Book Review: Rook by Sharon Cameron

A fast-paced story of twisted loyalties and conflicting desires that I couldn’t stop reading.

3.5/5 stars

cover rook

Goodreads Description

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.

My Review

This has minor spoilers for Rook, mainly because I can’t talk about one of the character’s role in the book without spoiling a bit of the beginning. Proceed with caution.

This book started off slow for me. It took me a week to read the first thirty pages. This was because there were major problems with the exposition and the world-building. Sometimes I like it when authors just throw you into the action and leave you to figure out the world, but in this case, that format really didn’t work. I was confused and frustrated, and even once the book’s pace picked up, I was still unsure about the specifics of the world.

I did like some parts of the world building, however. It is something like a dystopian retelling of the French Revolution, focusing mostly on the Reign of Terror part. Since that time period was one of the most interesting ones that I studied last year, I loved the way that Cameron wove historical details into a new world, one that was revolting against technology and the rich a few centuries after an apocalypse.

Once the story got moving, I was able to focus on the characters. Sophie, daughter of a formerly wealthy merchant family and secret revolutionary, was an interesting protagonist, but I felt like there was always something missing that kept me from falling in love with her. She has all of the components I want in badass characters like this—sass, creativity, moments of weakness—but they never gelled into an awesome protagonist. She’s not a bad main character—far from it—but I would have enjoyed the story more if she had a few more layers, a bit more spark.

René, on the other hand, was an awesome character. Engaged to Sophie through an arrangement that neither of them like and with close ties to the dictator Sophie is secretly fighting, he starts off the book cloaked in mystery and distrust. I absolutely LOVED watching the truth of his character come out. I loved all of the intricacies of his character. René was definitely my favorite character in the book.

The romance that developed between Rene and Sophie was amazing. It takes a while, and it is always dominated by concerns over if they can trust each other, but their chemistry was impeccable and I loved them as a couple. It’s sweet and painful, and it really added to the book.

There are so many other characters in Rook. Amazingly, I rarely got them confused, but I also didn’t have much understanding of each character’s personality (mostly just their name and what role they play). Some of the more important characters stood out, of course, and added to the story. Benoit, in particular, was one of my favorite characters. LeBlanc was a terrifying villian—his religious fanaticism and lack of a conscience created a horrifying character, but one that was realistic (in an awful way).

Spear, the other kind-of love interest, was an annoying character. He was supposed to be annoying, so that was written well, but I still wanted to shove him out of the way so that Rene and Sophie could get together. I also wished there was more to his character than just his obsession with Sophie.

The most impressive part of this book is the web of interwoven loyalties and lies that binds the characters together. Throughout the book, you honestly have no idea who to trust. Everyone has another agenda, everyone is watching each other, and everyone ends up getting in each other’s way. It was actually stressful to read. I had to keep reading to find out who was good, who was evil, and what the frick everyone was doing.

Because of this, the pacing of this book is insane. Literally, the last half of the book is one massive scene. I couldn’t stop reading if I had wanted to.

While I was impressed with the breakneck speed of some scenes, there was something off about the overall book’s pacing. Maybe it was too many pages, maybe the last scene was too fast for too long, but when I finished the book, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something about the pacing hadn’t worked.

There isn’t much to say about the writing—it wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t bad—but I loved the way that Cameron strung different scenes together by ending one scene and starting the next with similar wording. It’s hard to describe, but it helped different plot lines flow together and it sped the pacing up.

I would recommend this book to French Revolution buffs, dystopian fans (who want a semi-historical setting), or people who love not knowing who to trust. The romance is swoonworthy, the plot is complex, and there are a lot of surprises. Despite the book’s problems, it was still a really fun read, and I can see myself rereading it sometime in the future.

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