Back Bay Books
Review: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook follows Myfanwy Thomas, a woman with extraordinary power. She’s risen to one of the highest positions in an organization of similarly talented people. The Chequy, pronounced Shek-eh, is a group of people with super-human powers defending the United Kingdom from monsters that lurk in the night. Myfanwy Thomas is a Rook, a leader in domestic affairs. She’s utterly competent, highly organized, and has absolutely no clue who she is. Guided only by letters from her pre-amnesiac self and the knowledge that someone wants her out of the picture, Myfanwy has to infiltrate her own life in order to survive. O’Malley’s story blends corporate intrigue, spy novels, and moster madness in a captivating and utterly enjoyable way.
The story is split between two narrative voices: the pre-amnesiac Myfanwy (Let’s just call her PAM for simplicity’s sake), who talks to us and her present self in letters, and the post-amnesiac Myfanwy, who speaks in a more traditional narrative. This was one of my favorite parts of the book. At first, I was very hesitant about the split. I was afraid that the voices would blend together or that Myfanwy would have too much access to information and, thus, wouldn’t actually be in the dark about what was happening.
My fears were totally unnecessary. O’Malley works with two very distinct voices. PAM is organized, to the point, and as her doom comes, increasingly frantic. Myfanwy is powerful, emotional, and more unreserved in her manner of speaking. Though PAM is very prepared and has provided some very detailed information for Myfanwy, Myfanwy is left to do all of the deductive reasoning on her own.
The plot is fast-paced. There is a lot of intrigue and a lot of monsters. Vampires, mutants, and genetically engineered humans galore. Much of the story can seem abrupt, as though one thing after another is constantly happening, but I thought this was actually pleasantly reflective of the inevitable sense of chaos in Myfanwy’s story. She’s discovering much of her world at the same time the reader is and, as a result, we’re both in the dark at times.
I do wish that there had been more foreshadowing and that we’d seen Myfanwy draw her conclusions more. There’s a bit of a surprise element every time she figures something out. She’ll announce what she’s found and instead of seeing her draw the connections, she explains to us what they are. I thought that was perhaps the weakest point of the story.
There’s also a bit of a monster-of-the-moment feel to some of the organizations interactions.
Overall, though, it was a lot of fun. I thought the characters were likeable and the execution pretty well done. I’d give it a 3.75.
Even better, the sequel, Stiletto: A Novel, is out next year.