4 1/2 out of 5 stars.
Sophia Bellamy is the daughter of a wealthy landowner, or at least the daughter of a man who used to be wealthy. Now it is up to her to save the Bellamy name from ruin and to protect her family’s manor from falling into the government’s hands. To do that, Sophia has to marry René Hasard, a man who has a reputation for being a flirt and scoundrel, because of the money he will bring when they wed. But there’s more to René than meets the eye and he is playing a game of his own, but Sophia mastered the art of subterfuge when she became the Red Rook, and she’s not too worried about the cards René has yet to play.
The Red Rook has saved countless lives from LeBlanc’s guillotine, and the madman has never gotten close enough to the Rook for Sophia to ever have to worry. But when something terrible happens and Sophia’s world is upended, she realizes that she can’t fix what’s gone wrong, and that not even the Red Rook is capable of putting right everything that has happened. Well, at least not alone, she can’t. As LeBlanc gets closer to uncovering her secret, Sophia has no choice but to put her trust in René Hasard, a man who just so happens to be one of the least trustworthy people in her life.
Time ticks away as Sophia, René, and their motley group of troops try to stop LeBlanc and his madness from destroying everyone in the Sunken City. But things are never quite as they seem, and Sophia wonders who she can really trust and who is only moments away from betraying her? Everything else aside, Sophia’s greatest worry is for all of the innocent lives at stake in LeBlanc’s game of Fate, and that the Red Rook will not be able to stop him in time.
Thank you Scholastic and Sharon Cameron for being willing to send me an ARC of “Rook.” In no way has this affected my review.
About three weeks ago, I got into contact with Sharon Cameron, the author of “The Dark Unwinding” and “A Spark Unseen,” and I ended up asking her if I could get an ARC of her newest YA novel, “Rook.” As it turned out, she submitted my info to Scholastic and I was fortunate enough to be sent an ARC! I pretty darn excited to say the least! (P.S. I have some more news related to this book, but I’ll share it with you at a later date). When it came, I got my game face on, sat down with my tea-cup and some Earl Grey, and I started reading “Rook.”
The first thing I noticed about “Rook” was that Sharon Cameron had a very distinct and sophisticated style of writing. During the beginning chapters of this book, I was kind of taken aback (in a good way) by Mrs. Cameron’s writing style because I was not expecting it from a Scholastic author; Scholastic authors are great, but those I’ve gotten the chance to read have never had the elegance to their writing style that Sharon’s did. After processing this difference for about a chapter, I was completely enraptured with Sharon Cameron’s method of storytelling. Besides Sharon’s writing being unique, I felt that all of her characters were also very distinct. A lot of authors are good writers, but some writers are unable to create characters who have those special traits that individualize them, or that make them fully “fleshed-out” people who readers can connect to. Mrs. Cameron, from the very beginning of “Rook,” created real, tangible characters, and I could pick out who it was speaking by just the way they talked or acted. That takes talent, and I really commend Sharon for being able to do that.Okay, let’s delve into the characters!
I really liked Sophia as a heroine. She was intense and strong-willed, but she was not too overpowering and her behavior made a lot of sense to me. Sophia was a Bellamy in the daytime, but at night she was the Red Rook who risked her life to save as many innocent people as she could from LeBlanc’s razor. Because of these two personas she was constantly keeping up, I do not think Sophia knew who she really was until “Rook” took place. It was really interesting seeing her change whenever she “became” the Red Rook or when she was Sophia Bellamy, and it was as if she were playing two different roles in a play. Sophia had played the game of lies and secrets quite well, always keeping her cards close, but that all changed when René Hasard came along.
René Hasard was an interesting character. One moment he was a player and heart stealer and the next he could show a shocking amount of depth, and that was slightly unsettling considering who he was related to in “Rook.” I wanted to dislike René in the first forty or fifty pages of “Rook,” but to be quite honest, it was kind of hard not to enjoy the scenes he was in. Sharon Cameron did such a good job of writing this character (accent and all), and René ended up being a really vivid and colorful person in “Rook.” I also loved how Sharon showed her readers all the different sides to René Hasard; you have to allow some time to pass before you can ever see where he was truly coming from in this book and his intentions towards Sophia, and I loved that!
Another aspect of this book that was quite enjoyable was the tenuous truce between Sophia and René. The only reason these two characters had ever met was so that René could appease his mother and Sophia could save her family from ruin. By no means did they get along in the first hundred to hundred and fifty pages of “Rook,” but then circumstances forced them to become unwilling partners. I liked seeing their relationship slowly evolve and the tension build between them and their circumstances; their whole world could go up in flames at any moment, and they took that into account. Sharon Cameron did a good job of making their acquaintance become more without going into the insta-love category. Even though “Rook” took place over a shorter period of time, nothing felt rushed or like it was haphazardly thrown into the story, and that made this book even better! I will warn you, though, that there are only a few moments where René and Sophia have a moment, but they are darn good and well worth the wait! I officially ship René and Sophia together.
I also loved how Sharon Cameron took all of her characters and either made them grow as individuals or show their true colors. But Sharon, once again using her skill as a writer, made it a wee bit hard to figure out people’s true intentions until the end of this book. A lot of characters are not as they appeared in “Rook,” and it was a lot of fun trying to figure out what was really going on and what I was missing. I predicted a few things, but I was also surprised by others. It has been a really long time since an author and a book have kept me in real suspense about what was going to happen and whether the characters I liked were good or bad, but Sharon totally did that with “Rook”! There were a lot of twists and turns and I loved them all! The only person who you really see as they are was Albert LeBlanc, and he was one of the most creepy and well done bad guys that I’ve read in quite some time.
What really captured me while reading this book was the French and historical influences that Sharon Cameron wove into this book so seamlessly. The tagline for this book is “History has a way of repeating itself,” and that is the perfect description for what this book is all about! Fancy gowns and lavish parties clashed with the dirty and oppressiveness of the rest of the world that Sophia lived in, and that is how it was during the French Revolution. I just loved that “Rook” felt more like a historical fiction novel rather than a dystopian because there were so many historical elements that lent a lot to this story, and they created a really great dynamic for a reader to enjoy. I loved “Rook” so much because it reminded me a bit of “For Darkness Shows the Stars” by Diana Peterfreund because of the regression in technology and society, but with Marie Rutkoski’s level of elegant and entrancing writing.
“Rook” was SUCH an amazingly well-written book with dynamic characters, and it had a lot of twists and turns! I loved the French setting and the theme of “The Scarlet Pimpernel” behind it. Sharon Cameron did such a wonderful job retelling a classic piece of literature while leaving her own mark on the story. “Rook” was fantastic and I loved it!