Rook by Sharon Cameron
This review may be mildly spoilery. I don’t talk about events directly, but I allude to them and state why I liked or disliked them. So if you like going into books completely blind, don’t read this first. You’ve been warned.
I don’t know how I feel about this book. I love it, but at the same time I have a lot of problems with it. I feel like I’m going to obsess about it for a very long time but every time I do, I’ll say “this is so great but ugh, that part.” I’m honestly uncertain how to rate it. Hopefully by the end of the review I’ll have a better idea, haha.
So Rook is a book that is set in Paris, 800 years after The Great Death, which is when humanity got so caught up in their technological advances that they became completely dependent, and when technology failed, humanity did as well. There are a few things alluded to that caused this technological failure but it’s never fully explained. So the technology is the book is limited, either destroyed by time or outlawed in fear of repeating history. This gives the setting an almost Victorian-like feel to it. Fluffy dresses, messed up social roles, horse and buggies.
One thing I really loved about this book was how many thought experiments it sparked for me. The characters collect and unearth scraps of humanity 800 years prior throughout this book. A water bottle, a nintendo controller, CDs… and they have no idea what any of these things are or what they were used for. I often thought about one of these characters popping into our present day, espeically those who illegally tried to piece together humanity’s history, and being amazed by everything around them from cars to indoor plumbing. And the cool part of it would be they’d be amazed not because humans had never had it before, but because they had and has lost it. I feel that in itself could be a spin-off. Hint hint, Ms Cameron.
Another thing I loved was the detail that was put into the world. The detail of the social roles and inequalities, the gritty feeling you got when the characters were in Paris, now dubbed The Sunken City or The City of Light, depending on who in the book was talking about it. I fell in love with Paris 800 years from now and while I hope humanity doesn’t turn the way it did in this book, I still kinda long for that Paris to happen. I want to experience it. Ignore that I’ll be long dead by then, shh.
But as much as I loved this book’s setting and all the brain activity that came with it, there were a few major things that when I read them, it made me roll my eyes or sigh or huff or so on and so forth. First off is the characters. The characters were kind of likable I suppose, but I didn’t really connect with any of them. So as well as the world was thought out, I feel the characters took a back seat in the development department. I mean I didn’t actively dislike them or anything, but I didn’t feel anything at all so… I suppose not actively disliking them is a good thing?
And then there was the romance. It felt kinda ‘oh by the way, here’s this’. I feel like the author wanted to write a romance story but caught up in the world and only remembered she wanted the romance to happen at the last moment so it kind of all felt really rushed. There was an awkward love triangle thing that while the main character was really good at not being all “Oh, who should I choose!” and chose pretty damn quickly, the whole thing I feel was used as a plot device. Like, I feel that it was in there purely to have the ‘other guy’ do something else later in the book that he wouldn’t have done if this weird thing with the main character wouldn’t have happened. (and that other thing which I will not mention felt like such an unnecessary thing. I mean really)
And the final thing I didn’t like about the book was how grief was handled. I feel like this ties into ‘I didn’t feel for the main characters’ and that’s because that when a death occurred, nobody seemed to be actually mourning for the person. I mean, I can understand if you’re in the middle of an epic battle and don’t have time, but none of that was happening during what I’m talking about. It was like ‘oh, this person died, gonna have a funeral’ and nobody cried or anything. The characters felt cardboard.
And you know the worst part? A lot of the stuff I didn’t like about this book didn’t occur until near the end, so I was highly, highly enjoying it until suddenly it all came crashing down. I was totally prepared to give it five stars, but I can’t do it anymore. What I really want is for the author to make another book set in this universe, but scrap all the characters and start fresh. I would love a spin-off. Gimme a spin-off. Gimme.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Swing and a miss