by Sharon Cameron
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Scholastic Press Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780545675994
Date: 28 April 2015 List Price $17.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
A small fragment of a long lost story inspires a young girl to not accept the world and its strictures. Earth has fallen a long way from the heights of technology. The death that followed the technological collapse caused the nations of the world to foreswear technology. The leadership of the Sunken City and Commonwealth repress those who try to use the forbidden knowledge.
Sophia Bellamy is the daughter of a printer. A technology that has recently been banned leaving her family in dire straits. In order to keep her father out of prison, she needs to marry the wealthy heir to a Sunken City in order to have a dowry to cover those debts. She has a great secret, she is the Red Rook.
Albert Leblanc, the Minister of Security, commands the troops that control the Sunken City. He chases the Red Rook who has been creating problems by freeing prisoners. He enlists his cousin to help him search the coast. His ultimate goal is control of the mob and then the city. His greatest ally is the Razor that removes the heads of those foolish enough to be wealthy.
René Hasard has been pulled into LeBlanc's plan to find the Red Rook. He has been engaged to Sophia, and during the courtship plays his own game. But he is not the fop he plays. He will be drawn into the Rook's plans, but he may have his own end game, because he wants to help his family.
This is a fun story, reminiscent of the story that inspired it, The Scarlet Pimpernel. Fans of Diana Peterfreund's Across a Star Swept Sea should enjoy a similar tale based on the same tale. The both cross a classic story with a dystopian future. A huge die off of the human population is the foundation for both tales, although the exact circumstances are different.
This dystopian future has devolved to the politics of the French Revolution. Although the world seems to be ready for a Renaissance, the Luddite tendency of the rulers prevents the development of technology that increases productivity. In truth, the rulers seem to want to use the methods that will take more people to perform any given task.
The setup of the loss of technology, although never fully explained, creates the crisis that allows for the world to go into a holding pattern. A pattern that others may now be willing to break. This is the glimmer of hope onto which people can latch. Sophia and René may be able to find happiness, if they are on the same page.