Sunday, April 10, 2016

Thoughts: Rook


by Sharon Cameron
**based on The Scarlet Pimpernel

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

See Also:  Rook Reading Updates as well as the random post Another One Bites the Dust.  Both include reading progress updates I have written, and the latter also includes a side tangent of musings.

I have the distinct feeling I just didn’t really know how to appreciate this book. Or I just didn’t really understand it. From page one, the narration and events and scene changes were confusing despite the fact that the prose was actually written quite well, quite beautifully, actually. The story progression was slow-paced, and twists and turns were so deliberate that you could see them coming miles away. And, at first, the constant flipping back and forth of POVs, picking up phrases where the previous POV left off to draw upon some sort of coincidental narrative structure to continue another character's narration, was kind of attractive; however, by the end of the book, it felt overdone.

However, if it is one thing that frustrated me the most about this book, it was the feeling that it could have been a hundred pages shorter. The real action and the real conflict don’t even start until a hundred pages into the story. Everything leading up to it, I found flat and drawn out--it wasn’t that it was insignificant, but it could have been shortened.

Then the rest of the book went through another zig-zag of intriguing-to-draggy, then back again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

My enjoyment for this book took on a sort of up-and-down, old-fashioned roller coaster ride of interest. I even pictured a graph in my head... and then went on to create one:

My enjoyment range:
  • Boring = 0
  • Meh = 25
  • Average = 50
  • Hmm... interesting = 75
  • Exciting! = 100

At least there's an upward trend, right?

The Story in Brief:
It took me a while to realize that this book’s setting was a futuristic world where technology has fallen and no one remembers the society of our current modern day industrialization and advancements. Instead, cultural day-to-day has gone backwards into a more historical-era-like time when wealthy families married off their daughters for power or money or alliances, and girls were supposed to be trophy wives of the innocent and bimbo-like variety and only concern themselves with finding a husband and looking pretty and being superficial.

It was a little hard to grasp, to be honest, and for the first few chapters I had thought I’d been reading an historical fantasy with an alternate reality of oppressive government. Instead, Rook is actually a futuristic dystopian--something I didn’t realize until Sophia described an “ancient artifact” from the “Time Before” that sounded suspiciously like a Nintendo 64 game controller.

And so then we learn the backhistory:

The present world in Rook is a time when modern technology has failed the people and ruined the world and so has become “extinct” (for lack of a better description). And now any such machines or advancements are strictly forbidden in the new world and anyone who is found to associate with technology have been arrested for treason. Any and all who oppose this new regime will be executed.

Enter the Red Rook who is the savior of the people, entering the tombs to free wrongfully captured prisoners, helping them to escape the condemning Razor. This mysterious individual has garnered the attention of the current governing regime in Paris and a search for the infamous Red Rook by the ambitious and dangerous Albert LeBlanc has lead to the Bellamy household in the Commonwealth across the sea.

Sophia Bellamy, in the meantime, is getting ready for her engagement to René Hasard in order to help her family keep their estate. Her father has wasted away his life as well as the Bellamy assets, acquiring a huge amount of debt that his children, Tomas and Sophia, will have to pay off when he is gone. Tomas has an injured knee that disallows him the opportunity to make his fortune as a soldier in order to take over Bellamy household.

Law has decreed that Tomas cannot inherit his father's home or possessions, but that he must make his own money in order to earn what Daddy Bellamy leaves behind. Of course, the law has no qualms about Tomas inheriting Daddy Bellamy's debts, though, and won't hesitate to arrest him if he cannot produce the sum necessary to pay off his father's debts.

And among all of this, the oppressive leaders of Paris have pinpointed the Red Rook’s identity to that of an individual of the Bellamy home.

My Thoughts:
As I had stated, this book was a hundred pages too long and it feels like there is entirely too much going on sometimes.

But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it. In fact, I really did LOVE Sophia Bellamy.

She is revealed as being the Red Rook from the beginning, thus referencing the “game of cat and mouse”, noted in the official blurb, between her and her proposed fiancé, René Hasard. Neither of the two are what they seem with Sophia keeping the secret of the Red Rook and René searching for information about the Red Rook.

The excitement of this so called “cat and mouse” chase, however, felt quashed in light of the fact that we already can predict what’s going to happen, as well as how deliberately deliberate each twist and turn was so painstakingly written. There was no sense of urgency or suspense, and instead, I simply found myself falling asleep a few times while reading the first part of Rook.

Then Sophia and René team up and THAT’s when things start getting a bit more intriguing.

Sophia Bellamy has all the traits and potential for being a badass main female hero. She’s smart, resourceful, head-strong, and has an eye for detail and strategy. Her penchant for leadership is strong, and she doesn’t hesitate to get the job done. She revels in the excitement of being a hero, saving people, and challenging the oppressive, corrupt governing of the Premier Allemande in Paris. And she willingly goes head to head with the dangerous LeBlanc without batting an eye.

In contrast, the guys were kind of irritating. There are more important things going on, but our resident triangular male-posturing must endure so that both Spear and René can piss in a circle around Sophia to determine who’s a better candidate for her hand in marriage. And all this time Sophia has already left the circle with bigger fish to fry. It was a little disheartening, because René had so much potential to be a kickbutt male hero, even if Spear was just the standard YA third wheel of the non-triangle of this romance.

In turn, this all just goes and helps make Sophia look much more badass. Not that I’m complaining or anything, because we need more strong female characters to save the day in YA books, who have much more important things on their minds outside of romance, and who don’t hesitate to go after the romance they desire without making it all about angst and such.

Rook is an extremely well-written fantasy/futuristic/dystopian whatever-genre-it-is book, and my only disappointment was that it was slow to start and then had trouble staying on track. The beginning was flat and boring to me, then things got exciting, and then we zig-zag up and down that roller coaster for a while before finally ending the book with an exciting bang, even if the narration got a little clunky.

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in June 2015.

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