Book Review: Rook by J.C. Andrijeski

10276001Title: Rook (Allie’s War, Book One)
Author: J.C. Andrijeski
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction, Contemporary Fantasy, Romance
Publisher: White Sun Press
Date of Publication: January 9th 2011
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Rating: 4 stars
Review copy provided by the author.

“You are the Bridge…”

Twenty-eight-year-old San Francisco native, Allie Taylor, knew she had issues…but she at least thought she was human. In her version of modern day Earth, a second race of human-like beings called seers were discovered in Asia in the early 1900s. Since then, they have fought in two world wars and live alongside humans as second-class citizens.

So when Allie meets her first, real, flesh-and-blood seer, she’s not exactly thrilled when he tells her that she’s a seer like him. Not only that, but according to him, all the other seers believe she’s going to end the world.

Worse, no matter what she does, everything that happens after that only seems to prove him right.

Allie Taylor has spent her entire life thinking she was human, but she’s about to find out that she’s not. In a world where Seers, human-like creatures with amazing abilities and the power to communicate with each other on a different level called The Barrier, are sold as slaves and forced to work for humans or are part of one of the few Seer Clans still existing, that’s terrible news to deal with. And like that isn’t worse enough, she also learns that she’s The Bridge, and according to what all other seers believe, she’s going to destroy the world. Allie realizes that her life, and the life of her new love interest Revik, might be in danger as she is now the number one target of the Rooks – a rogue seer group refusing to blend in with the seers working for humans – and of the human authorities, who want nothing more than to get their hands on one of the most powerful seers currently alive.

Rook, the first novel in the Allie’s War series, is quite the adventure to read. At first, the new world J.C. Andrijeski creates seems very unfamiliar, and it takes some getting used to, but once you get past that, you know that you’re in one of the most memorable, astonishing and original books currently out there. The world we are introduced to in this novel, is very much alike our own, but with the addition of a new race of creatures called seers, who were discovered in Asia in the early 1900s. Although the seers are far more powerful than humans, since they can communicate on a different thought-level called The Barrier, and some of them possess even more impressive qualities – like telekinesis or the ability to influence other people’s thoughts – they are treated like second-rate citizens. Some of them are sold as sex-slaves to expensive whorehouses, while others work for wealthy families who can afford their own seer, and thus gain even more power for themselves. The ones who are not bound by the rules of human society, are organised in the few remaining clans. But there is also a significant group of seers who are not pleased with the current world order, and who have gone rogue, calling themselves Rooks and operating in a pyramid-like structure on The Barrier.

As you may have noticed from my short introduction, Rook is nothing like other science-fiction/alternative universe novels out there. The world J.C. Andrijeski creates is original, entertaining and quite complicated – it took me a while to actually grasp the entire concept of it. The complexity of this world might scare potential readers, but once everything clicks into place, the amount of world-building done in this novel and the originality of the concepts introduced are really amazing and impressive, and it should not scare you away from reading this novel.

Allie is an interesting character, with a lot of depth and personality. In the beginning of this novel, she is still convinced of her own humanity, although there were some events during her childhood that occasionally made her question that. But when she is being stalked by Revik, a fellow seer, and he tells her of her own seer-heritage, everything seemingly clicks into place – but that doesn’t mean that it still doesn’t scare Allile tremendously. She is forced to leave her entire life behind, and to run away from Terrian, a seer who wants to make her become part of the Rook organisation. J.C. Andrijeski describes Allie’s growth as a character, from a person in the dark about her own history, heritage to a person trying to find out what this seer-thing actually means to The Bridge, the person capable of destroying the world. The evolution in her personality happens slowly and gradually, and is remarkably well written to say the least. I liked Allie’s personality. She is determined, strong, intelligent and willing to acknowledge her own failures and flaws, and to deal with them. I could easily relate to her and found that I really enjoyed reading her thoughts and opinions.

The other main characters, Revik – the good guy, the love interest – and Terrian – the bad guy – are equally as interesting and entertaining, although they both have very distinct personalities. It’s obvious from the start that the two of them have some history together, and I thought their interactions with each other were some of the most interesting scenes in this novel. Terrian makes an excellent bad guy as he is practically the representation of all the things we deem evil in this world. The fact that he has multiple bodies he can operate, makes him a very interesting opponent as well. I also liked Revik’s personality, with his moods switching quickly between happy, relaxed and cheerful and angry, confused and sad. Whereas Allie is more of a balanced person, I thought Revik’s moody personality made an excellent addition to that. I also liked the two of them together, as an item, since it somehow seemed very fitting.

But more even than the impressive world-building and the interesting, well-thought-through characters, I thorougly enjoyed the storyline. Starting off right in the middle of the action, only to bounce back to explain a couple of things and then right away get into the action again. The storyline is very original, as in the entire concept of the novel, and it’s filled with more backstabbing betrayal, twist and turns than I even thought possible. By the end, Allie hardly knows who to trust anymore besides herself – if she can even trust herself, being The Bridge and destroying the world and all – and she even questions the loyalty of the people she loves most: Revik, her own brother and her closest friend. While the world around them seems to be crashing down, the characters are forced to find strength and courage within themselves to do the impossible. The contrast between Allie’s relatively safe, human environment we meet her in at first, and the dire circumstances she finds herself in by the end of Rook is enormous. The storyline never gets predictable, and always mantains the fast pace and level of intensity we see from the start, and even when it slows down for a minute to explain something about Allie’s world, or to create some romance between characters, it never loses that intensity.

Another strong point of this novel was that Allie, although she is The Bridge and supposedly the destroyer of the world, doesn’t seem like an overpowered character at all. A lot of authors fall into the trap that they want their main character to be a part of a prophecy, or to have some amazing purpose in this life, and end up making them overpowered compared to the other characters, which makes them unbelievable, people can no longer relate to them and they become boring. Luckily for us readers, J.C. Andrijeski does not fall for that trap, which makes Rook an even more impressive book to read.

If I had to say one bad thing about Rook, then it would be its complexity. That’s the only reason why I rated this book a 4 and not a 5, and also the reason why I think the other novels in the series might be even better than this one – less explaining to do, more action and adventures. As I already stated, the world the author creates is very complex, multi-layered, and it takes a lot of explaining before the reader actually gets used to it, or grasps the concept. That might scare off potential readers, but I personally believe that the action-packed adventure and the entertaining characters this novel provides, more than make up for that. And after all, everyone knows that if you want an original storyline with an original setting, that it’s obvious there will be some explenation needed. It’s a sacrifice we have to make for originality, and it’s one I gladly make.

Rook is an excellent science-fiction/fantasy novel with an amazing storyline, strong characters and the most impressive display of world-building I have seen in a while. If you’re tired of reading fantasy novels with the same old concept over and over again, then you will definately find Rook innovating, remarkable and highly entertaining. And even if you’re happy with the way most contemporary fantasy novels work nowadays, then I think you’ll still find Rook to be a very entertaining novel in the genre, and one of the most well-written ones. Don’t hesitate to read this book: it will definately NOT dissapoint you.

Rook is the first book in the Allie’s War series, the second book being Shield, and the third Sword. I cannot wait to read the second part of this series, and to read more about Allie’s adventures.

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