Alrighty guys, brace yourself: fangirl overload is coming.
But first, a brief history.
When I was 13, I was presented with my first ever book report project. My 8th grade English teacher laid out a line of books on a table and told us to go and pick one. Being the sensible bibliophile that I was, I took my time with each book; I read the first few pages or so of each.
There was one book — one out of the twenty or so that sat upon that table — for which I didn’t need to read the first few pages. I only needed to read the first line:
A surging, seething, murmuring crowd of beings that are human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage creatures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and of hate.
I still love that line, love reading it aloud and tasting the words on my tongue. The sharp cracking of the consonants and the mellifluous quality of the cadence of Baroness Orczy’s use of language. Yes, friends, that is the opening line to The Scarlet Pimpernel. It’s not only one of my favourite classics of all time, it’s one of my favourite books of all time.
Fast forward to last month when I stumble across a book called Rook by Sharon Cameron here on Goodreads. I know nothing about it, but the very synopsis calls to me: it sounds an awful lot like a book I know and love.
That was not a coincidence.
Rook is not a retelling nor a re-spinning so much as an homage to Orczy’s classic swashbuckling tale of intrigue, romance, and derring-do. From foxes named St. Just and devilishly clever men with notably blue eyes, references to the Pimpernel are everywhere. The best part is that it’s also a little meta in that aspect: the character of the Red Rook became such because of having read parts of Pimpernel. Be still my heart, it is too much!
As much as these things alone make my Pimpernel-loving heart beat a little faster, it’s the fact that they are done so well that makes me smile. Throw in a story with a little more steam, high-octane adventure, and just as much nail-biting tension in a turbulent Paris…and you have the glorious fun that is Rook.
I adored this book. I adored it as an homage, and I adored it as a story in its own right. It holds a place next to my special hardback of The Scarlet Pimpernel on my bookshelf, and it deserves its place there.
The Scarlet Pimpernel lives…and so does the Red Rook.