Review: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

The Rook by Daniel O’ Malley
Hachette/Jan. 2012

“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 Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.

In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.

The Rook was another pleasant surprise for me this year. When I started, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but very quickly became absorbed in Myfanwy’s story. It gets off to a fairly creepy start with Myfanwy (rhymes with Tiffany) Thomas coming to, in a park in London, surrounded by a gaggle of dead bodies wearing latex gloves. Intriguing, yes? Oh yes. Soon Myfanwy realizes she’s part of a super secret organization called the Chequy that has been put in place to protect the unsuspecting public from supernatural baddies. Wait, did I mention she’s lost her memory? Good thing her former self, going on premonitions from more than one individual, has left her prepared by way of a rather thorough binder full of info, to notes left in every jacket pocket. This sets up pretty well who Myfanwy Thomas was before she lost her memory: very organized, dependable, and, oh look!, she’s also a Rook. A Rook’s status is important, and she also realizes that she has some very special powers…

The Rook goes back in forth between events as they happen, and the notes and info that Myfanwy left for herself, so you get to know the former Myfanwy, as well as the current Myfanwy, who turns out to be not near as much of a wallflower as she was before. It provides a great contrast, and you’ll find yourself turning pages very quickly, since the author uses this method to tease the reader. Just when something not-so-good is about to happen, the book will go to a bit of related history that Myfanwy has written that’s somehow connected to the ongoing events and we also get to know many of her supporting cast this way. So, we have Myfanwy trying to acclimate herself back into the Chequy, coming to terms with her new self, and also trying to solve the mystery of just who it is that wants her dead. Then there are the Grafters¸ an ancient, evil organization that takes Dr. Frankenstein’s experiments to a whole, other, terrifying new level. The Rook has a bit of everything, from a secret Estate (school) that procures children with special “talents” for inclusion in the Chequy, members with many different and fascinating talents, like the Gestalt, which is four bodies that share one mind (creepy, yes?), Myfanwy’s intrepid secretary, Ingrid, who she would be lost without, Eldritch horrors menacing the public at every turn (tentacles! fungus!), a sexy vampire operative and ever so much more! I could write pages about all the cool, paranormal awesomeness in this book, but that would take away the fun, yes? Dry, wry, British wit is ever present and I found myself chuckling almost as much as I cringed (and you will cringe). The author has built a rich, fascinating world populated with characters that stretched the limits of my imagination in a wonderful way. I found myself sad to see this one end and will keep my fingers crossed for more. Can’t wait to see what else Daniel O’Malley has up his sleeve!

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  1. Loved this book. Glad to see some more reviewer-love out there.

  2. It sounds very Momento only with supernatural awesomeness. Consider my attention grabbed. 🙂

  3. You had me at “Dry British Wit.” A very intriguing concept. 🙂

  4. I’m reading this now – love it 🙂 I particularly like the humour – it wouldn’t be half as great a book without it.

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