Monday, May 14, 2012

Review: The Rook

The Rook
The Rook by Daniel O'Malley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an exciting book. Myfanwy (pronounced like Tiffany with a M)Thomas wakes up one day in a park surrounded by dead bodies without any memory of what's happened or who she is. Luckily in her pocket she finds two letters written to her from the previous Myfanwy Thomas guiding her how to resume her life. After reading the letters she has two choices she can resume Myfanwy Thomas' life where people are trying to kill her and conspiracy surrounds her, or she can flee the country and be someone new, but the journey to get out of the country undetected is also dangerous. The new Myfanwy choses to resume the old Myfanwy's life.

Myfanwy Thomas works for a secret organization in the UK that is responsible for quelling supernatural uprising, manifestations, disturbances and the like. The structure of the organization is like Chess, the queen and king are the head (although they're called Lord and Lady) there are two bishops, two chevaliers (knights) and two rooks (castles) and lots of pawns. The court and pawns all have special powers, some can turn their body into weapons, see through buildings, control other people's dreams and one's a vampire. Myfanwy Thomas is a Rook, in her first life she was a glorified paper pusher with great skill, her special power allowed her to control other people's bodies through touch, but she was meek and frail and disliked using her powers. The organization is very strict, they are cutthroat and ruthless when it comes to keeping their secret and weaknesses are not tolerated well. When the new Myfanwy Thomas woke up in the rain the old personality had left her and a new more assertive personality had taken her place.

The old Myfanwy Thomas warns the new that she cannot be detected of losing her memory and so a through guide is given to her to navigate the organization and her life within it. She also warns herself that there are traitors within the organization and that they must be found out and stopped. The new Myfanwy barely has time to get settled in before there are emergencies in the organization that demand her "Rook" attention. She learns early how to use her powers and expands them in ways the original did not.

It is exciting to see the character evolve, learn her place and break away from what the original would have done to be her own version of Myfanwy. The novel is broken up by letters from the old Myfanwy Thomas to the new, sometimes they're definitions and more of a guide to the people and structure of the organization she's working in and sometimes they're stories of things that had happened to the original Myfanwy that give greater insight to her personality and relationships with other. This book is action packed and exciting. It's an exciting world and I almost hope there is a sequel or maybe just a prequel because its took fun to let just be a single book.

I have very few critiques about this book. There were a couple of times where the new Myfanwy Thomas jumped to the correct conclusion a little too easily, but assuming that the reader doesn't get to read everything the old Myfanwy Thomas left her to guide her I can let that slide. The mini-cliff hangers between chapters were great, I felt the suspense and fear that something really bad was happening. The book also didn't shy away from the gross stuff or the big fights, if someone was being killed or tortured in a gruesome way we read it and if there was a huge battle we were right there with the pawns, rooks and elite soldiers. AND it was funny, really really funny at some points, in some places it just didn't take itself too seriously and that was great because it made for such a fun read.

It's hard to categorize this book as just science fiction because while there is a lot of science in it, tinkering with human implants and modifications, there's also a random vampire that emerged from an egg. There's lots of cool weapons and military tactics that are used to suppress some of the manifestations the organization is charged with keeping discreet. So I would call it a sort of mystery, science fictiony, little fantasy, adventure. Either way it was just a great book, well planned, executed and had a very satisfying ending.

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