The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

“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.
The Rook is yet another ambitious urban fantasy set in the sunny shores of Britain. It has secret government organisations, conspiracies, surprising twists and quirky characters that by all accounts should have been something that I would have loved. However the thing that bothered me most is the tongue-in-cheek attitude that the author employs in most situations. It would have been brilliant if used sparingly but right now it feels like the author is just showing off how clever he is. I mean if you are a high ranking official in a secret US government agency, would you really act like as if you’re a character in Legally Blonde or Clueless? The answer is no, it just doesn’t fit.

If you overlook that fault, the book is actually pretty fun. The concept of the story and the strength of its characters are both top notch. The mysterious circumstances surrounding Myfanwy Thomas and the gradual revelation of this secret world with its secret government agencies really gets you hooked on the story. It was a delight to read about the inner workings of the Checquy, the department responsible for overseeing the supernatural events both within Britain and abroad.

At first the letters from Myfanwy’s previous self, felt a bit like the story was told by the voice of god. Whenever the current Myfanwy encounters a conundrum, she would open a letter and, lo and behold, the previous Myfanwy would have written a letter detailing the steps she should take. I would have preferred more showing and less telling but this kind of storytelling grew on me as the story progressed. Many of these self-addressed letters are chock-full of background information that doesn’t move the story forward but I enjoyed reading them nonetheless.

Although Myfanwy comes off a little ditzy at times, she does make a pretty convincing heroine. In fact, she reminds me a little of the early years of Buffy. When it’s time to get down to business there is no holding her back and the new Myfanwy will see it through to the very end.

Despite not enjoying the author’s humour as much, I can’t deny that this is an entertaining novel. A real page turner that shows off just how much skill and wild imagination that the author has. I will of course look forward to the sequel but I just hope that O’Malley can turn down the silliness a tad with the next book.