Pages:467 Genre: YA / Science Fiction / Dystopian
Rating: 1 of 5 red feathers Average Goodreads Rating: 3.76 of 5 stars
Form Read: kindle ebook
Synopsis from Amazon: Who needs a wedding ring when you can pick up a sword? A remarkable and utterly inventive novel from Sharon Cameron, author of THE DARK UNWINDING, which USA TODAY called “spellbindingly imaginative.”
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.
Lies!… This book WANTS to be a good book and has a nice original idea that could have allowed it to maybe even be a great book, but after all the praise listed above and the attention it received on booktube, I’m shocked at how bad it is. Our main perspective throughout the book is from the view of Sophia Bellamy, an 18 year old adventurer and daughter of a formerly wealthy family. Set in a dystopian Europe, with the main focus being on the “sunken city” of Paris, this book advertises all the things I love about this genre and reading level. Simple story–check. Strong female lead–check. A dystopian world–check. It falls short on all of these things.
The world is interesting. Bellamy lives is what is probably London or somewhere else on the coast of what used to be England. Her limited description of the area around her and what has become of Paris is also interesting, but doesn’t give us a very clear picture on how the “common wealth” where she lives, really interacts with the sunken/upper city. Sophie alludes to the “great death” because of a solar shift “of the poles” of some sort that seems to have combined with solar flares and pushed those that survived underground. This is such specific and yet implausible circumstances I can’t take it seriously and the author defends in the author’s notes.
This was the best part of the book for me. The idea of speaking “Parisian” was a little redundant, like the author had to spell out that this city used to be Paris, instead of letting us piece it together. The parts the author shows us really comes together, but the majority of the book is written as though the author just wrote down verbatim the idea she told her 5 year old niece. This is a middle grade/ YA book, so I didn’t expect Shakespeare, but I did expect a certain basal level for publication (and all the misplaced hype).
They talk of the “ancients” and say the date they found on a coin was 2024, then why the hell are they acting like it’s 17th century France!??! Not only are arranged marriages still around, but women have lost pretty much all of their rights and everyone is back to dressing in corsets and powdered wigs. I know she really wanted to drive home the “French revolution” aspect, but this was over the top and not needed. That’s a pretty well known historical event, I don’t think the point would have been lost if the culture hadn’t been regurgitated in parody (it’s mentioned in the synopsis).
The characters as a whole are very flat, and the most developed is probably Sophie’s intended, René . We get a better picture of him through a change in his intentions. Sophie, who I guess we’re supposed to identify with, was just a privileged brat. Her intentions were good, but the way she is written made me dislike her, regardless of her circumstances. If she had been written a little bit younger, it might be more believable, but having an 18 year old that is expected to be of marriage age within the world you build, be flabbergasted and not trust herself to even LOOK at a man is unbelievable to me (even the 18 year old me).
The remaining cast were more stereotypes than realized characters. We have the love triangle muscle that doesn’t get her, the mother figure, the unloving father, the overprotective brother, the religious zealot, and the immoral bad guy.
I know as a woman in my 30s, I’m not the intended audience, which I’m aware of. The later part of the book in the sunken city was intriguing, but could have been half that length. As a whole the plot was sluggish and awkward. For the length of this book and reading level, large portions of each chapter were “fluffed” to the point of annoyance, and I found myself thinking, “Just get on with it already!!” throughout the book.
It would have been interesting and built more intrigue if we hadn’t learned the identity of the Rook right off the back. There was an attempt at suspense with the identity of the informant, but this too was overdone and by that point I just wanted the main story to move forward… move at all.. so this too just became a distraction when it could have been another twist.
If you’re preteen girl, I can see this story being more believable. Overall, it was incredibly slow and should have been edited down to highlight the actual story and the unique world Cameron created. I would like to see a second book [with a new editor] created in this same world.