're trying to get the reader to think about the deeper meaning.

Basically, if I can write an analytical essay on a book, it's done its duty for me.

So, when Rook progressed without any sign of what I could interpret or analyze or ponder as to how it related to my own position in the world and in society and in the universe - I began to discount it. Which was WRONG of me to do.

The moment I decided to take this story at face value and enjoy it for its action and adventure and badass protagonist (who shares my name *squeal*), I liked it a lot more.

When I was little, my sister and I were SUPER into old-timey swashbuckling hero adventure films like The Mark of Zorro and Errol Flynn's Robin Hood. I still can't help watching those movies without my heart swooning a bit for the dashing swordsman protagonist (who was similar in each and every one but we didn't care). I will also always love the high-intensity action movies with car chases and crazily choreographed fights and near-death moments.

So the instant I thought of Rook as a movie story, I fell in love. No more was I looking for my literary analysis and depth and underlying meaning. Now, all I wanted was a heartstopping climax standoff, a swashbuckling hero(ine), and a swoony love interest (who also happened to be swashbucklingly awesome and very Errol-Flynn-ish). Clearly, Rook went from kinda-meh to epically awesome.

Let's talk love triangle, because there was something of that ilk in this book.

No no, don't freak out, love-triangle-haters. This isn't your traditional romantic conflict.

Continuing with the film idea... Movie love triangles are different from literary love triangles, I've found. Literary love triangles are traditionally bad boy vs. nice boy.

But film love triangles are more like adventurous rogue vs. boring simpleton. At least the ones in the swashbuckling adventure films are, because Errol Flynn has to win the girl every time, right? So there really isn't much suspense when it comes to that.

Usually, when I read books, I fall for the nice boy because he is logical and sensible and sweet. The bad boy is usually clearly Not Right for our protagonist, in my eyes, since she needs someone to be her guiding rock. 

But in films, who wants to end up with the boring fellow when you could have dashing rogue who (somehow) always ends up falling head over heels for you even though he never has for any other girl and thus always has your best interests at heart? Not a hard decision. I'm clearly more reckless with my film crushes than with my book ones.

Rook has such a love triangle, despite it being a story in literary format and not film. Which is why this is the First Time I have EVER fallen in love with the "bad" boy in a book. But he's not exactly a "bad" boy, he's the dashing rogue of black and white adventure films whom I so adored as a child. He understands Sophia (our protagonist) and is an accomplice in her awesomeness, even though they mistrust each other a TON originally...

(something either one would totally say about the other in the beginning)

...whereas the other "love interest" (except he's not really because spoilery reasons) wants to conform Sophia to his own views of what she should be. 

What I'm saying is that this is not your regular love triangle, so even if you HATE them, give this book a try. This love triangle's unique. I'm also saying that Rene is perfection.

The whole book had an aura of fun about it - it's just such a WHEEEEE book, if that makes sense :-) When I finally got past the first bit of the book where I was judging it for being an obvious rehashing of Scarlet Pimpernel (which I really want to reread now), I had a ton of fun. I think it would make an epic movie (I'm sure you've already guessed that), not only because of all the stuff I've said above, but also because GOSH the costumes would be gorgeous. 

So. Read Rook because it's like reading an adventure film.
Read it because daring escapades and spies and saving people from the brink of death.
Read it because Sophia is a badass heroine and I love her.
Read it because Rene. And swoon. <3 Daughter stealer.

Lovely readers! Talk to me about books, movies, and what makes the storytelling different in them. Do you think my claim that "adventure" movies are less deep that "adventure" books is a legitimate one? And what is your stance on love triangles?


  1. I've been hearing good things about Rook -without paying much attention - and I just finished the Scarlet Pimpernel for the first time so now I have to read this! Just put it on hold at the library! Great review!

    1. Yay! I hope you enjoy it! (And now that you've read the Scarlet Pimpernel, you'll be able to enjoy some of the hidden references...)

  2. A+ usage of gifs! :)

    I've heard about Rook but am on the fence about it. I also love The Scarlet Pimpernel and Errol Flynn's movies, and I also like brainy social commentary on my adventures. So is this book finally complete fun & fluff, or does it have its brains too? I want to like this one so much, because Scarlet Pimpernel! What frame of mind should I be when I get around to reading it?

    1. *bows* Gifs are not my strong point, usually, so thank you.

      It's not ENTIRELY fluff, because it tries to be brainy. It just wasn't my type of brainy which is why I was annoyed at first. I say go into it expecting adventure, intrigue, drama, but no social commentary whatsoever. If any sneaks in, it'll be just a bonus. :-) I really hope you like it!

  3. I am generally okay with love triangles. As long as all the characters are written well, and the love triangle doesn't take over the plot, I'm all for it. I love rooting for love xD My absolute FAVORITE kind of fictional guy is the dork who is "good" but mischievous and adventurous. A sweet rascal basically. SO I FEEL LIKE I DEFINITELY NEED TO READ THIS BOOK

    1. SWEET RASCAL YUP. That's him. You DO need to read this book.

  4. I want to read The Scarlet Pimpernel so badly! And then this book, because it sounds awesome and I'm just not adverse to love triangles. If it's a good triangle, it will make awkward moments, and who doesn't appreciate those?

    Btw, I tagged you for a thing.

    1. Oooh tag! Thank you! Apologies if I never get to it, because I'm a forgetful thing, but I hope I do! :-P

  5. I love the old Scarlet Pimpernel movie so much so I squealed all the way through your glorious gifs. I have to admit that this book doesn't appeal to me much since it's derivative (even if it IS derivative from one of my favourite books) and has a gender swap. Not that I'm completely against those, but they usually just turn the girl into a guy and you wonder why they didn't just make her a guy in the first place. :/ But GREAT review anyway. And did you go to Paris? That sounds so fun!

    1. Well.. I wouldn't say this was a cut-and-dry gender swap, since the love interest is VERY Percy (as in, trickster/adventurer playing the fop). It's kind of more like a "let's make the girl an adventurer TOO," which is why I liked it.

      I did go to Paris! It was only for a weekend but it was most loverly.

  6. Thanks for the clarification. That does make me want to read the book a little more. And I loved Percy so much that the love interest sounds like someone I'd like. :D

    How fun! I'd love to visit Paris.

  7. READING YOUR REVIEW AND GLAD TO SEE YOU LIKED IT A LOT IN THE END. Because I am currently reading Rook but I'm having TONS of trouble getting through the first part of the book. SO I should keep reading yes????

    1. Definitely stick it out! It definitely improved for me in the second half, and I hope it does for you too!


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