Friday, August 16, 2013
The Rook, Daniel O'Malley
"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."
Wow. The Rook just blew me away. I wasn't expecting it to be very good, but it was well-written, smart, surprising, suspenseful and creative. The premise is just so bizarre and hard to understand, and as Myfanwy learns about her new situation, so does the reader. I was fascinated and drawn into this lengthy but fairly quick fantasy and sci-fi novel. The story itself was just so gripping, and I was interested to see Myfanwy figuring who she was and what the hell was going on. Because even by the Chequy agency's standards, strange things are happening.
There were so many creative things in The Rook; Rook Gestalt for example, which has four bodies it can simultaneously control, as well as many other powers. Most of the characters in the Chequy that are part of the higher Court have all of these strange abilities; Myfanwy can control people's bodies, turning off certain senses and sensation, and making them feel great pain of various sorts. The old Myfanwy hated using her power. The new one is exploring, and is way less timid. I really wanted to find out who exactly was in Myfanwy's body, whether it was a different person, or actually Myfanwy herself just with her memory wiped.
The letters got to be a bit annoying; there are huge binders full of information that the old Myfanwy created, and sometimes I wish that they wouldn't be so long. Still, it added more detail to the rich world that O'Malley has created, and the Chequy is so complex that it does require a lot of information to understand. I still didn't get certain aspects of it. I also thought the chess theme of the Chequy was really interesting, and was trying to figure out how all the pieces fit in. England still being a sort of monarchy, instead of a King and Queen, which would cause discomfort to the actual King and Queen, the two leaders of the organization are the Lord and the Lady. Which would follow that the Lord is helpless and the most important thing to be protected, and the Lady is the most powerful, dangerous one of the whole organization. That was very interesting, because Lady Farrier is certainly a dangerous woman.
There are so many amazing facets of the plot; Myfanwy has to figure out who she is and who's out to get her, but there's also the problem of the Grafters, who have not been active for hundreds of years, but are back, more powerful and evil than ever. The descriptions of what the Grafters could do were really disturbing; some sections of The Rook are not for the faint of heart, although most of the book isn't too bad.
The writing in The Rook is really clever, and O'Malley slips in all these sly little things that make the reader chuckle a bit. The book is disturbing, but also really fascinating and suspenseful. I would highly recommend it for fans of fantasy, science fiction, and thrillers. This was another great book that was recommended to me by Goodreads, and their recommendation system is really, really good. This is a pretty long book, but well worth it.