Friday, March 23, 2012

I can admit when I'm wrong...

The Rook
by Daniel O'Malley

I don’t know how many books I’m offered to review on a daily basis, but suffice it to say it’s a lot. I can’t possibly read them all. It’s a high class problem to have, right? When I read the description of Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook, I thought, “Nope, not for me.” I mean, it all sounded so supernatural, and I’m just not into that. A few weeks later, I was snooping around Amazon, as I tend to do, and I noticed the reader reviews. There were like 26 out of 26 five-star reviews for the debut novel of this unknown Australian writer. Well, I may be judgmental, but I’m not an idiot. I read the book. And I loved it! Hooray for crowd sourcing!

It opens with a most unconventional letter: “Dear You, The body you are wearing used to be mine…” Myfanwy Thomas has awoken, injured, in a nighttime park with absolutely no memory. Thankfully, there’s that helpful letter from… herself. That’s not all the preparation Myfanwy has done for Myfanwy; she knew this day was coming. She’s got a very detailed plan in place.

Let me stop for a moment and address why I didn’t write “preparation that Myfanwy has done for herself.” The reason is that this new, amnesiac version of Myfanwy is treated as a whole new entity by the author, herself, as well as other characters in the book. It’s as though the old Myfanwy has literally died. It was an interesting choice.

Moving on. Myfanwy Thomas works for a secret British organization that fights supernatural threats. She’s a powerful woman, having attained the high rank of Rook in this organization where the elite are named for chess pieces. And all of those elite have extraordinary powers. Myfanwy is no exception, and in her current state, she is only beginning to understand what she may be capable of. Her colleagues are a fascinating bunch, but I’ll let you discover their various abilities on your own. Why ruin your fun?

The Rook is the first in what shall become a series, as such, it serves as an excellent introduction to the truly entertaining world O’Malley has created, as well as all of the major players therein. This book is a tale of intrigue, as well as fantasy. Myfanwy has lost her memory because she was attacked. She needs to figure out which of her colleagues has tried to kill her, and to stop them before they try again. Additionally, she needs to keep doing her very important job, while hiding the fact that she has absolutely no memory of her prior life, or anything about this top secret organization.

First and foremost, this book succeeds because it is just fun, fun, fun! I could list other books about secret British agencies that guard against supernatural threats. It’s not like we’ve never seen anything like this before. However, Daniel O’Malley’s execution is excellent. His writing is accomplished, and he’s created a heroine to love in Myfanwy. World-building is another strength, and the book moves along at a delightful clip. The plotting is inventive and takes the story in unexpected directions. And the proceedings are leavened with generous doses of humor throughout.

Sometimes (often), I get annoyed that everything seems to be a series these days, but this is a world to which I look forward to returning. Kudos to Daniel O’Malley for overcoming my literary prejudices so ably! I hope many other readers give the newcomer a chance.


  1. This is just the kind of book that I like! Curse you, Susie! I wonder if I can find it at the library.

  2. Oooh, this does sound good! Putting this one on my must-read list. Thanks!