Stiletto | Daniel O’Malley | 4.5 stars

5 star

The Checquy is turning over a new leaf, negotiating peace and cooperation with their sworn Belgian enemies, and that means a new installment in Daniel O’Malley’s The Checquy Files. This second book unfortunately has less of a focus on Myfanwy Thomas, which for me – honestly – is the only reason it’s half a point less in appreciation than The Rook was. I can’t help it, I just love Myfanwy Thomas, that woman is absolutely amazing and I felt as if we left much of her recovering from memory loss unexplored.

But Daniel O’Malley, who is a fan of embracing the information dump, nevertheless loves a quick paced story. It is always action-packed and although it is not always in service of the central plot, it is very enjoyable reading material. I have to say that the only thing I can think of to improve this series, would be to improve the feel of the central plot. O’Malley has the tendency to push that back to the second half of the book, in which you start to see how things are related and they become more poignant. It leaves you feeling as if you haven’t truly wrapped up the story when you finish it. Which, I guess, is also because there are more books forthcoming, but it leaves the book a bit heavy on the back end.

But this is not a 4.5 star recommendation for nothing. The POV shifts from Myfanwy to two other players. Felicity is a Pawn from the Checquy, operating on a lower level than Myfanwy, which gives us ample insight into what Checquy teams do on a daily basis. The other is Odette, one of the feared and loathed Grafters, who has an incredible penchant for getting herself in mortal peril. Which Felicity must prevent, of course. I really liked how this relationship developed. It takes both of them a long time to get over their mutual dislike, but in the end their bond is really strong. Daniel O’Malley has to be commended on writing about female friendships, because that is a difficult thing to do apparently, and has often not been done well.

Stiletto also has a lot of the information dumps I mentioned above and in my review of The Rook. Once again; if you do not like them, this series might not be your thing. Daniel O’Malley embraces them and uses them to full force. In The Rook he did this through letters, in Stiletto it is more varied. Usually it comes in the form of people telling long and incredibly detailed background stories sometimes reaching back centuries. I absolutely love them, I can get lost in one of the stories, forget I’m also reading the central plot, and then get back to that and moving on with the book. It’s an interesting way of telling a story and it fits me very well. I can imagine, however, that it can frustrate another reader.

In Stiletto, the traitors to the Checquy are identified as the hated Grafters, who – at the end of The Rook – came holding a white flag and a pretty-please for peace. Both sides have power, and they are mostly evenly matched. What I loved about Stiletto is how well portrayed their mutual distrust was. These people have been enemies for centuries, and you get to see this from both perspectives. The Checquy fears the Grafters, and hates them for being unnatural. While all the same, the Grafters fear the Checquy and hate them for being unnatural. Both sides have a point, and this parallel is really amazingly done.

It also means there is a lot of tension in Stiletto, propelling the story forwards. I can easily forgive Daniel O’Malley for making the peril Odette finds herself in a bit repetitive, because the rest of the book is very strong. Also, again, in the interpersonal relationships both on a micro-level, as on the larger scale. There is no easy way to merge two ancient enemies together without having them clash in every possible manner. It made Stiletto, like The Rook, a kickass read, with a lot of room for both fun and gore. Sometimes even at the same time.

Myfanwy Thomas is still prominent in Stiletto, but she is always seen through the eyes of others, which means no (to very little) insight into her thoughts and feelings. Myfanwy is what made The Rook such a strong novel, and although I came to really like Felicity and Odette, it was a bit of an adaptation for me. But I very much enjoyed seeing the Checquy from a different angle, seeing it operate on different levels and just to generally learn a lot more about the world in which these books are situated. The amount of thought that went into constructing this world must have been a lot, because it has such a thorough outline and background.

So, once again, I enjoyed the hell out of a Daniel O’Malley book, and sadly there is no word on a third book or when it should be arriving. Stiletto released in 2016, and between that one and The Rook sit four years… I am in an incredible reading slump because I was not ready to leave their world yet, and eagerly anticipating a third novel in this series. Read at your own peril, because you will not be able to let it go, these books are urban fantasy at their best!

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