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.
FTC Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
First of all, happy Bastille Day! I can’t think of a better way to celebrate La Fête nationale than with a review of a book based on the classic “The Scarlet Pimpernel” set during la Terreur.
Everything I loved about “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and more!
I am huge fan of “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” I enjoy it so much that I wrote a 4000-word paper about it and didn’t complain once. Okay… I complained, but can you blame me? 4000 words! In order to write the paper, I read the book three times, took detailed notes (on flashcards) and outlined four possible essay topics. It’s safe to say that I know “The Scarlet Pimpernel” pretty damn well.
Admittedly, when I added “Rook” to my TBR because it had a pretty cover with the Eiffel Tower on it, and at the time I didn’t know it was a retelling of “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” But can you imagine my joy when I found out?
“Rook” exceeded my expectations of a retelling of the classic tale. Sharon Cameron clearly loves “The Scarlet Pimpernel” as much as I do, because her characters, plot, everything stays so true to the spirit of the original story.
Reading “Rook” was like taking a photo with a fish-eye lens. Every element of the original moment is there, rendered in sharp details and vibrant color, but the edges are warped into something new and creative. I got caught up in the story of Sophia, but at the same time I couldn’t stop experiencing these moments when I noticed a particular element of the story and thought, “I see what you did there.”
Cameron cleverly incorporated elements from “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” such as the distinctive rescue in the opening chapter, the “foppish” facade of the secretly genius hero and the manipulative ways of the antagonist, in a way that is just similar enough to be recognizable but not so much that she stifles her own creativity.
Writing style and narration
There seems to be a unanimous complaint of varying degrees on Goodreads about the writing in “Rook.” Some say it is too wordy. Others say it makes the story drag.
While I can understand where those thoughts are coming from — the writing style did slow me down a bit, especially during the first few chapters — I think it was a wonderful and daring decision to make. The writing gives the story a distinctively classic and historic feel.
I also have to disagree with comments on the multiple POVs — “too many!” “so confusing!” — because Orczy wrote multiple POVs in “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” and an homage to the classic wouldn’t quite be the same without the internal cliffhangers and dramatic irony.
The Scarlet Pimpernel Red Rook and his her league
One of the changes I love the most in “Rook” is that, this time, the masked rescuer is female. Sophia Bellamy is clever and brave just like The Scarlet Pimpernel, but she has some of Marguerite’s qualities as well. Sophia has the same dedication to saving the innocent that made people love Percy Blakeney. And while Sophia is certainly less conforming of her ladylike roles than Marguerite, the two woman share the same spirit and willingness to risk their lives for their loved ones, especially their brothers, Armand (Marguerite’s) and Tom (Sophia’s).
The Red Rook’s league is just as spectacular as The Scarlet Pimpernel’s. Or rather, more so. Sophia’s rag-tag group of teens is heroic, talented and crazy awesome. I absolutely adored Cartier and the twins!
AND THE FOX! THE FOX IS NAMED ST. JUST, AFTER MARGUERITE AND ARMAND!
I’d be totally lying if I said that the romance between Percy and Marguerite were not a big reason for my love of “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” But the romance between Sophia and René blows theirs away!
As it turns out, Sophia isn’t the only one hiding something from her fiancé. René acts like a complete and utter fool. Sound familiar? *pointed look at Percy Blakeney* And while he manages to fool Sophia for a little while, it’s not long before she stops buying his foppish act. Too bad she can’f figure him out.
Sophia and René remind me a lot of Kestrel and Arin in “The Winner’s Curse” in that they are both extremely clever and full of secrets. Every interaction between them is a challenge, a game of wits. I love all of the scenes they have together because the tension is so palpable and their feelings for each other, whether it’s love, lust or wonder, are so strong. They are absolutely perfect for each other.
There was a love triangle *sigh*. Spear Hammond is certainly a complex character. And, while I was certain that he would do anything for Sophia, I constantly wondered, “Can I trust him?” I think he’s a great, perplexing character and a valuable addition to the story, but I didn’t love him as a love interest.
The world they live in
This story takes the phrase, “history repeats itself,” very literally. In fact, that was the idea that inspired the plot in the first place. The setting, post-apocalyptic Europe, was an interesting change from the setting of “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” I’m not completely sold on the fact that the people in “Rook” have reverted their lifestyles to match that of the “ancients,” but the revolution is worryingly plausible. After all, France is in its fifth republic.
The world of “Rook” was caused by the shift of the earth’s poles, and the magnetic disruption basically caused an apocalypse. There are no electronics, no twenty-four hour days and plastic is a rare and ancient treasure.
While I think the setting is creative and well-suited for the story, I wish I were provided a little more background.
“Rook” is a true and brilliant homage to “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” It captures the heroic spirit of the classic tale perfectly, borrowing elements both big and little and using them in a whole new way. This story sounds like a historical fiction, looks like a sci-fi and feels like an adventure.
The protagonist, Sophia, is daring and dedicated. She’s definitely make Percy proud. The romance is full of tension and friendly (or not?) challenges of wit. I absolutely adore René Hasard!
Whether or not you’ve read “The Scarlet Pimpernel” — but especially if you have — you need to give this book a shot.