Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley

  • Title: The Rook: A Novel
  • Classification: Adult Fiction
  • Genre: Paranormal
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (October 16, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0316098809
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316098809
  • Author's Website:

Imagine waking up in a park not knowing who you are or how you got to where you're standing. You're surrounded by bodies that are not moving, presumably dead, all wearing latex gloves. As you reach into the pocket of your coat, you find two letters, one addressed simply "To You" and the second having only the number 2 written on it and the first comes with a warning... 

The body you are wearing used to be mine.(...) "you are in danger. Just because you are not me does not make you safe. Along with this body you have inherited certain problems and responsibilities. Go find a safe place and then open the second letter.

So begins the tale of Myfanwy Thomas. She slowly learns she works for the Checquy Group, a secret extension of the British government that deals with paranormal activity. She has earned the rank of  Rook, a high level position in the group, and is basically a glorified pencil pusher and cover up artist. When things turn sour, she's the one who's in charge of getting it covered up. Why she'd be the target of someone in the group, the 'old' Myfanwy doesn't know. Perhaps someone wants her position, or being the meticulous administrator that she is, perhaps she uncovered something. All the 'new' Myfanwy knows is that no one is to be trusted, and she must tell no one that she's lost her memory. You see the Checquy group is a bit like the Hotel California, you can checkout any time you want, but you can never leave. 


This was one of my Goodreads group's Book of the Month reads. The book started out so wonderfully. The mystery of a person waking up, not knowing who she is with a letter from someone telling her bits and pieces about herself, but unable to tell her what happened, pulled me right into the story. At first I couldn't tell if this was just a case of simple amnesia or a case of body transferring (think Freaky Friday). I wondered if this was a planned event or if somehow the 'old' Myfanwy was able to predict what would happen to herself. 

As the 'new' Myfanwy reads one letter after another from the 'old' we begin to learn more and  more about Myfanwy's life, the Checquy Group, her job, and her coworkers. For the most part the former Myfanwy had no life. She lived, breathed, and existed only for her job. She had no time for relationships or a social life and didn't mingle with anyone outside of work. After reading several of the letters, the current Myfanwy views her former self as a bit of a geek, which she definitely was.

As you can imagine, the 'old' Myfanwy, while fairly meticulous in her details, could not think of everything. The 'new' Myfanwy has to figure out some things on her own like where her office was within the Checquy and who is who in the office. Additionally, the current Myfanwy is not at all like her former self personality-wise. The old Myfanwy was painfully timid, shy, and let others walk all over her. The new Myfanwy has no such hang ups, and it makes keeping the secret of her memory loss a little more complicated. Additionally, she doesn't recall a lot of little details like what foods she likes or dislikes or even how she takes her coffee, or if, in fact, she prefers tea instead.

One of the other things we learn about Myfanwy is how and why she was recruited by the Checquy group. Myfanwy has a dangerous power which she can invoke when cornered or in pain. Her touch at such times can kill or render a specific part of a  person useless for an extensive period of time. So perhaps a person might loose their sight or the use of their legs for a particular period of time after coming into contact with her when she's emotionally charged. The Checquy group hoped that as Myfanwy grew older she'd be able to better control her power, and they could use it and her for various missions. That, however, never happened. Myfanwy was scared of her power and never became comfortable wielding it, and that is why she ended up behind a desk instead of out in the field.

Besides the wonderful beginning, there are a lot of interesting secondary characters. My favorite is Gestalt, a somewhat creepy being that inhabits 4 bodies. He/She shares one mind amongst four bodies. Three are male and one is female. I just really enjoyed this character even though at times he/she gave me the willies. When Gestalt was younger, only one body was conscious while the others would be in a coma  like state, or they'd all do exactly the same thing. Imagine four little kids doing everything in sync at the same time. All turning at exactly the same instant to stare at you. Very creepy. As he/she became older, "it" learned to keep all four bodies going at once with each doing their own thing so that others wouldn't be so freaked out by "it". The 'old' Myfanwy, by the way, had a crush on one of the Gestalt bodies. The 'new' Myfanwy, however, does not and isn't exactly sure what to think of him/her. I love the quirky little differences between the 'new' and 'old' Myfanwy.

Now while I loved a lot of things about this book, the author fell into the trap I see a lot of new authors fall into. You can tell his brain was just brimming over with so much creativity that he did a little too much info dumping. We'd get to an intense part of the story and he'd break for an 'old' Myfanwy info dumping session. Gah! It reminded me of informational commercials where you kind of think, "No, not now." But they come none the less and take away from the regular TV programming. There was so much of this going on that about half way through I started skipping the letters and went back later to ensure I hadn't missed anything. In my humble opinion, I felt the book could have been shortened by a few hundred pages at least. There was even one section totally dedicated to an incident with a dragon that I can only imagine was included in the story so the author could say he wrote a novel with a dragon in it. I felt this should have been saved for a sequel or somehow modified to provide some significance to the tale being told. None of those in our Goodreads group, who were reading this together, could figure out why this section was included.

I truly enjoyed and liked the book. At times Myfanwy was extremely naive and way to trusting and had me wondering more than once what she was thinking. I was slightly disappointed with the ending and would have liked to see Myfanwy's mad skills come more into play. I did, however, like that she didn't have to rely on anyone else. She handled things just fine on her own. Overall, this book gets a 3 1/2 out of 5 roses. A nice debut by author Daniel O'Malley. I hope to read more of his stories in the future and would definitely read a sequel.

The Book Trailer:

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