Do you remember The Scarlet Pimpernel? You might want to reread it, before picking this novel up. Sharon Cameron has re-imagined the classic as a dystopian future in Rook.
In the Sunken City, history is repeating itself. Once upon a time known as Paris, the City of Light and centre of culture, it is now under oppressive rule; all who oppose this new revolution are being put to the blade. Let them eat cake, indeed.
Technology has lead to the near destruction of mankind, so is outlawed. Those who try to save the past are punished by death. Horses have taken their place once again for transportation, communication is by paper and ink. Society has reverted back to the eighteenth century way of life, with arranged marriages and dower fees and ball gowns and powdered hair.
17 year old Sophia Bellamy is engaged to be married to a man she has never met, but he can meet the marriage price. Her family’s land and home will be saved from repossession. But Sophia has no desire to be a dutiful wife and daughter. She becomes the legendary Rook, and, along with her brother Thomas and family friend Spear, run an underground railroad of sorts. She frees the doomed from prison, fighting against the oppressors, and leaving a red-tipped rook feather as a calling card when she strikes.
The characters are extremely well drawn; Sophia is a future rebel tomboy, raised with brothers, able to stand up for herself in a society that frowns upon such behaviour. Rene the interesting rogue, definitely intended to be the bad boy love interest. (The repetitive description of his fiery blue eyes was a bit much, but there’s a petty criticism for you.) LeBlanc is completely, believably insane, consulting the Goddess for every decision he makes, while Allemande is frighteningly Napoleonic, down to his stature and megalomania.
The world building is fantastic. The catacombs beneath Paris, the Channel, and life on the south coast of England are all recognizable in their dilapidated and ancient state. Artifacts like CDs and Nintendo controllers, Underground signs and plastic pop bottles all contribute to a dystopian future that reads like a historical fiction.
Rook is a romantic adventure. But with all that it is good about it, it does suffer from a slow pace. Cameron gets bogged down in detail and description, with the point of view switching back and forth between characters seemingly randomly. The unnecessary love triangle adds to the chaos, and, unfortunately, what is a great premise for a story suffers for it.
Appropriate for all teens.
Rook is published by Scholastic Press.