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"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.

504 pages, Hardcover

First published January 11, 2012

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About the author

Daniel O'Malley

6 books3,031 followers
Dan O'Malley graduated from Michigan State University and earned a Master's Degree in medieval history from Ohio State University. He then returned to his childhood home, Australia. He now works for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, writing press releases for government investigations of plane crashes and runaway boats.

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Profile Image for Emily May.
1,990 reviews298k followers
August 22, 2016
“Yes, Minister, it turns out that there was a mysterious force that caused that plane to crash. We call it gravity.”

I can't believe no one has recommended - or even mentioned - this book to me before! It's a creative, complex urban fantasy with an hilarious and likable protagonist, monsters, and an intriguing mystery.

The Rook grabbed me immediately. Myfanwy Thomas awakes surrounded by bodies with no recollection of who she is or what she's doing there. All she has is a letter in her pocket; a letter that begins with "The body you are wearing used to be mine." She soon finds herself caught up in this life she never asked for, trying to figure out how she lost her memory, who's out to get her, and how to manage the basics of Myfanwy's job at the secret agency known as the Checquy Group.

Just so you know: there's a lot of infodump. I usually don't like that, but it was fun enough here that I kept sprinting through pages anyway. The background of this world and the Checquy Group are revealed through letters that the former Myfanwy Thomas wrote before she lost her memory. These letters appear throughout the book and are, basically, witty infodumps. Still, I enjoyed them.

Watching Myfanwy try to adjust to a life she doesn't remember is hilarious. And she's kind of badass - but not in the usual kicking ass way, more in a "I guess this shit is happening, but I'm still going to eat my Toblerone first" kind of way. My kinda girl.

Turns out this Checquy Group is a secret organization that deals with all the supernatural nastiness in Britain. O'Malley gets a great balance between the humour and drama of Myfanwy's day-to-day life and relationships (no romance, though), and the greater mystery behind it. We all want answers to the big questions, but it was just as enjoyable to follow Myfanwy into the office.

Some very weird and wonderful creatures exist in this world, and some of them are Myfanwy's colleagues. Like the creepy, awesome Rook Gestalt:
Three boys and one girl. Two of the boys were identical. That’s not the weirdest thing, however. The weirdest thing was that when all four pairs of eyes opened, only one mind was looking out from behind them. This was Gestalt.

Then there's strong female friendships, snarking, and people who are willing to rip your face off first and ask questions later.

Funny, compelling, and just the right amount of weird. HELL YES.
“This should be a pleasant little interview. All I have to do is put on my scary face."
"You have a scary face?" Ingrid sounded skeptical.
"Yes," said Myfanwy indignantly. "I have a very scary face."
Ingrid surveyed her for a moment. "You may wish to take off the cardigan then, Rook Thomas," she advised tactfully. "The flowers on the pocket detract somewhat from your menace.”

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May 9, 2014
This is ridiculous, she thought. I’m possessed of terrifying powers. Why am I relying on a ridiculous little gun that I picked because I thought it was cute? I don’t need this thing. She threw it contemptuously over her shoulder.

There’s something foul wandering the underground tunnels beneath my office, something that’s invisible to my vaunted powers.


Where’s my gun?
This book is X-Men meets X-Files meets The Bourne Identity meets Johnny English. And that may sound like a clusterfuck to end all clusterfucks, but somehow it works, or maybe my mind is just trying to make it better than it is because I'm coming off a massive chain of horrible books. Whatever. I loved it.

If this book were made into a movie, I can totally see Tina Fey in the lead role.

The good:

- Witty, dry, humorous writing
- A female assassin/secret agent not afraid to kill- A fun and interesting secret agency, think "paranormal MI5"
- A well-executed amnesia premise
- A racially diverse and fun suporting cast of characters

The not so good:

- Questionable character development
- The length: it's a good book, but it could stand to be cut by a good 100 pages
- The infodump: It's a fun infodump, but it's still an infodump

The Summary:
Dear You,
The body you are wearing used to be mine.
A woman stood shivering in the rain, surrounded by a circle of dead bodies. She has no idea who she is. A letter inside her pocket informed her that she is a Myfanwy Thomas, pronounced miff-UN-nee . The letter gives her instructions, where to go, what to do. She checks herself into a hotel, as instructed, finds more letters. The next morning, she leaves the hotel, and is promptly attacked by four people, one of them the receptionist.

Myfanwy's reaction is a little unexpected. She almost kills them.
When she opened her eyes and took a breath, she realized that there was no one holding her. Instead, the four people were lying on the ground, twitching uncontrollably.

These letters will continue for the rest of the book. They tell Myfanwy who she was, how she grew up, most importantly, they tell her that Myfanwy now works for a secret agency known as the Checquy Group. They've been in existence for hundreds of years, and Myfanwy is a Rook. One of the highest ranking members of the group. Once you're in the Checquy Group, you don't get out.
I’ve only ever heard of three people who tried to leave the Checquy, and I know the history inside and out.
The first was a powered individual called Brennan the Intransigent who made a break for it in 1679. He was crucified on the cliffs of Dover.
The second was a soldier in 1802. He was carefully brought back to the Checquy stronghold and then buried alive in his village’s graveyard.
The third was a woman who could grow tentacles out of her back and exuded some sort of alarming toxin through her fingertips. Her stuffed body is currently displayed above the mantelpiece in one of the London offices.
The Checquy Agency employs normal, loyal people, but the epistle of its powers lies in those with special powers, such as Myfanwy.
I gained the power to touch people and possess instant control of their bodies. I could make them move however I pleased. I could read their physical condition, detect pregnancy, cancer, a full bladder.
Only, instead of being a super secret special agent, the old Myfanwy appears to be nothing more than a "glorified paper pusher," albeit a very powerful one. So what happened? How did she lose her memories? Why did the old Myfanwy plan so carefully for such a scenario?

Lots of questions. Few answers. But for now, Myfanwy's still got a job to go to. She has to step into her former life without a beat, while avoiding her colleague's questions.
“Yes?” said Myfanwy. What, do these guys keep tabs on my comings and goings? “Well, I...had an appointment.” They regarded her with expectant eyes, and she was suddenly filled with a desire to shake up those proprietary stares. “A gynecologist appointment.” She smiled triumphantly at the twins. “To have my vagina checked.”
And it has to be confessed that Myfanwy isn't altogether convincing at times.
“I’m sorry, Rook Thomas, but your car is here,” she said.
“My car?” Myfanwy said.
“It’s time for your dinner with Lady Farrier.”
“Oh, crap,” she sighed, then noticed Clovis’s shocked expression. “I mean, oh, good, this should be delightful.”
There's a lot of weird crap thrown at her, including horrifying colleagues who wouldn't hesitate to literally rip someone's face off, and acquaintances who have been alive for thousands of years.
“… past century she is notable for having kneed Joseph Stalin in the groin during a drinks reception, and she played a large part in the South African diamond industry,” Ingrid went on. “She also cured one member of our royal family of cancer in the 1950s, and infected another with syphilis in the 1960s.”
On her quest to find the truth about her memory loss, Myfanwy will face terrifying danger, manipulative colleagues, plagues, vampires, werewolves, mold monsters, and company parties.
I can’t wear this!” Myfanwy exclaimed in horror.
“You can’t wear that!” the housekeeper exclaimed.
“It’s like all the material that’s supposed to be on top migrated to the bottom,” said Val.
Any wedding in which this dress appeared on the bride would have to be pretty damn open-minded, thought Myfanwy. And might well incorporate the honeymoon on the altar.
The Setting: This book is an infodump. I usually hate infodumping, but it was done exceedingly well in this book. Through a series of letters, the old Myfanwy explained the inner workings, the history, and the stories surrounding the infernal Checquy Agency. It's a pretty typical paranormal agency, but it is so well-presented, from the internal politics, to the ranking, to the little-known details only an insider would know. It's an old agency, it is resistant to change. Paranormal or not, some things remain the same.
Occasionally, someone will point out these flaws and attempt to institute a change, but that person is slapped down. The reasons for this down-slappage are:

If you’re in the Court, you have an impressive title, and you don’t want to change it for something generic.


It’s supposed to remind us of the importance of strategy and of rank.

It’s cool.
The premise of the superpowers are similar to that of the X-Men. While most of them lack the extent of the full mutant appearance, the players within the Checquy Agency are quite dangerous and abnormal. Like the fabulously Children-of-the-Corn Rook Gestalt.
Three boys and one girl. Two of the boys were identical. That’s not the weirdest thing, however. The weirdest thing was that when all four pairs of eyes opened, only one mind was looking out from behind them. This was Gestalt.

Gestalt is kind of disconcerting, because it/he/she/they is/are spread over four bodies.
f you wanted people with freakishly awesome powers who aren't afraid to use said power to maim, torture, and kill, you won't do much better than this book.


The good:

- She is hilariously average. She is quite plain in appearance (and no, nobody falls in love with her), her body is nothing special. She has terrible taste in clothing. She likes bunnies. She loves Toblerone chocolate. She has a tendency to stumble. While the old Myfanwy was a wallflower, the new Myfanwy is more apt to put her foot in her mouth, with a preference to run and hide rather than do anything heroic. But she can't, because she's a powerful person without being able to remember it. Crap.

She is jealous sometimes while never, ever slut shaming or hating another female for her appearance. In fact, one of the women with whom she works.
Please let her have slept her way to the top, thought Myfanwy. No one deserves to be this beautiful and clever too.
Turns out to be not only beautiful, but awesome, nice, and a great friend.

- She is super super super deadly, and is kind of a special snowflake at times.
My God, you were the most exciting find in decades! All of us knew about your potential. The tutors at the Estate were babbling about you to everyone!”
But it doesn't piss me off because she doesn't really give a fuck. The old Myfanwy is scared, she chokes, she hates using her powers to harm. The new Myfanwy doesn't have those reservations, but she's still not inclined to get into dangerous situations because 1. She doesn't want to, and 2. She really doesn't have a clue what's going on most of the time.

- Blending in: When you're an amnesiac, trying to get back into the swing of things at your paranormal MI5 workplace is kind of hard, especially when you have multiple-body-psychic-colleagues. I mean, what are you supposed to do when they're mentally killing something in front of you?
Finally, after a high-pitched kiYAA!, they settled back, breathing heavily, and explained that Eliza had just broken the neck of the leader of the antler cult, and that the complex was secured.
“Wow. Great,” said Myfanwy. “Nicely done.”
“Hmm,” said Tidy Twin absently. “Eliza has blood on her boots.”
“That’s lovely, Gestalt,” Myfanwy said, trying to keep her cool. “More coffee? Or more orange juice? No? Perhaps I could have Ingrid fetch you a couple of moist towelettes.”
The Not-So-Good: Really, there's only one thing. Her personality change. She has amnesia, and as mentioned, Myfanwy has trouble trying to get back into things and appearing normal. She's clumsy, but sometimes, she is far, far too competent and take-charge very early on when she largely hasn't a fucking clue of what's going on. Like during her first meeting, when things get out of hand, Myfanwy decides to take charge.
“Gentlemen!” she finally shouted, and her voice cut through the noise like a scythe through a poodle. There was dead silence, and everyone stared at her, stunned. “You all need to shut up and stay focused on the task at hand. Dr. Crisp, if you will turn your eyes back toward the interrogation, I wonder if you could revive the subject and question him.”
This is entirely too confident, too much for me to believe. I can understand a personality change, but I can't accept that Myfanwy can be so utterly silly and incompetent-sounding on one page, while being competely take-charge in the next.

The Writing:
It was an old room in an old building and was decorated in a very specific style that showed the decorators were lacking both imagination and a second X chromosome.
It's hilarious, but it's not like ha-ha hilarious. The author is American, but he does a damn fine job of replicating dry, deprecating British wit.

Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,535 reviews9,942 followers
February 18, 2018
Audio re/read so I can carry on with the next book. There are too many next books I need to get read!

I freaking loved this book!

I can't believe this was the author's first book =) It's got all kinds of cray, some ewww, some funny parts. Well, I almost peed my pants at times but I digress.

Myfanwy Thomas, known as Rook Thomas, wakes up not knowing who she is. There are dead bodies all around. There is a note in her pocket and lots of instructions and letters through-out the book. Rook Thomas has powers along with all kinds of creatures do that her form of government work to oversee so to speak.

I'm still confused as to whether Rook Thomas was before and was she after < --- only people that have read the book will know what I'm talking about. Maye =D

And then there is Rook Gesalt! Wasn't it great fun. I will let you all meet it for yourself.

God, I freaking loved Myfanwy and Shantay together. Shantay came over from America when Myfanwy's group found out some stuff from this person they had captured. The group was going to torture him and some stuff went down and freaked everyone out.

But oh, the girls had the best time. I almost cracked a rib laughing when they went into this place together to see what kind of freaky thing was causing chaos. I wish I could excerpt the whole thing!

Poppat gripped her arm desperately. "Myfanwy, we both know this is not your field. I can't let you go in there alone."

"No" came a firm voice from behind them. They turned to see Shantay zipping herself into a Pawn combat uniform. She'd coiled her hair up at the back of her neck and suddenly looked much more dangerous. "She's not going in alone. I'm going in with her."

"Absolutely not," said Mayfanwy. "There may be legal precedents for you coming along to observe, but can you imagine the repercussions if a Bishop of the Croatoan was harmed on a Checquy op?"

"Yeah, but you'll probably be dead too, so it's not like it'll be your problem."

"Well, then," said Myfanwy. "As long it causes me no inconvenience."

When they got inside I about peed myself. I felt like I was reading a weird version of Stephanie and Lula (only Plum series lovers will get that reference)

Anyway, I had loads of fun and am going to be getting my next book as soon as BN sends me my reward card =)


Mel ♥
Profile Image for carol..
1,566 reviews8,218 followers
September 28, 2019
Finally! First great read of the year. Admittedly, that's because I'm hoarding Days of Blood & Starlight and The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There like a survivalist with canned goods, or a chocoholic with a secret stash of Toblerone in the back of the freezer (not that I'm speaking from experience). And while I tempered down my five stars to a more reasonable four, the fact is this was a perfect read the first time through.

I'll save the detailed summary; this is one time when the blurb gets it right. It starts rather hard-core action movie: woman coming to consciousness in a midst of a circle of bodies, no memory of self or events, dripping from the rain and blood. She discovers an envelope in her pocket from the Myfanwy-That-Was. Soon it evolves into a James Bond-style government agency spy thriller crunched with identity disorientation of The Bourne Identity. Halfway through I realize O'Malley is channeling The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, or at least Men In Black, and that the flashbacks felt a lot like X-Men. (I'm finding it disturbing that I'm describing a book by referencing movies. Is that acceptable in a book review?)

Narrative shifts between letters from Myfanwy-That-Was to the current scramble of Myfanwy-That-Is to solve the mystery of who is trying to kill her. While that had the potential to become a tiresome device, O'Malley uses it well, giving context to Newbie just before she needs to use it, cuing the reader at the same time. Sometimes Senior relates an incident, sometimes she lays out structure and organization, or gives a dossier on other characters. For the most part it was able to maintain pace and tension through the shifts. At times, O'Malley is tongue-in-cheek: right as Myfanwy thinks, "I suppose I should do some more homework on how this organization actually works," the next section is from one of the letters, under the title of "How This Organization Actually Works." I actually found it rather delightful, highlighting the mental similarities in how they process information.

As the story develops, Myfanwy starts to take on her own personality, more abrupt and direct than the prior, who she now thinks of as "Thomas," their last name. I thought the transition between the two was handled well, and as the story developed, I cared just as much about what happened to Thomas and wanted to know her story, even though I knew where it would end (here's where my habit of peeking at the end of books comes in handy; it's kind of like the book is a spoiler for it's own self because we know Thomas is 'dead,' or at least, gone). I enjoyed Myfanwy's character breaks, and it set the stage for gentle humor as she responded almost--but not quite--in character:
"An emergency has emerged, and both you and Rook Gestalt have been summoned to an interrogation," the secretary replied in an unruffled manner.
"Oh. Okay." Myfanwy looked down and her desk, thought for a moment, and then looked up. "Are we getting interrogated, or are we doing the interrogating?" she asked.

Then there is:
"It's time for your dinner with Lady Farrier."
"Oh, crap," she sighed, then noticed Clovis's shocked expression. "I mean, oh, good, this should be delightful."

The humor isn't out front in the beginning, which now strikes me as one of the delightful parts about the writing. Tightly wound around an action core at the start, O'Malley sneaks in humor one subtle comment at a time, gradually becoming more absurd. The first hint that we aren't in London any more comes about three chapters in when we meet Rook Gestalt, really one of the more innovative creations in sci-fi/fantasy literature that I've happened upon. One mind, four bodies. I found myself trying to wrap my head around that one (somewhat distracted by comparing it with Zaphod and his two heads) and just got rather smacked with the possibilities. By the end, the absurd veered out of control at a couple of points, but for the most part O'Malley was able to maintain the balance between chuckles and tension.

Before too long, the American version of the Court comes to call, and the subtlety gloves come off when the American Bishop Shantay and Myfanwy take on some fungus--after lunch, of course.

"'That is experience talking,' said Shantay. 'In these situations the glass is always half-empty.'
'Always,' confirmed the Bishop. 'Right until it fills up with some sort of spectral blood that grows into a demon entity.'

Or a threat:

'I'll kill you first,' promised Myfanwy in a cold voice. 'I'll kill you twice if I feel like it.'

Truly riveting fun, exactly what I needed after an awful start to the week--it was the ideal book experience of immersion and diversion. Highly recommended to anyone who likes a dose of humor with their surreal action-spy-mystery thriller.

Four out of five stars. Or are they?

Update from Dec. 2015 re:read: I think I nailed it fairly well the first time, except that part about humor. It's seriously funny almost all the way through, in that very British way.
Cross posted at http://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2013/0...

Update from September 2019: idk 'almost all the way through.' There is a lot of back story.
Profile Image for Amy Warrick.
524 reviews33 followers
February 24, 2012

I tried to like this book, I really did. I have disliked so many books lately that I am afraid of becoming a book curmudgeon. But this book deserved my dislike - it ASKED for my dislike.

This book reads like the beloved project of the geeky high school junior who has been told by too many English teachers that he has talent and should be a WRITER. What little action takes place, does so between enormous wads of italic description. You know how you've read books in which a character finds letters left behind, that help her figure out what's going on? Imagine a suitcase full of letters. Imagine a fictional world that is so weak and spindly it needs pages of explanation to keep it going.

Imagine an amnesiac taking the helm of a major international organization and nobody being the wiser. Imagine high school humor masquerading as clever. Imagine an interesting premise bludgeoned to death by its own ego.

Imagine yourself reading a different book. I did, and put this one down before the halfway point.

Gosh, this is a bit negative, isn't it.
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,677 reviews5,258 followers
September 19, 2012
page turner, page turner! lady wakes in park with no memory! battered & bruised & bloody! surrounded by dead people! that she killed with her bare hands! cause she has special powers! the same special powers that i have often imagined myself having if dreams came true! quelle coincidence!

the narrative is propulsive. the ideas are automatically right up my alley. the whole thing is clearly built for fun; i gave it to a colleague and he immediately halted the book he was reading because the jacket description alone was enough to give him a massive boner. same here. but... i could have been challenged or surprised a bit more. the narrative goes back and forth between the present day actions of the woman before us and past letters that the woman she used to be wrote to her - which could have opened up many interesting possibilities. not even necessarily literary possibilities but maybe something along the lines of a potboiler-cum-meditation-on-memory like Memento. but nope, all those letters from the past serve a very straightforward function: infodumps. hella infodumps. entertaining and intriguing infodumps, and nothing more.

but... page turner, page turner! young woman is named Miffanwy, rhymes with Tiffany! she works for a secret government agency that is staffed by people with super powers and whose goal is to protect the world from super-powered and supernatural threats! including the evil Belgian Grafters! the high-level administrators have titles named after chess pieces! cool! my favorite is one who lives in multiple bodies and whose name is Gestalt! Miffanwy is in charge of domestic operations and her title is The Rook!

you know what i hate? well, many things, but in this instance the answer would be cheap snarkiness. ugh, i even hate the word. "snarky"... such an ugly word, like it was made up by a 12-year old. the only cheap snarkiness i appreciate is the kind that pops out of my mouth or from my keyboard; otherwise, it needs to be good or the eye-rolling will commence. Good as in the films of Howard Hawks. or Joss Whedon, some of the time. unfortunately, most snark is of the CW or SyFy networks variety, which to me is just lazy, shallow writing. unfortunately this novel is full of cheap snarky dialogue that comes out of nearly every character (that is when they are not sounding like The Lord and Lady of The Masterpiece Theater Manor). and so characters end up sounding just like each other and as if they just stepped out of one of the Scream films. it grew tedious. and hey, Daniel O'Malley, listen: high-level government administrators in both the U.S. and the U.K., particularly ones who are women, probably do not refer to other women as "chicks" on a regular basis. now that was just intolerable to read.

but... page turner, page turner! ignore the bitching above! this book was all kinds of fun and i read it like reading was going to be declared illegal at the end of the night! pure pleasure! i can't wait for the sequel! plus no tedious romance to speak of! yay! woot! win!

Profile Image for Cy.
99 reviews1 follower
August 10, 2013
Honest to god, I'm both confused that I'm still reading this book and appalled at how highly rated it seems to be everywhere. The praise this book has been getting got me interested in reading it, and within a few chapters I had to wonder if there was some massive conspiracy...

To put it quite simply, the book has an intriguing premise that's destroyed by a hackneyed writing style, a juvenile approach to character, and a narrative that is grossly overshadowed by the writer's apparently high opinion of his own talents.

The main character is not even remotely likeable. When she's not being a high school prom queen (regularly calling technical people "nerds"; repeatedly criticizing the dress sense of the former occupant of her body), she's delivering "oh snap" wisecracks. She's just strong enough to take command of a situation when a story needs it, but also nicely "feminine" enough to need to be rescued. She confronts the leader of the enemy forces and her primary concern is the gross goop getting on her clothes. She appears commanding and independent, and in the next scene is naked in front of a stranger for laughs and then subjected to intrusive and demeaning physical exams for more comedy. She's strong-willed enough to be attractive, but not so much that she's truly an independent character. Her sexuality is regularly, and offensively, used as a tool to humiliate her for laughs, and that makes her non-threatening. In short, she's not a character so much as she's a collection of tropes designed to make her the perfect female character for the male audience.

To make matters worse, none of the secondary characters are anything more than one to two word tropes. Ingrid: motherly secretary, Shantay: sassy friend, Alrich: mysterious vampire, etc. None of these characters develop from these descriptions into anything memorable.

Setting aside the issue with characters is the issue with plot: Myfanwy goes from knowing absolutely nothing to be a confident and controlled leader of a powerful government organization? How much time has passed between her waking up and her turning into this bombshell in a suit? We're told it's been several weeks and it's here that we arrive at the crux of the problem with the narrative: we're told too much. We're told everything. We're not left to learn anything. Practically overnight, she turns from this terrified mouse whose every third thought is "DO THEY KNOW MY SECRET?!" to this confident administrator. When her sister appears, we're told, suddenly, that she is lonely and wants friends and family. There's no buildup. There's no sense of this given to the reader through dialogue and emotional description. I had no idea this was coming. We're told that she suddenly wants to be with friends and family, just as we're told that she becomes confident in her new role. These are just two examples of many.

This goes further than just the author hamfistedly handing us important facts about the characters as though we're moving our way down a checklist. The book redefines what it means to infodump. Nearly every chapter is interrupted by what is essentially an encyclopedia entry giving us the history of the character Myfanwy just met or the term she just encountered. When it's not an infodump about a character, it's a letter written by the pre-amnesia Myfanwy telling the current Myfanwy some story that is rarely connected with the plot at hand, and it's usually written in such exacting, narrative detail that violates the nature of the epistolary format that these sections are written in.

Finally, there are just so many parts of the plot that make ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE: you're hunted by the same person who made you lose your memory and just killed a bunch of your friends and you decide to go out clubbing? (and then the author spends four pages talking about how ruined her clothes were and her struggles to get her car back from a hotel garage). In what world would this be even slightly logical?

An unequivocally awful book. Avoid, unless you're looking for something for kindling.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
July 15, 2019
$2.99 Kindle sale, July 14, 2019. Loved it! Review posted at www.fantasyliterature.com:

As Daniel O’Malley’s supernatural thriller The Rook (book one of THE CHECQUY FILES) begins, Myfanwy Thomas comes to herself with complete amnesia. She’s standing in a London park at night. Surrounding her is a ring of motionless bodies. They are all wearing latex gloves.

Myfanwy (“rhymes with Tiffany”) finds two letters in her jacket pocket from her former self:
Dear You, The body you are wearing used to be mine… I’m writing this letter for you to read in the future.
Myfanwy’s former self was aware that in some way her brain was going to be magically wiped of all memories, and did her best to smooth the way for future memory-less Myfanwy by writing a number of letters to herself.
All you need to know immediately is that someone I should be able to trust has decided that I need to be removed. I don’t know exactly who. I don’t know why. It may be for something I haven’t even done yet.
The second letter presents her with a choice: go into hiding for the rest of her life, using the fortune in a bank account specified in the letter, or jump back into her prior life and try to find out why she was betrayed.

New Myfanwy fully intends to grab the money and take off, but another attempted assassination convinces her that the only feasible option is to stay and fight. Having selected Option #2, she (and we) embark on reading a long series of letters from her former self, which explain Myfanwy’s past life as a high-ranking member of the Checquy, an organization of people with superpowers who help Great Britain and the world with various types of supernatural threats. It’s sort of like the X-men, except with a lot more British bureaucracy. Myfanwy needs to figure out who in the Checquy betrayed her and why, while trying to hide from everyone the fact that she no longer remembers anyone or anything.

As an info-dumping device, the letters are a bit transparent, but it’s all interesting enough that I never felt like complaining… except for one or two times when these flashback letters interrupted a particularly suspenseful scene. First get Myfanwy out of mortal danger, THEN give us another letter!

In an interesting conceit, the Checquy organization is based upon chess pieces: there’s a Lord and a Lady (the king and queen of the organization), two Bishops, two Rooks, etc. Only those people who have some kind of supernatural power can be in the top ranks of the Checquy. All others are Pawns — which leads to some understandable resentments and tensions in the ranks. Also, it quickly becomes apparent that former Myfanwy, for certain reasons in her past, was an extremely sensitive and timid person and, despite her stellar organizational skills, was not much respected within the Checquy. New Myfanwy, not burdened by those painful memories, soon starts to spread her wings and exercise her clout within the organization.

There are multiple types of superpowers on display in The Rook, but they’re not your run-of-the-mill superpowers. We have, for example, Gestalt, who is a single mind that inhabits four very good-looking and frequently homicidal bodies. Others can exude poisonous clouds of ink, sprout quills, or develop an impenetrable steel coating.

The Rook is written in a breezy, easy-to-read style, with a lot of wry humor in the writing and dialogue. There are several laugh-out-loud moments:
It was a dress designed to draw attention. “You look like Cinderella,” said Val in awe.

“Yeah, if she’d been into bondage and had Christian Dior as a godmother.”
Myfanwy is an easy protagonist to root for as, despite the handicap of her memory loss, she gamely takes on both her coworkers in the Checquy as well as the enemies they’re battling. After the initial set-up there’s a lot of action in the plot… except when it’s slowed down by the ubiquitous letters from Myfanwy’s former self. The mystery of Myfanwy’s secret enemy kept the plot suspenseful, and there were some interesting twists that I didn’t foresee.

The Rook may not be Great Literature, but it was just so much fun!

4.5 stars.

Content advisory: scattered F-bombs; a fair amount of violence and gore.
Profile Image for Felicia.
Author 47 books128k followers
May 24, 2013
I mean, I loved this book. Myfanwy Thomas wakes up with a note that says, "This body used to be mine". YEAH! I LOVE AMNESIA PLOTS! Except this is a bit more than that. Secret societies are kind of my fave, and this book builds a GREAT one. The secret Chequey (I love all the chess terms) battle supernatural forces in the world, and this new amnesiac is now fully immersed in it. I definitely felt like this could be a TV show, the richness of the world is so good! The tone is a bit hard to grasp, but it's classic British "serious but also cheeky", so once you get on the tricycle you're golden. It's just FUN, like Dr. Who.

The pacing of this book was the only part I can quibble with, a bit erratic at times, but the world building was rich and the characters super fun, I loved it and would like to see more in the world!
April 12, 2016
● Epistolary Buddy Read courtesy of the BBB masochists ●

DNF at 62%.

Introducing...the Be Happy Little Barnacles for this Shall not Be a Pit-Stop Requiring Review Review (BHLBftSnBaPSRRR™)! Because I don't have time to write yet another Oh Bloody Hell this Review is so Long I Might Have Great Grandchildren by the Time I Finish Reading it Review (OBHtRisLIMHGGbtTIFRiR™)! And because I've wasted enough time on this book as it is! So let's do this! Let's

Warning: yes, the crap shall be cut in this review, but worry not, for it will be tastefully decorated with a crap-load of gifs to make up for the demoralizing lack of words. Lucky you

✘✘ Fact #1 ✘✘
I would have enjoyed this a lot more if it hadn't been a very pale imitation of a Tom Holt book. Minus the total wackiness. But it was, so I didn't.

✘✘ Fact #2 ✘✘
I would have enjoyed this a lot more if the author hadn't tried so freaking hard to be freaking hilarious. But he did, and it wasn't, so I didn't.

✘✘ Fact #3 ✘✘
I would have enjoyed this a lot more if the narrative hadn't been interrupted by Myfanwy's (don't ask) mostly pointless letters to herself (don't ask) every five freaking seconds. But it was, so I didn't.

✘✘ Fact #4 ✘✘
I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if the author hadn't dedicated the first 50% of the story to glorious info-dumping. But he did, so I didn't.

And the moral of this non-review is: looking for non-boring, fast-paced, entertaining, REALLY wacky fantasy? Forget about this book, read Tom Holt.
And the other moral of this non-review: this is yet another book I read WRONG. Everyone else (except from Eilonwy, the most sensible person I know) loved it. You know what this means, right? Yep, that's right, it means that everyone but me (and Eilonwy, obviously) has despicable book taste. QED.

»» Come on Edward, time to bail.

Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,643 reviews1,511 followers
October 13, 2019
Sale Alert: Oct 13, 2019 Kindle Deal for $3.99

You’ve woken up and are surrounded by a handful of dead people wearing gloves and have no idea who you are or how you got there. But luckily there is a note and with this note and a few others you learn about a world you had no idea even existed.
Dear You,
The odds of your reading this are slim to none. Who would choose uncertainty and vaguely worded warnings over a new life of wealth and luxury? I can only assume that you were put under a massive amount of stress, touched someone’s skin, and they were paralyzed. Or blinded. Or lost the ability to speak. Or befouled themselves. Or one of several other effects that I won’t outline right now.

Well the good news is that at least you woke up awesome with some kind of superpower. The bad news is that you now have to impersonate someone you have never met, figure out what happened to you and who is probably trying to kill you…since whoever ‘they’ are they don’t seem to have any idea that you are no longer her.

Confusing? Nah, not really. What it is IS a wonderful set up to a completely interesting idea. Myfanwy (the W is silent) Thomas is going to pretend to be a member of a super-secret government agency that deals with supernatural and paranormal situations and disturbances. She is going to try and figure out who tried to have her killed and why, just as soon as she figures out how to be Myfanwy Thomas.

I enjoyed a very large section of the story because I found it fascinating on quite a few levels. But, since I read this in a group there were varied opinions on the layout of the story and I will say that while it didn’t bother me it did bother a few of them. See there is a lot of infodumping. But I’m going to give it a pass because of the way it was presented. Thomas wrote letters to herself after a psychic told her she would lose all her memories and in those is where we get a lot of history to the Checquy (Her Majesty’s Supernatural Secret Service) and Thomas’s position in it. Not every letter ends up being pertinent to the story because how was Thomas supposed to know and sometimes I think it reads a lot like a journal of someone’s day. So while I liked this aspect of the story because of the extra details and such I think others got bored with it since some of it had nothing to do with the story. I was completely entertained and so I will allow it.

For me this is a great blend of humor and Urban Fantasy. Myfanwy is easy to like and I enjoyed even the times she is fumbling through her life. Seeing this world around her as she discovers everything that you never knew existed was a fantastic tale and I really wanted to get to the bottom of who on the inside is trying to bring it all down.
“This should be a pleasant little interview. All I have to do is put on my scary face."
"You have a scary face?" Ingrid sounded skeptical.
"Yes," said Myfanwy indignantly. "I have a very scary face."
Ingrid surveyed her for a moment. "You may wish to take off the cardigan then, Rook Thomas," she advised tactfully. "The flowers on the pocket detract somewhat from your menace.”

SO IN CONCLUSION: If you are looking for something with a solid premise the has some new takes on lore, mythology and such and doesn’t really have any romance looming in the wings than this might be for you. I enjoyed all the extras we get from Thomas as she tried to lead her new self after the amnesia creates a new person in her body and I’m pretty interested in seeing what becomes of Myfanwy in the future.
Profile Image for Ginger.
787 reviews367 followers
June 6, 2017
I can’t believe this book has been under the radar for so long. Why haven’t more people read this duology? It’s a crying shame!

It starts off with a bang with the first line in the book. A fantastic way to start in my opinion.

"Dear You,
The body you are wearing used to be mine."

Myfanwy Thomas wakes up surrounded by dead people that are wearing rubber gloves and has no idea who she is. The lucky thing about the plot is you’ll find out who she is, who she works for (a paranormal MI5) and why this has happened to her. She writes letters to herself before her memory is gone.
The Rook has an interesting and original plot. The traitors in the organization were thought out and it was a complex plot.

The great parts about this book are as follows:

A well-executed amnesia premise
A fun book about a supernatural secret agency
No romance that’s forced or otherwise in the book!
Cool characters that have supernatural abilities (think X-Men)
The writing was well done with plenty of snark and wit thrown in the mix.
The main characters were interesting and developed.

The parts that I had an issue with (not many):

The pacing of the book. Felt a bit too long to me with more filler than is needed.
The ended was wrapped up to nicely for me with The Grafters. I’ve heard that the second book has a point of view with The Grafters. So, if that’s the case, maybe this won’t be an issue with me.

I originally gave this 4 stars but I’m bumping it up to 4.5 stars because of the original plot!
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
December 5, 2019
“‘You,’ he said. ‘Your memories will be taken. They’ll be licked out of you, everything that makes you who you are. Gone forever. You’ll flee to a park, and there, in the rain, someone new will open the eyes that used to be yours.’ He spoke in a voice that cracked, and I stared at him in horror. “‘They’ll open your eyes, your black eyes, and see corpses all around them. Corpses wearing gloves.’”

 photo The Rook_zpsugmrp5lc.jpg

It is always unsettling when one receives portends of doom and gloom, but to have them related to you by a homeless person in the street somehow adds even more terror to any unsolicited foreshadowing of your future. He doesn’t know you, but he KNOWS what is going to happen to you, and given the other ominous signs you have received,...you have to believe him.

Her name is Myfanwy Alice Thomas. Don’t worry about the unfamiliar first name; she will instruct you on how she wants it pronounced. You are going to be dropped into the middle of dire circumstances. You are not going to know what is going on. There is a simple explanation for this. Your protagonist is going to be as clueless as you are. You are going to have to discover what the hell is going on together.

It doesn’t help that Myfanwy isn’t really Myfanwy. ”Who knew it would be so horrendously complicated impersonating oneself?” It is certainly inconvenient to have people wanting to kill you. You didn’t do anything to anyone, but certainly the host of this body you are occupying obviously pissed off someone who feels the only solution to your disagreement is termination. You also have secret powers that are mostly unfathomable. You are a Rook in a secret organization, but what could that mean, and what is this clandestine group you work for? Certainly, it is helpful that the original Myfanwy left some notes.

”So, I suppose you’re wondering all about the Checquy Group. Oh, and please note that it is pronounced Sheck-Eh. French influences, I think. Or possibly just warped by generations of employees mispronouncing it. Don’t worry if the name means nothing to you. Most people never hear of it at all, but it has been in existence for centuries. It worked closely with the House of York, tended to ignore the Tudors, and endured the House of Stuart. However, it does not really matter who is ruling—from the earliest days, the organization’s loyalty has been to Britain rather than to a particular ruler.”

I have to laugh because I tend to ignore the Tudors as well. Some might even say I loathe those bastard usurpers, but really I shouldn’t let something that happened in 1485 on Bosworth Field, the end of a dynasty that I just happen to be related to, bother me in 2019. That would be ridiculous.

So what exactly do the Checquy do? They look into anything supernatural that needs to be contained and properly hidden from the public. Normal people must be allowed to go about their lives, unmolested by malevolent beings or even allowed to know such entities really exist. ”And here I am, on the way to Bath, to observe the chanting house that eats people.” As an example of controlling information with misinformation, the chanting house that has been turned into a crater is released to the public as a gas leak explosion.

So Myfanwy must learn very quickly who she is, what she does, who she can trust, and who erased her memories.

I really enjoy the discombobulation. Daniel O’Malley has the reader feeling as if he has been caught wrong footed for a good portion of the novel. The notes left to the new Myfanwy are helpful and gives her and us enough information to keep us in the game. We are left in a constant state of thirsting for more revelations. I find myself endlessly speculating about what I do know exactly means. I am also worrying about how much highly essential information I am missing. The suspense keeps me reading feverishly to get the answers I am seeking. Starz has just released a TV series based on the books. I am looking forward to seeing how they portray the supernatural elements and also how they choose to dole out the information to the watcher.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~.
350 reviews941 followers
June 20, 2017
“Rook Thomas, you look different somehow."
"Well, I recently got the shit kicked out of me," she said.
"Ah, that would be it then.”

MAYDAY! MAYDAY! Mary has found an Urban Fantasy book that she actually enjoyed!

Seriously though, this is a great book. And a debut, nonetheless!

Myfanwy (rhymes with Tiffany) Thomas wakes up in the middle of the street, surrounded by dead bodies, all of which are wearing latex gloves. But the person looking out from behind Myfanwy's eyes has no memory of being Myfanwy Thomas.

Confused, beaten, and with only a letter in her coat pocket to guide her, Myfanwy sets out to discover what has happened to her & who it is that apparently wants her dead.

The Rook is a paranormal tale that somehow pulls off a sophisticated narrative while remaining relentlessly hilarious.

“Checquy statistics indicate that 15 percent of all men in hats are concealing horns.”

One of my favorite aspects of this novel is how cleverly written all of the individual puzzle pieces are.

Now, I have a tendency to turn my nose up at the prospect of paranormal fantasy. I'm not sure why, but as I've gotten older, werewolves & vampires & ghosts have fallen a couple levels on the Interest Totem Pole™.

However, I don't like to write off any genre specifically because I know there are hidden gems everywhere. Well, this is one of those hidden gems for me.

This story gives you a quick-witted heroine with a fiery determination in the form of Myfanwy Thomas. The format of the book alternates between the present plot & letters that explain the history of the Checquy organization & all of its current functions as a sort of paranormal police force.

My only real complaint about this book is that I found the chapters comprised of letters were a bit detrimental to my engagement with the present plot line.

The letter format itself was brilliant, but I think the organization of the chapters are where things came a bit unglued for me.

Sometimes the story would cut away in the middle of the action to tell the history of a particular character, only to drop you back into the thick of the conflict. It consistently took me a moment to readjust every time the switch occurred. I was like:

"Oh, okay now we're back to fighting (insert paranormal creature)... What was happening again? Oh yea now I remember!"

Overall though, a super fun ride with lots of crazy paranormal elements, skillful writing, and a spectacular brand of humor that blended the story together beautifully. I've been looking forward to reading this book for ages now, & I'm so happy I can tell you it did not disappoint!

This review and other reviews of mine can be found on Book Nest!
Profile Image for Emma.
2,507 reviews855 followers
October 2, 2016
4.5 stars. What was THAT?! High speed, high octane..a brilliant urban fantasy of a different ilk. I was going to try and explain the story but there are so many great summaries of it already. So, just go and read this! Skilful blend of Sci Fi, urban fantasy and the paranormal, the chatty relaxed style of this book will carry you along effortlessly. And it's funny. What more do you need?
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
May 11, 2017

Weaving together a paranormal urban fantasy with clear references to X-Men, The Atrocity Archives, MIB, Lovecraft and Theodore Sturgeon author Daniel O’ Mallley takes us on a fun-ride concerning a secret English governmental group that has been around for centuries and protects the realm from all kinds of boogeymen.

The title comes from the Chess inspired hierarchical leadership cell called “The Court”. Protagonist Myfanwy Thomas is a supernaturally powerful, but administratively gifted member. She is one of two Rooks (in charge of domestic operations) and she was the victim of a strange amnesiac event for which she spends the novel investigating and getting past. Along the way there is an entertaining series of misadventures, cool superhero action, and paranormal creepiness.

WAY WAY too long.

Oh my God, knocking 100 pages off the 486 page bloated buffet dinner line would have made this so much better, maybe even cutting the length in half could have been accomplished. Still, O’Malley mixes in enough humor and good storytelling to help us slog through the long middle stretches to a satisfying and well-crafted end.

Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,100 followers
September 19, 2015
I'm going to have to be honest with this one. I didn't love it. Perhaps I came in upon the UF bandwagon too early or too late, and while I think it's a fairly polished and frankly never ending tale (which I do like, on occasion,) but it just comes across as more secret service urban fantasy schtick. No amount of amnesia gimmicking or clever info-dumps will disguise it for what it is, and I was saddened by the lack of underlying, grab you by the balls, tension.

It did pull off a very well-done piecemeal of episodic tv-like modern fantasy, though, and I'm sure I'd have really enjoyed it if it was a prime-time CW hit, but the fact is, a 31 year old amnesiac shouldn't actually read as a YA protagonist. I like YA when its centered around an actual youth. There are only a mere handful of protagonists that I can accept as the exception to this rule, such as Herne's Iron Druid, who happens to be a few millennia old, but I'm afraid Ms. Thomas has none of the required personality traits to pull that off.

I will say that I do appreciate the long plot, new developments, and above-average enemies, but I am completely spoiled by the whole chess plot after reading Dan Simmon's Carrion Comfort. This novel just can't compare. But that isn't to say this novel doesn't have a lot of excellent points.
It is very readable. A lot happens. It's full of action and revelation. It ought to be the primary focus for anyone just now getting into the YA/UF scene. It packs an awful lot of story in such a small package.

Unfortunately for me, I never quite connected with the MC. I didn't really care about this secret English agency. I never really got the sense of urgency, despite all the calls out into the field, the underlying terror of the grafters, or whatnot. But because this novel was well above the average crap that is out there, I still appreciate it for what it is, and I'll support and read its sequels to come. I've read a LOT worse.

Until then, it was a pretty fun ride! (But to put things into a bit of recent perspective, the movie Kingsman was much more enjoyable, even if it didn't have psychic fungus.)

Profile Image for Choko.
1,221 reviews2,594 followers
March 29, 2016
*** 4 ***

A buddy read with the Urban Fantasy enthusiast at BB&B!!!

“I’m not bipolar, I’ve just had a bipolar life foisted upon me.”

This was very surprising and a bit unusual UF read. M. Thomas is a supernatural secret agent for a Paranormal agency in the British government. She wakes up and has no memory of who she is and what is her life. Luckily, once she puts her hands in her pockets, she finds letters obviously addressed to her. Every letter gives her a clue and she mostly blindly stumbles into a life and job which have expectations of her and know who she is much better than she does... She also knows one of the people in her close acquaintance has erased all her memories and is no friend of hers... But who, and will they want to finish destroying her?

“We weather the vagaries of history, welcoming new rulers and bending knees to those in power, whoever they may be. We are a tool of the nation, an asset of the British Isles. Those who work within the Checquy can accomplish what no one else can, and so they are the secret arm of the kingdom.”

This book was well written and in places utterly hilarious, but the format with the letters providing information and supplementing memory for Rook Thomas, was a bit heavy on the information dumps and tended to slow the story down at some frustrating intervals.... Also, there were couple of side stories which, although funny and entertaining, had absolutely no relevance to the plot what so ever!!! It was a bit puzzling what their purpose was and I am hoping they were there in order to build a base for story-line to come in the next books...

Overall, it was imaginative, the characters well rounded and some of them very likable!! There was one particularly fascinating character called Gestalt, whose creation alone gives this book an extra star!!! A very memorable one for sure!

I will recommend this to all UF fans, but also to those who enjoy Sci-fi Fantasy as well. All ages appropriate as long as you can tolerate a bit verboseness....

I wish you all happy reading and may every book enrich your life!!!
Profile Image for Eilonwy.
824 reviews207 followers
April 12, 2016
A woman wakes up in a London park, surrounded by dead people all wearing latex gloves … and with no idea who she is or how she got there. A letter in her coat pocket informs her that she is in danger, and offers her two choices: start a new anonymous life, or step into the letter-writer’s highly unorthodox life and try to figure out what happened, and why.
Sounds good, right? An urban fantasy mystery-thriller about X-Men-type superheroes taking down truly frightening supernatural baddies … how could it go wrong?

Oh, no, you just had to ask!

This book has everything. Everything that makes me groan out loud while I’m reading in public, and that makes the editor in me want to red-pencil the entire novel, that is. The writing and storytelling are just so incredibly clunky. It left me half laughing at how earnestly bad it is, and half just cringing in embarrassment. It's an intriguing, ambitious story completely ruined by terrible execution.

The biggest problem with the book is how the story is “enhanced” with infodumps. Lots and lots of infodumps. At first they seemed clever and useful, since the original Myfanwy Thomas lived a pretty complicated and occasionally exciting life as an overseer of the Checquy, the British Supernatural Secret Service, and the idea of the old Rook Thomas writing letters to the new Rook Thomas was a creative way to integrate this background into the present story. But then the infodumps continue. And they are LONG. And not nearly as entertaining as they need to be to justify their intrusive presence. So the book ends up reading like this: Three pages of actual storyline, things start feeling interesting -- NOW STOP RIGHT THERE! Read this long, boring anecdote about the heroine's childhood, or a dossier about another character, or the full history of one of the supernatural agencies, instead. Will any of it become important to know as the story goes on? Probably not, but it's part of the author's worldbuilding and by golly, you readers will read it!

Add to this a zillion "As you already know, Myfanwy" dialogues; "burly detective" syndrome (using descriptions rather than a name to indicate a character); constant reminders that the heroine is speaking "truthfully" or "honestly" when she says she doesn't remember things (the reader is fully aware she has amnesia, thank you); too many "she thought" tags when it's obvious that the line is the heroine's thought, etc., etc., and you have a novel that I can hardly believe was accepted by an agent and then successfully sold to an editor.

The tone was also a major problem for me. Is this supposed to be a gripping, dark thriller? The monsters invading the UK are truly terrible, the situation dire. And yet, there is a light, fluffy, dare I say silly tone to this entire book that detracts from the suspense and gave the book a sort of identity crisis. Was I supposed to feel any fear or urgency when Myfanwy certainly didn’t?

I’m also left wondering if part of the tone problem was the author’s choice to try to write from a female perspective. I never quite believed the female voice; I kept stumbling over slightly sexist constructions; and I’m positive that had this book been about “Michael Thomas” rather than Myfanwy, Michael would have been focused on what mattered even with his amnesia and introversion, not nattering on about how he didn’t know how to dress himself or do his hair or put on makeup, or going out dancing as the world burned. This whole “cutely incompetent girl” schtick wore real thin for me real fast.

I’ll mention here that I was extra-offended by the problems with this book because I’m a writer, and I feel a bit angry to see something like this published, because it’s full of everything that’s supposed to make agents and editors reject a manuscript out of hand, and has a just-not-ready-for-publication feel to it that aggravated me personally. It is interesting to me to see that the general reading public seems happily oblivious to most of the issues that bothered me with this book, since it’s got an average 4-star rating; clearly, I’m a writing snob.

So far as I can tell, most of the enjoyment or not for this book comes down to all those infodumps. Either you’ll find them funny and entertaining, or you’ll find them boring and disruptive.

I can hardly believe I finished this book -- it took me forever! -- but I did, so at least this is a fair review. But by the end, I just didn’t care about any of the plot threads any longer, or who the villain was, or anything at all. I just wanted it to be over. I am definitely not on board for any sequels.

Sob. I was doing so well this year with the 4 and 5-star reads, until this!
Profile Image for Jack.
Author 4 books133 followers
November 1, 2021
Oh The Rook, you genre defying timesink...I have a feeling this is going to be a difficult review. Not because I didn't like the book (spoiler alert...I did), and not because I had issues with it (I had some of those too), but primarily because it's just so hard to pin down. It's a book that fits into a bunch of genres, and handles most of them quite well, but it definitely suffers from occasional pacing issues and a large focus on exposition/info-dump segments.

As usual, this is as spoiler-free a review as I can possibly make it while still conveying the positives and negatives of the book.

Strangely enough, this was an impulse buy for me as I was perusing the local bookstore. Because I have a busy schedule and tend to run around a lot, I do most of my reading on an e-reader, so actually buying the physical copy of a book was out of character for me. I actually chose it as the selection for our local sci-fi/fantasy book club, as it straddles the line between those genres (and others). And when I showed up with my copy, they all remarked that they'd never seen me with an "actual" book before. But I truly did enjoy actually thumbing through the pages of The Rook, as it's a really great read aside from a few minor issues.

But first, it must be said that as a debut novel, it's pretty damn amazing. Daniel O'Malley is definitely onto something here, as he takes the well-worn trope of "special school/agency/group operating in secret" and does something different with it.

Yes, it's kind of like Harry Potter in that there are magic and supernatural events going on in the world, and the Checquy is the secret organization tasked with keeping those things away from the normals (insert muggles and the Ministry of Magic here).

And yes, it's also a superhero tale, with segments and characters that wouldn't be out of place in a Marvel comic book. Actually, it would be more in line with the more mature works from Vertigo comics, namely from creative visionaries like Neil Gaiman and Garth Ennis.

It's also an alternate history/present tale, where major events in and around England get a decidedly supernatural twist. It's all these things and more, which can leave the book feeling a little "too much" at times. But all in all Daniel O'Malley manages to juggle everything with panache, and the end result is a solid first novel that is consistently engaging and generally unpredictable.

Even though the central mystery is pretty solid, I did find that the first third of the book moved a little slowly. Due to the main character having amnesia (that old chestnut, though it's deftly handled here), we get quite a bit of exposition as she, and we, come to learn the world she inhabits.

And what a world this is...full of dangers, mysteries, and amazing occurrences that run the gamut from supernatural, to scientific, to magical...and everything in between. Needless to say Toto, this isn't Kansas.

As a surrogate for us readers, Myfanwy is a great character to follow. And aside from one random placed head hop into another character for a few paragraphs (which was a character that I really really liked, but the jump was weird) and one small chapter where we get another POV, this is strictly Myfanwy's tale. But she capably carries the book, which is testament to the skill of the author. I found her to be a very believable female character, and she was easy to root for and relate to.

Because she is a blank-slate at the beginning of the book, she does tend to be a little dry at first, but that's more a byproduct of circumstance as opposed to any characterization failings. But rest assured that she comes into her own pretty quickly, and remains engaging and convincing throughout. I also found her easy to like because of her dry, sarcastic humor, which I'm always a fan of.

Guess it takes one to know one, but I can always relate to a sarcastic smart-ass much easier than a squeaky goodie two-shoes. That's not to say that ALL the humor lands, because some of it feels forced. But most of it is spot on, and I chuckled aloud more than once.

The humor gets better as the book progresses. Hell, everything gets better as the book progresses. I guess I noticed it with The Rook quite a bit, but you can almost see Daniel O'Malley improving his craft as the tale goes on. While the book kind of meanders at first, everything tightens up around the halfway point. Characterizations are richer, the humor is better, and you can just "feel" that he is getting more and more comfortable with his creation.

Though Myfanwy is our only real POV character, we do get quite a large supporting cast that add quite a bit of color and flavor to the book. From personal assistant extraordinaire Ingrid (make her a Rook dammit!), to the American agent Shantay, to Bronwyn and Alrich and L'il Pawn Alan, Myfanwy is never lacking for interesting character interactions. And there are so many more. I can't remember the last time I read a book that had so many awesome characters that are mentioned but rarely seen. This is a rich world, and if he ever wanted to do a collection of "tales from the Checquy", Mr. O'Malley would have a TON of material and characters to choose from. Yes, that was a blatant hint to the author...

On the villain side, we get a few to choose from, and they vary in their impact. I will admit that that the villains here in The Rook are pretty effective all in all, especially after the past few books I read where the antagonists were rather woefully mismanaged or underutilized. I certainly could have used more of one villain and less of another, but your mileage may vary. If nothing else, they do give Myfanwy a run for her money. I will say that even seasoned authors have a hard time writing effective and layered villains, so I was mostly willing to give this book a pass.

If there's one place that the book does NOT falter in any way, it's with ideas. The Rook is very nearly overflowing with cool ideas and concepts. Literally...almost every other page introduced something new. From special powers, to different ways to integrate familiar tropes and archetypes, to difficult situations to put our heroine in, there is always something exciting and unfamiliar around the corner. Some of it is telegraphed with some foreshadowing, but most of it isn't, which makes for a book that is quite unpredictable. It's also graphic, slightly perverse, and very dark at times. This is actually kind of an exhausting book to read, as you truly run the gamut of emotions as the tale unfolds. It's also a bit hefty, so it does take a bit to get through. But, in all honesty, I haven't read such a well thought-out book in a long time.

That's not to say that The Rook is all kitten sneezes and unicorn farts. Because it's not. It does have a few problems. Like I stated earlier, there are some pacing issues, and a good third of the book is exposition. Now, that exposition is handled in such a way that it works very well for the story, but no matter how well it's handled, that's still a LOT of information being thrown at the reader. Most of it is interesting, but not all of it is necessary, so sometimes the narrative gets a little bogged down. The author does admit to loving a good "info dump", which is readily apparent in this book. I think the number of pages could have been pared down, which would have helped with the meandering feel and delivered a more solid product.

Also, for a book about an agency that combats paranormal occurrences (and one that's been around for MANY years), the Checquy seems like a very hodge-podge organization, full of archaic traditions that conflict with modern ideals, and one of the most convoluted bureaucracies (that word is a bitch to spell without spellchecker!) that I've yet read about. Though I loved the Harry Potter series, the Checquy reminded me very much of the Ministry of Magic, which was almost comically ineffective against the magical threats they faced. Here, the Checquy seems full of super-powered spineless middle-managers, where amnesiac newbie Myfanwy can pull a solution out of her ass, while the rest of the people in power are like "well damn, that's a great idea, we should implement that at once!". Ummmmmmm...yes, yes you should. But honestly, that should have been thought about by ANY of the high ranking people. This is especially exacerbated by the fact that we are told, repeatedly, that the Checquy only pulls the best of the best, and that the leaders of the organization all have colorful histories in which they accomplished some seriously amazing things. But you wouldn't know it by how things fall apart so quickly within the Checquy.

I'm also slightly appalled by the number of Checquy footsoldiers that die in the course of their duties. Despite dealing with generally very dangerous occurrences, the Checquy first responders are still the basic of the basic troops, and they invariably get wiped out like a whole platoon of Star Trek red shirts. Given the heavy loss of life, you'd think that the Checquy would have a policy of sending high powered agents AND footsoldiers as first responders to ALL occurrences, especially since their initial nature is never immediately apparent, and they invariably turn out deadlier than expected. There is no benevolent agency, real or fictional, that would willingly suffer that kind of loss of life amongst their employees. And aside from Myfanwy, everyone else in the organization is like "meh, them's the breaks" when they lose a few dozen agents.

Another stumbling point is near the very end of the book, where we get not one but TWO antagonist monologues that go on for pages and pages and pages. These guys are worse than Bond villains, and the pace of the book slows to crawl as they explain every minute detail of their plot. It's hard enough to sit through in the movies, and it's even worse on page.

There was also a VERY sneaky clue that only gets a few sentences, and after that little tidbit, it doesn't come up to almost the very end. It was handled almost like an "unreliable narrator" moment, which seemed out of character for Myfanwy.

But, aside from those quibbles, this is a solid and fun read. I can wholeheartedly recommend this to just about any reader of fiction, as there's something here for almost everyone. I will definitely be picking up the sequel, Stilleto and happily revisiting the supernatural world of the Checquy. Oh, but can we get poor shy Myfanwy laid in the future? That poor girl needs some release after all the shit that went down!
Profile Image for Maggie Stiefvater.
Author 81 books168k followers
July 18, 2013
How agreeable this was.

It was all Ghost Busters + Men in Black + Austin Powers.

I'm trying to think if I want to do a list/ recommendation/ thing with actual content, but really, it is just this: how diverting this is. How amusing. How entertaining.
Profile Image for Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤.
810 reviews1,267 followers
Shelved as 'abandoned'
December 8, 2019
Writing GIF - Writing GIFs

Dear You,
I cannot abide books where strong and powerful female characters are portrayed as either mega bitches or fluff-headed bumbling idiots who need a man to rescue them, no matter their super powers or high positions. This book has female characters in powerful positions who can kick all sorts of ass.... but..... yeh, they still need a man to come save them!

Our main character, who despite having a powerful position and possessing supernatural powers that inflict fear in most people, comes across as the stereotypical dumb blonde. She talks like one and even needs a man to help her find her office when she forgets --Oopsie!-- what floor it's on.

Judge Judy Isn't Havin It GIF - JudgeJudy FacePalm Stressed GIFs

Now, our MC did just wake up in someone else's body and so could be excused for not knowing everything, but we are to believe she read, and then simply forgot! what fucking floor her office is on? Thank goodness there was a knight in shining armor just waiting to come to her rescue! Just waiting to lead her where she's supposed to go. She speaks like a ditz and everything about her screams that she needs a man to come save her from her silly, vapid little self. UGH!

The second powerful female character in this book is a heartless bitch who lets a child cry without even blinking an eye or offering even the smallest gesture of compassion. Oh yes.... like Hillary Clinton and her supposed child trafficking pizza joint venue. A woman in power cannot possibly be maternal. The third powerful female figure we encounter speaks as though she's lacking half of her brain and the half she does have is used simply to gush flowery gibberish.

Dude, if you cannot write a strong female character who does not fit into some sort of patriarchal, condescending bullshit stereotype -- USE A FUCKING MAN FOR YOUR MC!

Maybe the book gets better and you eventually learn to see women without inane stereotypes and you learn to let a woman just be strong and NOT NEED A DICK, but I'm not going to keep reading to find out. If you need to think of women in this way in order to get off, go watch some porn and leave the book-writing to better authors.

Not feeling the love,

Note: The person previously inhabiting our MC's character left a suitcase full of notes to "Dear You" in order to fill her in on all the details of their life. I don't know why she went to all the trouble when "You" is unable to remember even the basics.
Profile Image for Lois Bujold.
Author 167 books37.8k followers
May 15, 2014

OK, that was more fun than I'd expected.

The tone of this book might be summed up "X-Men meets Charlie Stross's Laundry Files". Adventures within and with a secret British organization dedicated to protecting the country, and its public, from the supernatural, very inventively imagined. I kept running across reviews of it, none of which quite conveyed the level of humor deployed; since I am hungry for humor at present, this hit the spot, despite its occasional dark or gross-out nature. (Also its occasionally slyly witty nature, enough to periodically reward me for going on to the next bit. Good banter values when people get stroppy.) But the book's principal reward is its rather charming, if extremely beleaguered, main character. Or characters, depending on how you view Rook Thomas. I liked the firm choices the writer made about her condition at the end.

Structurally interesting, good subsidiary characters, and a headspace I did not mind being in for however many hundred pages. It does some very nice things with the "main character wakes up with amnesia and must discover everything" trope, giving a way to present a powerful character deep in to a (very) complicated backstory and still bring the readers up to speed at a natural pace, while keeping it all integral. (Fated, recently reviewed here by me, has a similar problem starting out with a fairly high-powered lead, although it uses quite different techniques to tussle with it.) I might read The Rook again sometime just to watch how it's put together.

Ta, L.
Profile Image for Mogsy.
2,071 reviews2,633 followers
May 27, 2016
4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2016/05/27/...

The Rook was a novel that had been sitting on my shelf for years, lying forgotten in spite of the repeated calls from my friends urging me to pick it up and read it. It finally took the arrival of a review copy of Stiletto to spur me into action, because nothing lights a fire under my butt quite like the news of an impending sequel. And in reading The Rook, I learned a couple of important lessons: first, I should always listen to my friends because when they tell me that a book is awesome, they are usually right; and second, sometimes it’s perfectly okay to procrastinate because at least now I don’t have wait as long to jump into book two. So there.

Seriously though, The Rook was a bucketload of fun. I was initially a little worried when the book opened and immediately I was plunged into an amnesia-type story, as I’ve had enough experience with those over the years to know they can be hit or miss. However, the writing was clever and tantalizing, encouraging me along despite my misgivings until other elements in the story kicked in and my doubts were dispelled altogether. The intro features our protagonist Myfanwy Thomas (rhymes with “Tiffany”) coming to in the middle of a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. Clutched in her hand is a letter addressed to her, apparently written by herself.

Myfanwy has no memory of who she is, but thanks to the letter she is able to piece together enough of her identity to work out what to do next. Thomas (the name she has taken to calling her pre-amnesic self) was something called a Rook, a high-ranking member of a clandestine government organization known as the Checquy—kind of like MI5 except they are charged with protecting the United Kingdom against all kinds of supernatural threats. Many of the Checquy’s agents are super-powered as well, including Myfanwy, who discovers from Thomas’ letters that she is endowed with a rare but potentially dangerous talent of her own. She soon learns that someone in the Checquy had betrayed her, and in order to find out who it is she must reintegrate herself in the organization and hope that no one would suspect her memory loss while also hiding the fact she knows more than she lets on as not to alert the traitor.

As I said, amnesia stories can either work really well for me or they can fall flat on their face, and happily this was a case of the former. Although the idea of a character working backwards to recover her lost memories is nothing new, the way it is done in The Rook feels very natural and creative, making this novel feel refreshingly original. Thomas’ letters to Myfanwy go beyond simply filling her in on who she is and what she does for a living; they also expand the world-building by providing a background to the Checquy and the other people who work there. Luckily for us, before her amnesia Thomas appears to have been something of an organizational wizard, putting together a binder of information about anything and everything about the Checquy, from employee profiles to the way the agency is structured. Myfanwy gets to find out more about her colleagues than she’d ever want to know, though as the reader I was completely fascinated by some of the details about those she works with, such as Rook Gestalt (a single mind who inhabits the bodies of quadruplets), Bishop Grantchester (who can expel chemical gases from his pores), Alrich (a vampire), Eckhart (who can manipulate metal with his bare hands), Lady Farrier (a leader of the Checquy who can enter dreams), Shantay (an American Bishop from the US version of the Checquy who can turn her body into metal), and many, many more.

In addition, some of Thomas’ anecdotes about her past experiences can almost be considered short stories themselves, and while I can understand how some readers might find such chapters superfluous and distracting, I personally adored them. A few of the stories, like the one about ill-fated dragon hatching or the incident with the fortune telling duck were downright hilarious in dark, morbid ways that meshed well with my sense of humor. As well, the various letters written by Thomas often contain hints or reference overlying themes that tie into the ultimate conclusion, letting the reader play detective along with Myfanwy as she pieces together her life and try to find clues to catch the traitor.

Best of all are the differences between Thomas and Myfanwy. Even though deep down Myfanwy knows they are the same person, her pre-amnesic self might as well be a complete stranger, which is why she gave her past self a separate identification in the first place. The Thomas she knows from the letters was a talented Rook but also painfully shy, which held her back from her full potential and made her fellow Court members look up on her with pity or scorn. However, the post-amnesic Myfanwy is more outspoken and confident with her supernatural abilities, making it extremely satisfying to watch her co-workers react to her new personality and stronger grasp of her powers.

It’s true that I didn’t know a whole lot about The Rook before I started it, but still, I hadn’t expected to be so thoroughly entertained. Now I can’t wait to dive into the next book! In the end Myfanwy accomplishes what she set out to do, but over the course of the novel she also mixes herself into a greater conspiracy involving the Grafters, a group that poses the greatest threat ever known to the Checquy. This larger storyline promises a lot more to come, and I’m really looking forward to continuing the series.
Profile Image for Amanda.
282 reviews313 followers
July 3, 2012
To open your eyes in the middle of a downpour, beaten and bruised, surrounded by dead bodies wearing latex gloves and realizing you have no idea who you are, how this happened, or whose body this is has to be a tad disconcerting. This is exactly the situation facing the new consciousness inhabiting the body of Myfanwy Thomas at the beginning of The Rook.

Fortunately, the former occupant of Myfanwy's body knew her memories would be wiped clean and thoroughly prepared for this event. In the pocket of her coat, the new Myfanwy finds a letter offering advice from her predecessor: how to obtain money, where to go, of whom she should be wary. It also offers her a choice: she can take on a new identity and live her own life, or she can resume the life that had belonged to Myfanwy Thomas. The complication is that the life of Myfanwy Thomas comes with unbelievable power, but also with at least one powerful (and unknown) enemy. Myfanwy learns that, prior to the betrayal that led to her subsequent amnesia, she was a Rook, a high ranking agent of the Chequy, a secret organization of superpowered individuals charged with protecting the British Isles from supernatural threats. She also learns that she her particular gift is the ability to control the actions of others. The new Myfanwy must uncover a traitor in their midst if she's to learn who took her memory and why.

Holy shit, has it been a long time since I picked up a book with such a kick ass beginning! However, the problem with such a beginning is that the narrative must continue to rise and kick substantially more ass from that point forward. Alas, The Rook does not. The momentum and intrigue created by the beginning started to taper off within 100 pages as I began to realize that, despite an awesome premise, the best part was already over.

The first issue that I had with the novel is that it is difficult to pin down the tone. The beginning, despite a few welcome flashes of humor, seems serious and I settled in for what I presumed would be an intelligent supernatural thriller. Once Myfanwy returns to the Chequy, however, the humor becomes more prevalent and broad. At times I felt as though I were reading something more akin to Monty Python or Christopher Moore, which would have been fine if this tone had been consistent throughout. The supernatural threats seem better suited to the sort of thing one would find in young adult literature: inventive, sure, but their almost cartoonish qualities lessen the suspense as one realizes there's no real menace here for either our heroine or Britain itself. The abrupt shift in tone from potential thriller to "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" cleverness lost my interest early on.

Another factor that decreased my enjoyment of the novel is the manner in which Myfanwy's amnesia is handled. To have a superpowered agent for a secret organization bumbling around with no memory would normally offer for some delightful possibilities. However, because Myfanwy knew ahead of time that she would lose her identity, she had time to prepare. And, boy, did she prepare. She wrote an entire series of letters to her new self and even put together a handy-dandy purple binder outlining every intricacy of the Chequy. Using these letters and the purple binder, the new Myfanwy is seldom caught off-guard. In fact, she becomes so good at pretending to be the old Myfanwy that one can forget for entire chapters that she has amnesia. The letters are presented throughout the book in standalone chapters that serve as info-dumps or side stories that have nothing to do with the present day narrative. I began to dread the sight of italics because I knew it was another letter that would only slow down the momentum of the novel. The entire amnesia conceit simply serves as a framework for these letters; the novel may have been better off without both.

Despite these flaws, the novel has some admitted flashes of brilliance and humor. Plus, Myfanwy is a very likable heroine. It suffers from "too much," though, as it tries to be all things at once. Just a read through the reviews that describe it as a Jason Bourne-meets-Ghostbusters-meets X-Men-meets Harry Potter-meets The Vampire Chronicles can pretty well sum up how much is going on within the narrative. Unfortunately, it doesn't juggle the mix well enough to pull it off.

Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder
Profile Image for Deborah Harkness.
Author 30 books29k followers
March 5, 2012
Loved this! A bit of Jasper Fforde, a bit of X-Files, and a lot of droll action and tongue-in-cheek dialogue as we follow the heroine, Myfanwy Thomas, through her adventures. Thoroughly enjoyable, and highly recommended.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,606 followers
January 3, 2023
Second read although apparently GR ate my first review or I didn't write it, whichever. Anyway, this remains a wonderfully entertaining 'secret organisation' fantasy with glorious inventiveness, twisty plot, terrific woman lead, and real heart among the gore and chaos. Immense fun.
Profile Image for Mimi.
699 reviews198 followers
February 11, 2023
This was a fun read with a few minor snags. It could have been more fun if there weren't so many letters, but the overall story was good. And good urban fantasies are hard to come by these days. We must always cherish the ones with great potential, yes? Even if their execution is uneven, clumsy, and/or awkward at times, because a majority of UF out there are complete and utter bores (and the rest are terrible PNRs) and I say that as a fan of the genre--much of it is crap. You're more likely to pick up a crap UF than you are to choose a good one. The Rook is one of the better ones, and despite all those letters, I liked it and I look forward to the sequel.

The set-up:

Myfanwy* Thomas wakes up on rainy afternoon to find herself cold and wet and standing in the middle of a park where multiple unconscious bodies lay around her. She has no memory of her previous life or know who she is now, but she finds in her jacket pocket two handwritten letters addressed to "You." The letters briefly explain her predicament, that her life is in danger, someone has betrayed her, and more assassins are on the way. They also briefly touch on her supernatural power, the ability to access and control other people's central nervous systems. Now she has two choices. One is to stay, fight, and unmask the person(s) who harmed her; the second option is to disappear and live a life on the run. The former Myfanwy Thomas knew a day would come when she'd lose her memory and had aptly prepared the way for present-day Myfanwy Thomas to take her place. The safer and more intriguing of the two options is to stay. So she chooses to stay and begins to infiltrate Myfanwy Thomas' life.

The former Myfanwy Thomas was a high-ranking official in a secret organization called the Checquy which deals with all things supernatural in all of Great Britain. Like Dr. Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, but on a grander scale, better funded, and has official government backing. The Checquy deals with the supernatural by covering it up or just by killing it, which is often the only way to deal with the supernatural, and they have free reign to pluck "talented" children from their families to raise them in a facility called the Estate where they're turned into skilled operatives. Overseeing this organization is a group of super(powered?) talented people called the Court. The former Myfanwy Thomas held the position of Rook in this Court, and before she lost her memory, she had uncovered a number of things that would lead to her betrayal and, right before she lost her memory, she knew the one who would betray her was in the Court.

Present-day Myfanwy Thomas picks up where the former left off. The two personalities have very little in common except for a head for administration and investigation. Where the former was shy and quiet, the present day personality is assertive, determined, and has no qualms about using her Court position or superpower to her advantage. This new personality is a surprise to many Court members, and it throws the ones behind her betrayal off their game. As she begins to unravel their plans, she finds that her betrayal was only a small part of a larger conspiracy to bring down the Court, and that this is only the beginning.

Things I like:

Both former and present-day Myfanwy Thomases are compelling characters with fully fleshed-out lives and personalities, and for two characters who never meet face to face, they play off each other well. As much as I find the italicized letters a nuisance, I like how the former personality is presented in them--lonely, painfully shy--and I found myself sympathetic to her struggles, especially her willingness to push through her fears to protect her future self while preparing for her inevitable death, so to speak. Even though the two personalities are foils of each other, there's enough in common between them to make you believe they were/are the same person.

Both POVs are interesting and the narrating voice(s) is convincing and believable. Myfanwy Thomas is a believable female character, which might seem odd to highlight, but since the book is written by a male author, credit should be given where it's due. Not many male authors write from a female POV, and of those who try, only a handful achieve a believable narrative style. Before I started reading this book, I wasn't sure Daniel O'Malley could do it. Glad to see that I had been wrong to doubt.

Another thing I like is the humor, often dry and always tongue-in-cheek. A few scenes had me laughing out loud. Here are some of my favorite moments:
“Unbelievable!” His secretary came in. “Fetch somebody from technical support or that woman who claims she can negotiate with computers and have this fixed.” He turned his attention back to the computer, and then looked up again. “What?”
“You’re balancing on one hand again, sir,” the secretary replied. “And you’re getting footmarks on the ceiling. The cleaning staff has been complaining.”
“Oh. Fine.” Gubbins flipped himself up the right way, and his secretary rolled her eyes.
“In any case, sir, the Court meeting has been moved up. It’s now today right after sunset—emergency.”
“Okay,” Gubbins sighed, and he took one leg off the ground. Then he lifted himself up onto one toe. “Piece-of-shit computer!”

The Lord and Lady titles are gender specific, which makes it awkward when a vacancy appears and the most qualified person has the wrong kind of genitals. As a result, during the 1920s, the organization was inflicted with the uncomfortable tenure of Lady Richard Constable, a large bearded man who once bit the head off a possessed Irish wolfhound. He succeeded Lady Claire Goldsworthy and out of sheer bloody-mindedness declined to change his title. Even when the then-Lord died, Constable refused to switch positions.

“Well,” said Grantchester, “whom do we inform?”
“The Palace,” said Farrier.
“The Prime Minister,” said Wattleman.
“The Minister of Defense,” said Eckhart.
“The chiefs of the intelligence agencies?” suggested Gubbins.
“Oh God, must we?” asked Grantchester tiredly. “They’re always so obnoxious if we turn up something they don’t know about, and anything even vaguely unusual makes them nervous. Can you imagine what they’d do if they saw this tape? It’s so embarrassing when spies start crying.”

“I just received notification that the Americans are coming!”
“All of them?” asked Myfanwy.
“You know, it’s not wise to be sarcastic with your executive assistant,” remarked Ingrid tightly.

She’d found a battery-powered item in the drawer of the bedside table but was somewhat wary of using it. Admittedly, it is mine. And it’s only ever been used on my body. But not by me. This is an aspect of amnesia that people don’t normally talk about.

Things that bother me:

I don't buy the Checquy as a secret organization with lots of government backing because secrets cost too much to maintain. Something of the Checquy's caliber would not stay in the dark all these centuries; it doesn't make sense. It takes a considerable amount of energy and resources to keep a lid on the organization's various nefarious dealings. Plus maintaining its secret status is unnecessary, time-consuming work. It'd be more convenient for The Checquy, paperwork- and PR-wise, to become legit and exist as another branch of government. If something like the Checquy did exist way back in the Medieval Ages, it would have been made official in modern times under the guise of a mundane title and description that no one, other than conspiracy theorists and the tax department, cares about. This, at least, would make the organization more believable. Nothing's more boring or mundane than being recognized as a legit organization under the law...

While I thought the beginning started off great, the rest of the book dragged and the thing that made it so was the author' choice of letter placement. What I mean by that is, whenever a major discovery is revealed or whenever a scene reaches climax, Daniel O'Malley would insert an italicized letter by the former Myfanwy Thomas that goes on to explain some aspect of her life or the Court or her suspicions. All are important info of course, but the letters cut right into action-packed scenes and you don't find out what happens next until the chapter following the letter. I find that extremely annoying because there are other places, better places, in the book where Mr. O'Malley could have inserted those letters; it didn't have to be right in the middle of an intense scene. If it weren't for the SF/F elements, I might have abandoned this book by the 5th italicized letter.

Another issue I take with this book is the characterization of the nemeses. They're a bit comically muhahahaha for my taste. The concept is great and I'd love to find out more about these evil Belgians, but their portrayals are too comical for me to take seriously. They don't live up to the effect their powers supposedly have on other people or their plans to take over the Court (and the world??). Some of the dialogue during the confrontation scenes between Myfanwy and the evil doers are too verbose and written in a manner that paints them as tantrum-throwing adolescents. They aren't quite cartoonish or caricatures of comic supervillains, but they do lean toward being trope-ish (muhahahaha) and predictable in their rage and rampage. Plus, it's hard to take villains seriously when their rants aren't so much threatening as they are info-dump-ish. While I find their evil deeds disgusting (literally), I don't find them formidable or frightening. Simply put, they're not worthy opponents. Perhaps the next book will have better adversaries.

* possible (correct?) pronunciations:

* * * * *


* * * * *

3.5 stars, rounded up for the sense of humor and that extra helping of zaniness.

There were moments in the story that felt like they dragged on for a few pages too long (the letters), but I'm having difficulty recalling them. What I remember most about this book though are these quotes that made me laugh out loud.
“Checquy statistics indicate that 15 percent of all men in hats are concealing horns.”


“Now, do you mind telling me why you have all these guns lying around? Are you afraid the paperwork will rise up against you?”
“Oh, no. I'm going to use the guns as paperweights.”


“I've always been a pretty good researcher,” said Bronwyn modestly.
Oh, so that we share, thought Myfanwy, but you didn't inherit the power to make people shit themselves. You've got to love the randomness of genetics.


"This duck tells me nothing!"

* * * * *

Update: February 2016

Rereading to prepare for Stiletto and going with the audiobook again this time because these days setting aside time to read is a luxury I no longer have.

Still pretty damn funny, but this time around, I find myself much more drawn to the characters, main and secondary alike, and I have a greater appreciation for the writing in general. But specifically, the humor and the amount of planning that must've gone into creating the mystery and plot. .

All those letters don't bother me anymore.

* * * * *

Update: February 2023

Skimming through to try and get back into the world of the Checquy because it's been a while and I've lost touch with it. Currently I'm having some trouble with latest installment Blitz.

* * * * *

Cross-posted at https://covers2covers.wordpress.com/2...
Profile Image for Jeffrey.
890 reviews110 followers
February 10, 2012
The Rook by Daniel O’ Malley is a startingly well executed and engaging debut novel with a Jason Bourne like spy, but set in a supernatural urban fantasy setting. The spy in question, Myfawany Alice Thomas is one of several fantastical beings who guard unknowing England from supernatural and otherworldly attacks. But she has been mindwiped by one of her fellow guardians and must both discover who the traitor is and why she was targeted before it is too late. Her predecessor in body, a chief administrator of the Supernatural spy service, has left her detailed notebooks filled with bios of the main characters and information about her life and the world she now lives in.

When she awakes in a field surrounded by unknown dead people, she must fool her closest allies and enemies into thinking she is still the Myfawany that they have known all their lives. The notebooks allow the author to provide the reader with the same information that Myfawany is learning. They provide both a way to describe the world and are a marvelous guide. Her fellow Lords are otherworldly in every way.

The other Rook is a multibody being controlled by one mind, who is able to control each body separately. The Lady in charge of the organization is a powerful dream walker who invades dreams. Another Lord was a famous warrior. There is a vampire as well. It will not be easy to find who killed her mind.

Although the old Myfawany has been a power for her whole life, she does not like to use her mysterious powers against others. The other Lords have looked down on her, but she was able to become a Rook because of her genius of organization. The old Myfawany is something of a wimp. The new Myfawany has inherited her predecessor's genius of organization, but is also much more kick ass and as she discovers her powers and their uses, she learns that her powers are much more powerful than the ruling elite understood. The little mouse has gained big big teeth.

The mystery is well thought out, the action scenes are engaging and often funny and although this reader was able to figure out the clues to the bad guy before the conclusion, the fun of this book is in the story, the character, the verve of the story telling and the language of the novel. At times a mystery, spy novel, urban fantasy and funny to boot, the novel never failed to hold my attention.

It will be interesting to see how O’Malley can handle the next book without relying on the informational paragraphs that infused this novel. I have no doubt he will handle it well.

This is a great read and should be on your to read very soon pile.
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