The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

12 July, 2013

The Rook

I’m blessed with friends. One of my school friends and I share similar tastes in books and we are forever exchanging recommendations. Most of the time I tell her about new books which I haven’t read that are all the rage on blogs and she’ll get them and then lend them to me afterwards. She’s a star like that. And then she’ll tell me about books I haven’t heard of that aren’t making the rounds on blogs and I’ll eventually get to them and kick myself for taking so long.

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley is one of them. She told me about it many months ago when it was still only available on Kindle. I don’t have a Kindle so I dithered. I should have got my copy when I flew to New York in March. And then it came out here and I begged for a copy from publishing house Head of Zeus who were kind enough to send me one to review. And I dived in and was immediately immersed in this intricate and exciting creation of O’Malley’s that is a bit like a furious blend of the X-Men, Torchwood, Anne Rice’s legendary Talamasca, my favourite fictional secret society up to now, mixed in with a dash of Scarlett Thomas.

Myfanwy Thomas opens her eyes with her memory gone and surrounded by dead agents all wearing latex gloves. She is bruised and hurt and finds an envelope in her jacket giving instructions on who she is and where she has to go. And so begins her journey for survival in a world where the real collide with the supernatural and which is kept under tight rein by the Checquy, a super secret governmental organisation of superhumans with special abilities. Ranked as a Rook and in charge of domestic disturbances, Myfanwy discovers she is an extremely efficient organiser and in charge of strategy and accounts. But someone is out to kill her and it looks like that person is in the heart of the Checquy, an organisation tightly bound by secrecy and trust. As she begins to uncover who she was, she must also search for her enemy while pretending all is as it was. For the person who has awoken in Myfanwy’s body isn’t the same person whose memory was erased and her enemy within the Checquy, who has gone to great lengths to erase her memory, is most probably put out to see her coming back to work as though nothing had happened.

Intriguing or what? There is so much more to this novel but I don’t want to give anything away. I want you to read and discover it for yourself. One of the things I particularly liked about the narrative structure which O’Malley has chosen for his novel is that you find out in real time what the new Myfanwy finds out about her old self. You get me? It’s confusing but O’Malley drip feeds you tantalising morsels of detail, chapter by chapter, uncovering explosive information that rocks new Myfanwy’s world view every few hours. There’s a lot of action and humour and I spent a lot of time racing through the pages whilst stifling my laughter. It’s funny, very clever, doesn’t take itself too seriously and yet there’s a lot of thought that has gone into The Rook. I loved it. And I just found out that a sequel is pending which makes me a very happy fan.

One of the things I loved most about O’Malley’s creation, apart from the intricate plot and mystery, are the characters. I did mention X-Men, didn’t I? The Checquy is structured just like a game of chess. The Lord and Lady (the King and Queen), the Bishops, the Rooks and the Pawns who all have some sort of supernatural power making them more than human, with the first three titles being the most powerful and making up the Court. And then there are the Retainers who run around aiding them who are normal people devoid of any power. Myfanwy is a Rook and belongs to the Court but in that select group, the most intriguing characters are Bishop Alrich, androgynous, pale and with blood red hair, and the Gestalt siblings who all share one mind. It’s incredibly creepy but I want more! The Checquy also has a long and secretive presence within English history and as a result has accumulated a staggering amount of capital as well as power which makes it an extremely effective, highly competent and swanky organisation to work for and I loved all the bits of technological excess and luxury which Myfanwy (re)discovers and which comes with working for the Checquy.

Once in a while, a story will just burst out and capture your imagination like no other, and Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook is one of them. I couldn’t find any fault with it, the only one being I have to wait until the next book is released. Seriously, do yourselves a favour and get thee a copy.

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2 Responses to “The Rook by Daniel O’Malley”

  1. Mystica Says:

    Thanks. You’ve got me certainly intrigued.

  2. winstonsdad Says:

    its great to get told books less well known ,all the best stu


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