Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Sharon Cameron
For ages 13 and up
Scholastic Press, 2015   ISBN: 978-0545675994

Many hundreds of years ago, during “the Time Before,” humans were heavily dependent on the machines and technology that they built. Then the Earth’s magnetic poles shifted and chaos followed. Technologies failed, disease spread, and there was widespread death and destruction. Now, more than eight hundred years later, many human societies have made technology illegal, blaming it for all the terrible things that happened in the past.

In the Sunken City, which was once called Paris, the poor live in the central part of the metropolis, the part than long ago sank down many hundreds of feet. On the cliffs above the squalor are the homes of the wealthy. History is repeating itself in the city as the leaders who claim they are speaking for the people wreak vengeance on the rich who oppressed them for years. Hundreds of people who once lived in luxury are being imprisoned, convicted and executed. A device with a huge blade, the Razor, is the rule of law in the city and two men, Allemende and his second in command, Le Blanc, are the ones who decide who lives and who dies.

There is only one person who is trying to staunch the blood that is being spilled in the city. This person, the Red Rook, refuses to stand by while so many atrocities are being committed. The Red Rook has been stealing prisoners from the prison, saving them before they can die beneath the Razor’s blade. With the help of allies the Red Rook manages to get the prisoners away from the Sunken City and across the sea to the Commonwealth. The work in terribly dangerous but the Red Rook keeps trying to save lives.

What no one knows, except a select few, is that the Red Rook is a young woman called Sophia Bellamy. She has just managed to get a large group of prisoners out of LeBlanc’s evil clutches and now she back in her family home in the Commonwealth attending her engagement party. Sophia is going to marry Rene Hasard, a young man from the Sunken City whose wealth will save Sophia’s family from ruin. Sophia’s father has got into a great deal of debt and the only way to save the family home and lands is for Sophia to marry a man who can pay off those debts. Normally Sophia’s brother Tom would work to prove that he would be a suitable custodian for the estate, but Tom was injured when he was in the militia and government officials will certainly not consider him to be the right person to take on his father’s debt and the management of the estate; especially as they would like to have the estate for themselves because it would give them access to a coastline.

Sophia is doing her best to accept her circumstances, so accept that she is going to be married to an empty-headed fop, when LeBlanc turns up at her party. He is looking for the escaped prisoners, whom he thinks are nearby. He is right, for they are only a short distance away and Sophia is terrified that he will find them. She and those who help her are going to have to keep their wits about them, while pretending to be something they are not. What Sophia does not realize is that her handsome fiancée is not what he seems either, and there are others in her circle who have their own agendas. Their actions could bring Sophia’s world crashing down around her ears and endanger the people she holds most dear.

Rife with secrets, betrayals and startling revelations, this fascinating book is very entertaining, but it also explores the ways in which humans are prone to repeating their mistakes. As a species, we do not learn and thus problems that we brought about in the past reappear in the present with the same, often terrible, consequences. Readers will be fascinated by the world that Sophia lives in, and they will wonder how she and her friends will fare, pitted as they are against a deadly and ruthless foe.