Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Rook Book Poster Image
Dynamite heroine in romantic dystopian-future swashbuckler.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Set in a future dystopian replay of the French Revolution, Rook may be the first encounter with that history for some readers. Shout-outs to The Scarlet Pimpernel (set in that era) are plentiful, as are snippets of dialogue in French, most translated for the reader's benefit. Along the way are numerous chances to consider how noble ideas (from "self-reliance" to "liberté, egalité, fraternité") can lead to silly laws and horrific abuses.

Positive Messages

Strong messages of family love and loyalty, courage, honor, reliability. Also about being true to yourself and not settling for a life defined by others' expectations.

Positive Role Models & Representations

In the course of trying to save her loved ones and other innocents, Sophie is brave, clever, and willing to do whatever it takes, from swordplay to drugging her future in-laws. She's helped by many noble characters, including her brother, Tom; their childhood friend Spear; and René's multitalented family members.


Violence galore, from the ever-present guillotine to back-stabbing, throat-slashing political intrigue, as well as swordplay, hand-to-hand combat, and murderous thugs in the night. The heroes are in constant peril of death at the hands of a man who remarks how fun it is to watch women on the guillotine plead vainly for their children's lives.


Lots of romantic tension, as Sophie and René are strongly attracted but don't know if they should trust each other. A lot of flirting and banter, a few heartfelt kisses, and a scene in which he has to remove some of her clothes to sew up a sword-fighting wound she's suffered -- after he points out he's done the same for most of his uncles and griping that she's ruining his shirts.


Occasional mild language: "arse," "ruddy" for "bloody."


In this futuristic world, fragments of our society, especially plastic ones such as a piece of an old Nintendo controller, are highly prized. Paul McCartney's music is still a staple of festive gatherings.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult characters drink wine, and other characters often stealthily drug it -- sometimes with poison, sometimes with knockout potions.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Rook is an imaginative page-turner by Sharon Cameron (The Dark Unwinding) that features an irresistible cast in a brilliantly realized dystopian futuristic-retro world with plenty of scenery for them to chew up. A strong, much-miscommunicated romantic attraction between the two lead characters is expressed in banter, squabbling, and swordplay as much as the occasional thrilling kiss. It's all set in what was once Paris, against a Reign of Terror backdrop with hordes of innocents, including children, being sent to the guillotine by a villainous politician who also murders inconvenient associates. Determined to bring him down and save his luckless prisoners is the mysterious Red Rook, aka 18-year-old Sophia Bellamy, one of the best heroines to come along in years.

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What's the story?

Paying tribute to the historical-fiction classic The Scarlet Pimpernel, ROOK's story takes place in a dystopian future where the Earth's axis has shifted, rendering technology useless. Centuries after this collapse, in the Sunken City built on the ruins of Paris, a villainous politician is using a reign of terror to eliminate his opponents and seize their property. As more and more of his victims go to the guillotine, a mysterious hero known as the Red Rook spirits others to safety, leaving a red-tipped feather behind to taunt their would-be killer. In between missions, the Rook, aka 18-year-old Sophia Bellamy, has other problems, especially the Parisian fop she's being forced to marry to save her family from financial ruin.

Is it any good?

Author Sharon Cameron delivers an irresistible homage to the old-school swashbuckling romance in this tale that pits a resourceful 18-year-old girl against a wily, sociopathic villain. The real horrors of the French Revolution return here in a dystopian future, with the supersize guillotine known as the Razor looming over everything.

Readers tired of heroines who spend many pages in angst and internal hand-wringing will delight in determined, clever Sophie as she faces death, treachery, and marriage to the fashionable René, and they'll crack up at his odd outbursts, such as "My love! They play McCartney!"

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about history's many atrocities -- and the heroes, real and fictional, who rise up to save those in danger. Are there any you find especially interesting or relatable?

  • Have you read other stories about the French Revolution? How does Rook's story of parallel events compare?

  • Over the course of history, many movements that started out with noble sentiments and high ideals soon turned into horrific bloodbaths. Why do you think this happens? What different examples of this do you see in Rook and in the world around you?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love adventure and romantic fantasy

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