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O'Malley, Daniel: The Rook

The Rook (2012)
Author: The Rook
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 486 (hardcover)
Series: Stand Alone (maybe? this looks like it could be the start of a series)

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.

Filled with characters both fascinating and fantastical, THE ROOK is a richly inventive, suspenseful, and often wry thriller that marks an ambitious debut from a promising young writer.

Why I Read It: This first caught my eye when it was reviewed on the Book Smugglers and Thea gave it an 8/10. Then Shara from calico_reaction reviewed it and while it wasn't what she thought it was going to be, she still enjoyed it. So, I splurged a little and ordered it online.

I think the best thing about this book is that it's urban fantasy without falling into ANY of the typical UF tropes. Now, I don't read a whole lot of UF (hardly any at all actually) but from reading enough reviews, I'm familiar with the cliches of the genre.

So, first off, I LOVED Myfanwy (rhymes with Tiffany). I loved both the pre-Amnesia Myfanwy and post-Amnesia Myfanwy. Pre-Amnesia Myfanwy was a bit of a mouse of a lady, someone who was scared and intidimated very easily but she could file the SHIT out of you and she was super smart. Introverts have a place in this world too, you know? And then there's the post-Amnesia Myfanwy who isn't a Buffy-esque kickass heroine, but she's still someone who doesn't take shit from ANYONE. So I loved them both but for completely different reasons. And this isn't your typical amnesia story where post-Amnesia Myfanwy is trying to get back her memories so that she can go back to the life she once lived. No, that life is over and she now has to deal with the old Myfanwy's baggage and start new. So I'm glad that the novel didn't take the typical route, or the route that one would expect it to tread.

I also loved the supernatural elements of the story. Myfanwy works for a company called the Checquy which is a kind of secret police that deals with supernatural happenings that occur in the UK. But instead of just focusing on your typical supernatural fare (ie. werewolves, vampires, shapeshifters, that kind of thing) O'Malley presents to his readers a PLETHORA of supernaturalness. It's very X-Men-y in that regard actually; you have a bunch of people with weird mutant abilities grouped together and trained at a school for Gifted Children (though they do take in adults too) that protect the world from other mutant thingies that are amok.

And the Bechdel test! This book passes it in SPADES. Myfanwy makes a friend with an American member of the Checquy (they have a branch across the pond) and they become BFFs and it was awesome. Also? There is no romance to speak of in this novel, and while I have nothing against romance, it was still nice to see an urban fantasy not tread that familiar territory. Myfanwy is way too busy figuring out her own shit to be bothered with romance, so it makes perfect sense within the context of the story for there to be no love angle.

I do have some nitpicks though and one traces back to some of the issues I have with novels in epistolary format -- mainly, I had to suspend my disbelief at the letters that pre-Amnesia Myfanwy wrote to post-amnesia Myfanwy. They're written in such a way so that the readers can get some background information on stuff, in that there's A LOT of detail. I know that Myfanwy is super organized and precise, but who the hell wrotes down verbatim whole conversations? NO ONE. So I found that pill a little hard to swallow. And the letters would appear in the text at moments when they were most needed to provide some context, but they also made the narrative feel disjointed and really pulled me out of whatever action was going on at the time (and they would sometimes interject RIGHT in the middle of stuff.)

The tone of the novel also threw me through a loop a few times. For example: at the beginning of the novel, it felt very much like a thriller. We have a heroine who wakes up and remembers NOTHING about anything and is attacked by weird people and she finds out she can KILL people by touching them. Everything is very frantic and blood-pounding. But once Myfanwy is settled in the Checquy and she gathers her bearings, the novel started to feel more like a comedy at times? Myfanwy had a lot of attitude and would purposefully antagonize the villains at times and yes, it was funny most of the time, but it felt so disjointed from the beginning. And then before I knew it, the novel would get all serious on my ass again.

Overall though, this was solid and I had a lot of fun reading it. I would definitely read more books from O'Malley, doubly so if they take place in this universe again.

Final Verdict: An overall enjoyable urban fantasy that manages to read completely differently from most other urban fantasy novels (though to be fair, I'm not that well read in the genre.) I loved both sides of MMyfanwy's character and I liked that this was an amnesia story that didn't take the obvious route. I did have some problems though: I had to suspend my disbelief a bit with the letters that old Myfanwy left for Myfanwy, I wasn't always fond of WHERE those letters were placed, and I found the tone of the novel inconsistent which was disconcerting at times. However, the pros far outweighed the cons for me.

Cover Commentary: When I first saw the cover I really liked it for its simplicity. When I got it in the mail though I was kind of disappointed that it had a glossy finish instead of a matte one, and I still can't figure out the significance of some of the symbols on the crest/shield thing. Why a tea pot?? Because it takes place in the UK? Why the octopus? Or the bunny (is that supposed to be Wolfgang or something)? So yeah, a little confusing.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 20th, 2012 02:34 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the tonal shifts were a problem for me. I doubt I'll read any sequels, because it was an okay read for me, not OMG-ENGAGING! Of course, I always reserve the right to change my mind...
May. 20th, 2012 04:29 pm (UTC)
The tonal shifts were SO WEIRD! And yeah, as much as I liked this when I wrote the review (I finished reading this at the beginning of May) that enthusiasm has been kind of waning as time passes. I still enjoyed it, but I'm like OMG SOOO GOOD!!! It's not going to be making any year-end lists or anything.

I'm probably still going to check out any sequels though, just out of curiosity.
May. 20th, 2012 05:06 pm (UTC)
Isn't it funny how some books wane after reading?
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


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