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Review

 

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
4.5
Book Name: The Rook
Author: Daniel O’Malley
Publisher(s): Little, Brown and Company (US) Head of Zeus (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy
Release Date: January 11, 2012 (US) January 1, 2013 (UK)

“The body you are wearing used to be mine.” So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.

She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Checquy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare and deadly supernatural ability of her own.

You know how it is. One day you’re going about your daily life and the next you’ve no recollection of what that life was or who you are? Scary, you’d expect. Wait till you age a bit, it happens to me all the time. Anyway, this is where The Rook begins and then, in the tradition of all good stories, never stops until the final word is printed upon the page. You will not be able to put it down.

With that recommendation out of the way, let me tell you why you should be reading this book.

Myfanwy (Miff-un-ee) Thomas, as we must call our amnesiac hero, has an important job and a set of skills that are unique and powerful. Not that she knows that. She works for a group known as the Checquy, a secret organisation charged with the protection of the British Isle from supernatural threats. It all sounds a little Rivers of London, but though they were released at pretty much the same time they are different enough to both warrant attention.

For me, by far, the most interesting aspect to the story that unfolds is that we begin, as readers and as the hero, knowing absolutely nothing. Should she go into work or not? Will she know how to do the job? Will her colleagues discover her secret? We learn as Mwfanwy learns and, being careful to avoid any spoilers which is so difficult, clever interplay between the letter writer and amnesiac is a joy. We, the reader, are given the privileged position of knowing both characters and seeing their differences. As a story-telling device, the letter is genius.

I like epic fantasy and space opera, but I am not a ‘superfan’ of it. I don’t go out of my way to read it (though I loved Peter Hamilton’s sci-fi series). However, I do love a good story, told from a few tight perspectives and O’Malley has chosen to tell his in an engaging first-person point of view. We are in the mind of Mwfanwy. We see through her eyes and live her experiences. The author does a good job of giving us enough information to make some guesses but also hides some key facts in plain sight that will have you going, “Oh, now I see”, at the end.

The pacing is fast. There are few, if any wasted, scenes and Myfawny’s character develops from blank amnesiac to fully-fleshed (just realised I wrote that word…but I promised no spoilers…. Ssssh!) over the course of the story. Add to that a full cast of secondary characters, none of whom are safe. In Mwfanwy’s world, life is dangerous.

There is charm to the writing and the characters. Mwfanwy herself is interesting; just the right mixture of confusion, fear, courage mixed with a dry, dark sense of humour.

The Rook came out in 2012, the sequel is due this year. Get yourself ready for it by reading this book. You will not regret it. I bought it on recommendation and devoured it over two evenings – go and do the same.

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Rating: 9.8/10 (4 votes cast)
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley, 9.8 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
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2 Comments

  1. Phil says:

    I really wanted to like this book, but there were things just wrong about the UK in it. To obviously written by an American who needed to have done more research I fear.

    • Phil says:

      A few examples might help (I apologise) The cabbie looking up an address is the first instance, the language: I am English and I don’t speak in that manner. Beverages…I think you mean a cup of tea. Finally geography. An experienced editor would have caught a lot of this.

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