The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery, Adult
Publication: January 11th 2012 by Little, Brown and Company
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.
This book kicks off with a bang! When your first line starts with this, you know it’s got to be good!
The body you are wearing used to be mine. The scar on the inner left thigh is there because I fell out of a tree and impaled my leg at the age of nine.”
My thought pattern was along the lines of “HOLY SHIT” when I first started this book. It sounds dramatic, it is dramatic! However, my big but comes here, it took me an awfully long time to get into the story. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed every moment of reading, but it felt like a long time before I really got drawn into the real grit of the story.
I’m going to start with Myfanwy because I loved her so much. For me she seemed a little bit of a pushover from her letters of “Dear You”. However, the new Myfanwy is anything but and I absolutely adored her hands down. She was kick-butt, smart, sassy and she was guaranteed to make me laugh. My favourite quote from her has to be, without a doubt this one.
“And where is he going to lick me?
“In the examination room,” said Ingrid.
“What? no, what I mean is, whereabouts on my body will they be licking me?” demanded Myfanwy.”
How much more could I ask from her? Whilst being a really strong leading female protagonist, she managed to inflict great humour into everything for me! I think the dynamic of her relationship with Ingrid and in addition to her amnesia she made a really quirky character who could pull of moments of stupidity because of her lack of knowledge. It was pretty brilliant!
I have to say following Myfawny learning and adapting to her role within the Chequy and growing and developing as a person in all fields was utterly endearing. Not only had she changed from the person we are first led to know is Myfawny, but she matures across “The Rook” into an actual person and not just the work-a-holic.
In addition to our fantastic main character, we had some really well thought secondary characters that had a full history and we really got to engage with. My favourite being Bishop Alrich and Ingrid. Not only does O’Malley take the time to really write up the background to the story, but he sets the scene, describes it and really immerses you into everything. I could really visualise every moment of the story. His descriptions were top-notch and they didn’t take a moment away from the thrills and heart-pumping moments, they only added to the speed of the novel and it’s intensity.
“The gangly youth was covered in flesh-colored scales that glittered in the light. Long scars sliced up his face from the corners of his mouth. The little girl had massive talons coming out of her fingers.”
So whilst this book is labelled as “Fantasy” I wouldn’t put it with the whole medieval sword-fighting she-bang, it’s very much a modern world technological front. Even though I love the medieval side of fantasy more, I equally adored this one because we got a really different style. The members of the Chequy are registered as different pieces of a check board, which is a fantastic idea. We have Rooks, Bishops, Pawns and then the Lord and Lady since they would step onto King and Queen territory otherwise which was not quite favoured. O’Mally certainly builds a highly descriptive, absorbing world around these titles and world. It’s obvious he spent a great deal of time planning the regimented ranks and the admission criteria. Thus being why the title is “The Rook” which Myfawny is. This all sets out for a very rigid, strict and secret government department that functions to take in those with the supernatural abilities that really range to all kinds of things, vampires, four bodies to one mind, humans turning into metal. O’Malley creates so many unique powers and possibilities that evolve within the Chequy and thrive under their control whilst the Chequy also works to cover up all secrete outbreaks of the ‘supernatural’ across the country. It sometimes makes you wonder if we really do have a secret division in our country like this.
Not only that, but I labelled this mystery. It is very much leading you on a tale of twists and complex turns where you have no clue to what is about to happen. There is certainly a lot to be discovered and very little given away. I think it’s always refreshing to read a truly unpredictable novel and the whole reasoning of why’s and where’s is certainly enough to keep you on your toes if you aren’t cringing away from the gore, or lapping it up like me. I do suggest if you are easily queasy or faint-heartened to gore this might not be the best book for you since when a limb gets torn off or a liquid monster is throwing gooey gunk all around it’s not the most settling of things. However it does make for a read with no holding back and a race neck speed finish.
I found the method of telling the story and narrative to be equally engaging. We switched from letters written by the “old” Myfawny in first person detailing her life, into a third person narrative from the “new” Myfawny. This really enables her to feel like a new toddler stumbling with it’s first steps and she has to fit into a lifestyle that isn’t hers. It adds to the outsider effect and really draws you in. Adding to the letters we have the purple binder that Myfawny has detailed ever aspect of her life in that surrounds the Chequy. I really liked O’Malley’s thought into this and the great details he went into. Not only that, but we saw some wit and humour touched into that too.
“With this reformation of the Estate and its methods, there were some kinks that needed to be worked out, and, in my opinion, Norman Goblet stands out as one of the kinkiest.”
I never would have picked up O’Malley’s “The Rook” without it being selected as group read and I’m very glad I did because whilst it took me a while to get into, once I actually settled down to read, I found it nearly impossible to stop reading. “The Rook” is a unique fantasy novel, with a brilliant premise, a strong protagonist and lots of wit, humour and excitement tossed in amongst the mix of supernatural. I advise you all to flock and by “The Rook” now because it surely will not disappoint! Especially since it’s actually one of those novels where you find everything answered and tidly swept away.
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