Review: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

This is the debut novel from Daniel O’Malley, published on January 11, 2012 from Little, Brown.

The Blurb

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. [Goodreads]

The Review

This book shouldn’t have worked as well as it did. There are info-dumps galore. The main character’s name is a confusing jumble of consonants. The reader spends a large portion of the book confused. Hell, I thought this book was a “straight” thriller when I first picked it up!

Yet the info-dumping is done quite quaintly in letters from our heroine to her post-amnesiac self. It grates after awhile, but the intriguing story managed to drag me through it. It’s also noted fairly early on that Myfawnwy is pronounced like “Tiffany” but with a beginning “M” sound. (Still, I stumbled over the pronunciation in my head each time I came across it.) And it does seem sort of realistic to have the reader just as bewildered as the the point of view character, after all. I don’t know where my expectations of the book having no supernatural element came from, though.

In any case, for a book I thought I wasn’t going to enjoy and that I fully expected to put down forever after a couple of chapters, this does rather well. Myfawnwy’s story is unique and captivating. It itched at me under my skin whenever I wasn’t reading it, just as the thought of this review has itched at me since I put the finished book down. It was such a nice new spin on the genre that I really had no idea where the story was going to go. If the ending is any indication (and I assume that it is), then we should be expecting a sequel, too.

The Rook is a solid foundation for some truly original ideas in urban fantasy. I look forward to seeing another installment soon.

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