The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
Digital Audiobook narrated by Susan Duerden
Published by Little, Brown and Company on January 11, 2012
Series: The Checquy Files #1
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Length: 496 pages or 17 hours, 46 minutes
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"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 was a lot of fun.
I don’t think that The Rook ever pretends to be a serious work of fantasy fiction. Myfanwy Thomas has had her memory erased. She’s doing her absolute best to pretend that HASN’T happened so nobody will noticed. All she knows for sure is that something fishy is going on in the Checquy, and it’s why she’s in this position. Plus that person is probably still trying to kill her, so Myfanwy 2.0 needs to figure out what’s going on, quick.
The Rook has a lot of fundamental flaws. First of all, it is LONG. There’s a lot of asides that are supposed to add to the big reveal near the end, but I found myself zoning out a lot during Thomas’s letters. As an audiobook, this is a smidge over 18 hours. That’s a lot for a novel that reads like something slightly less silly than typical paperback supernatural fiction. Secondly, it’s a bit scattered. There’s a lot of moving pieces leading up to too many big reveals, not to mention as the reader… we’re learning about this world. So it’s a lot, and at times I struggled to pay attention. This was a two-hour-at-a-time book, because I lost focus when I listened for longer than that.
But with all that aside… this is a fun novel, and I enjoyed it. I’m going to pick up the sequel because the world was entertaining. There were times when I was zoning out… but it also made me laugh. It made me laugh often enough that my husband was giving me weird looks, so I had a great time listening.
Myfanwy is witty and fun. There are definitely moment where I can tell beyond the shadow of a doubt that she is written by a man, because honestly, we ladies aren’t nearly so conscious of our boobs at all times? Also, it was a little awkward to read the gynecological scene, because it felt so clear the poor man had NO idea what was going on and didn’t really want to know. None of the detachments were offensive, though! … Just like… eye roll worthy. Overall, Myfanwy’s voice was funny and just the right amount of lost. I don’t think I would have liked Thomas as much, and the history lesson asides were boring. This coming from someone who loves history. Not like this, though.
But I loved the bizarreness of it all. The secret world of the supernatural felt like something out of Hollywood, like something akin to Men in Black only British and with powered individuals instead of aliens. There were experiments and murder and giant mold monsters and tea in dreams and it was really just an utter delight.
Honestly, I think this is underrated. It fits into a weird niche – it’s not supernatural romance, it’s not paperback… it’s something between YA and adult fiction. I think that fans of Jasper Fforde (like myself!) will like this one, and it reminded me heavily of the tone and careful integration of Just One Damned Thing After Another. I delighted in the world and some of the fascinating characters (character-wise, Gestalt was unimpressive… but CONCEPTUALLY. Cool cool cool). I think that some people will roll their eyes at this, but I thought The Rook was a blast. Super fun, I definitely enjoyed it.