I must have spammed all of social media by now with my love for The Rook by Daniel O’Malley. I’m not usually inclined to pick up urban fantasy, but I have recently read The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater and absolutely loved it. It made me realise I need to be more open minded about these things. I was in the mood for adult fantasy after reading a lot of YA and it was the book’s back cover that made it irresistable: ““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.”
I mean, how do you not want to read that? I jumped in, and quickly found myself absolutely immersed. It is often a complaint with fantasy that huge information dumps slow down the reading. The Rook found a creative way to not only enable the use of information dumps, but to embrace the thing and run with it. Because Myfanwy (rhymes with Tiffany) has no recollection whatsoever, she relies on the letters left by the previous owner of her body, who made some thorough preparations. These letters direct her to a world in which the supernatural is not only all around her, it is an actual government branch.
In between chapters in which Myfanwy tries to navigate her position without letting anyone know that she basically impersonating herself, the letters provide background information on just about anything. One might be about a colleague and his entire background story, or another might be on the intricate workings of Checquy positions of power. I did not find these distracting at all, because I can get lost in these things very easily as well. I love the oversharing fo information, but I can see why some people would dislike it. Daniel O’Malley uses information dumps through the letters very frequently, so if you think it slows down your reading, or you just don’t like that sort of thing, then this might not be the book for you.
To those of us who do like it, this book is an absolute fountain of information. It is so well thought out, the history of the thing so extensive, you easily find yourself believing the Checquy actually exists. Ever since finishing the second book,Stiletto, I am having the biggest book hangover. I just can’t seem to get myself out of that incredible world, in which there is a lot of humour, a lot of gore, and a lot of ass kicking.
Myfanwy Thomas is an amazing heroine. She is impersonating herself in a dangerous world she knows nothing about. She has to find the traitor in their ranks who has wiped her memories and tried to kill her, without having a clue. She consistently behaves much more assertive than the real Myfanwy Thomas would have, which makes it really funny and satisfying to read. The only thing I could say against The Rook is that it takes its time building on the story. It isn’t until late in the book that the momentum finally takes us to what it’s all about, and a lot of things are happening in quick succession. Daniel O’Malley does this with Stiletto as well. When you reach the end, you feel as if you are still in the middle of the story: with all that is happening, with all the slow build, how can you wrap the story up in just one final chapter?
It’s not truly the end, though. That makes the world of The Rook so dangerously addictive as well. You know there are more adventures forthcoming for Myfanwy Thomas and the Checquy. Luckily, we have Stiletto, but there is a four year gap between these books. When you finish Stiletto and still want more… you are in that terrible book hangover I’m in at the moment. Because there is no word out yet on a third book, and you will have to suffer with me. But, I’m telling you, The Rook is definitely worth it. It jumped to the top of my favourite reads already, and I can see myself rereading it a lot in the future.
Afterthought: why do I ALWAYS have a thing for the most inappropriate character in the book? I’m looking at you, Gestalt.