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The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
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The Rook (2012)

by Daniel O'Malley

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Checquy Files (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,3501155,702 (4.13)153
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    LongDogMom: Same kind of quirky humour and style
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    LongDogMom: Both books are about British secret agencies protecting humans from supernatural threat and both are laugh out loud funny.
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    pwaites: Urban fantasy with a strong female lead and no romance.
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English (113)  German (1)  All languages (114)
Showing 1-5 of 113 (next | show all)
Myfanwy Thomas comes into the world bruised, bloodied and sitting on a park bench in the rain. She also happens to be surrounded by dead bodies, all of which are wearing latex gloves. Illuminated by a nearby lamppost and quickly dissolving in the downpour, a letter written by the mysterious and succinct 'me' is found in a jacket pocket. Firmly tumbling Myfanwy (rhymes with Tiffany) down the rabbit hole of a lost identity, this letter explains that she is in danger, she needs to get somewhere safe, and she's also highly allergic to bees. So O'Malley inducts his readers into the Checquy, a secret British government agency, and so we witness the untimely end of 'me' and the abrupt beginnings of Myfanwy as she rushes to root out betrayal as well as who the hell she happens to be wearing.

O'Malley's The Rook has a Ghostbusters/X Files meets Austin Powers vibe. It's a fun read with a lot of italics as well as some parts that shine a bit more than others. What I enjoyed most were the quirks; supernatural quirks, disastrous quirks, and, most of all, the quirky relationships/interactions between Myfanwy and other characters. That being said, some of it stretched a little too far and the elasticity of O'Malley's humor or plot got a trifle worn at the edges.

While there isn't a lot of complexity to the plot or to the resolution of several larger plot points, I ended up being fairly interested in O'Malley's Checquy and in Myfanwy. It's this interest that will have me picking up the second book, [b:Stiletto|25695756|Stiletto (The Checquy Files, #2)|Daniel O'Malley|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1433883952s/25695756.jpg|24809605], while I'll retain the hope that future resolutions might have more substance. I'd also like to see how some relationships/friendships introduced in The Rook end up developing; there were a lot of connections between strong-personality female characters that were supportive, positive, and funny. I don't think these types of friendships get near enough representation in modern fiction so I'd love to see these further developed as well.

I did enjoy the casual exploration of personality and past experience proffered by O'Malley in this plot. It doesn't hammer you over the head with some weighty diatribe; it handles it with a light hand, allowing the reader to think about it however they will. I think any amnesiac story tends to stimulate some thought on that subject, really. Are we are experiences, phobias, etc.; are we malleable; if all of your memories were gone tomorrow, who would you be/what might you be capable of. It's an interesting chain of thought to follow.

I will say that the name thing was... odd. I got the resolution there, it just didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Myfanwy was 9 years old when she was taken from her family and fostered into the Checquy, you would think she would know how her family pronounced her name by then, would be able to hold onto that. Maybe that's just personal bias though; my name is Ariel and, because I grew up in the south and because The Little Mermaid came onto the scene two years after I was born, people have always pronounced it wrong (saying Air-ee-el instead of Ar-ee-el). I was always painfully shy and hesitated to correct a teacher in front of the class or other adult but I still knew how my parents pronounced it when I was a kid. I was certainly aware of its pronunciation by the time I was 9 as well as what my preference was. So I wasn't certain whether O'Malley was using this as an aspect of Myfanwy's trauma or was trying to put forth some other message there. I guess you could see the pronunciation deal as a reference to the interminable anglicization of things/the silliness of it. It's a bit lofty but it crosses the mind. I ended up thinking it was more Myfanwy's way of taking control of her situation; she's experienced trauma which is further exacerbated by being handed over to an unknown organization by parents that just leave her to it and walk out of her life with apparent ease. Maybe, hearing her name mispronounced by those in charge, she doesn't correct them because at first she just doesn't have the energy to care and then it becomes akin to cauterizing the wound of walking around with a name that was very specific to your past. The sound of your mom/dad saying it a specific way that was often butchered by anyone outside of your family and therefore unaware of how to say it. But, such an emotionally visceral connection with the pronunciation/mispronunciation of a person's name might simply resonate with my weird linguistics obsession and I very well might be reading way too much into this. Also, I'm sorry O'Malley but I kept pronouncing Checquy as 'Shek' in my head as I was reading, regardless of your 'pronounced Sheck-Eh' bit. Because Sheck-Eh ping-ponged around my head and morphed into a whispered reverberation of Sheck-aah, Shekaah, Chaka Khan. Alas, 'Shek' often morphed into Shrek.



Yes. Well. Did I mention I've been very tired whilst reading this book? No? Now you know.

As I mentioned, I'll be reading the second book of the series. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick, quirky fantasy/whodunit genre masher. ( )
  lamotamant | Sep 22, 2016 |
This was probably the most interesting book I've read in a while. I read a LOT of Urban Fantasy (and regular fantasy, and Sci-fi), and they are as a rule OK, not great not amazing, just OK. (It is entirely possible I just can't find the best books, and this is totally anecdotal.) I love finding new worlds and situations to read about, and this might be the most interesting one in a while.

Myfanwy Thomas wakes up surrounded by dead bodies with a letter in her pocket explaining that she better run and hide because people are looking to kill her just like they did to the last person in this body. From there the plot is all about learning how to deal in a "new" bodies in a world that is terrifying and strange. I loved every second of it!

I hope there is more in this world. ( )
  Sarah_Buckley | Sep 17, 2016 |
I had no idea what to expect when I started this book. A friend read it, didn't tell me anything about it, and I didn't read the blurb before I dove in. I didn't even look very closely at the cover, which would have given me some clues. I did later see that someone had compared it to X-Men meets X-Files and that seems about right.

I was hooked from beginning to end and am a little sad to say goodbye to some of the characters. I've heard the second book in the series isn't like the first - still good, but pretty different - and I don't think I'm ready to tackle that one just yet.

One thing I didn't expect was to laugh as much as I did. What a great story and a great main character. I certainly recommend this one to anyone who enjoys political intrigue and science fiction.

Oh, and the narrator did a great job on the many different voices. Her inflections during narration, though, kept pulling me out of the story. Not too badly but enough to think repeatedly, "please change that!" I understand that she doesn't do the second book so I'll be interested to know how I like the new narrator once I get around to it. ( )
  amcheri | Sep 14, 2016 |
I loved this book. It was the right amount of everything. I found myself laughing and having the same inner monologues in places right along with Myfawny. I really want her powers. ( )
  tamarah71 | Sep 5, 2016 |
Myfanwy Thomas opens her eyes standing in a park, in the driving rain, surrounded by several bodies, all curiously wearing latex gloves. She has no idea who she is, how she got there, or who they are, and only knows her name because of a letter in her coat pocket. A letter she wrote, to her future self, before she lost her memory.

tl;dr review: This is a great series starter. A very capable and smart, but also very human and compassionately written heroine, in a fantastic and fantastical world, puzzles her way through the mystery that amounts to more or less who murdered her.

I really enjoyed this, and can highly recommend it if you're a UF fan.

Extra crispy bits: No romance in sight, no love triangles, actual capable female characters (yes, multiple of them, and it even passes the Bechdel test by a mile). Not that I don't like romance in my UF, but it's nice to see a book where it's not even necessary. And it's not done pointedly or being lampshaded - these are just who the characters happen to be. This is how you do it, author folks, it doesn't have to be a big deal.

More thoughts:
Take the X-Men and mix it up with a little MI 5 and Charles Stross Laundry files, and you have the Checquy, Britain's secret Ministry of the Supernatural. Myfanwy is not just a member, she's The Rook, one of two members of the Checquy responsible for domestic threats. Alongside her rank the Chevaliers (the Knights), responsible for international threats, above her the Bishops and the lord and lady (because, despite the chess themed structure, you can't actually have a King and Queen when there already is one in the country.)

Steered by the letters and informational dossiers her super-organised and capable former self wrote, the newly awakened person inhabiting Myfanwy Thomas body has to steer her way through this strange world inhabited by people who share one mind for four bodies, can turn their skins to steel, or have hair that can get you high if you eat it. And while her previous self knew that someone would do this terrible thing to her, removing her memories and effectively killing her, she didn't know how, or even exactly when. Nor does she know who, but she reasons it must be one of the other members of the court, the very people she works with every day and considers at least her allies, if not always friends.

Luckily the new Myfanwy is equally as capable and organised as the old was, and manages to literally fake it until she makes it through her first few days.

Things are complicated by the fact that Britain seems to be in the midst of a clandestine invasion by a rival and fairly evil organisation of "enhanced" people, who aim to destroy the Chequy, and who may or may not be related to what happened to Myfanwy.

The world-building is great, the amnesia trope and the letters mean we learn the world alongside Myfanwy and let's the author get away with tons of exposition and backstory in a clever and unobtrusive way. In less deft hands, this wouldn't have worked, but the letters are increasingly a memoir from the old Myfanwy who knows she will be erased and wants her new self to really know who she used to be.

Another interesting twist is along the lines of how much of what and who we are is nature and how much is nurture? Myfanwy V1.0 had a traumatic childhood, manifesting some fairly scary powers and abilities at age 9, being handed over by her parents without much protest to a shadowy government facility for education - a facility where most of the children living there had been there since birth, and so she didn't fit in. She's a loner, lonely, has no family or friends, and is afraid of her own ability, burying herself in being a super-executive instead of a super-hero.

Myfanwy 2.0 has trauma of another sort, she literally doesn't know who she is--she's not even sure how to pronounce her own name--but she's also not afraid of herself, or her abilities. Instead she sets about figuring them out, learning to use them, and learning--and pushing--their limits. This Myfanwy isn't afraid to make a friend, or go to a party either. But how much of that can she get away with, before the people around her figure out she's not V1.0 anymore, and what would the consequences be?

This is smart well-written contemporary UF, and I really liked it. For a series starter from a debut author, it's very very good. ( )
  krazykiwi | Aug 27, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 113 (next | show all)
I became intrigued by Daniel O’Malley’s debut novel, The Rook, when Time book critic Lev Grossman raved, more than a month before the book’s release, that “this aging, jaded, attention-deficit-disordered critic was blown away.”

Indeed, The Rook is great, rattling fun, as if Neil Gaiman took Buffy the Vampire Slayer and crossed it with Torchwood.

It starts with a bang: Myfanwy Thomas awakens in a rainy London park, surrounded by a ring of dead bodies, all wearing latex gloves. She has no idea how she or the corpses got there. In fact, she doesn’t even know that she’s Myfanwy Thomas, because she is suffering from amnesia and remembers nothing about herself.

Myfanwy is a Rook, a junior-level member of the Court, an elite group of eight super-powered intelligence agents. The Court runs the Checquy Group, a British agency on Her Majesty’s Hyper-Secret Service, so powerful that it makes MI6 look lame. In fact, Myfanwy learns, “The Court answers to the highest individuals in the land only, and not always to them.”

Myfanwy discovers everything about herself from a dossier entrusted to her by “the original Myfanwy Thomas,” the person she was before she lost her memory. Her amnesia was no accident: One of her mysterious colleagues on the Court, she learns, is a traitor who wiped her memory and now wants her dead.

In the meantime, Myfanwy must step back into her own life and relearn everything about being Rook Thomas, all without anyone finding out what has happened to her. Her own life is anything but normal, because the Checquy Group is always on the lookout for monsters. One can never be too vigilant, since “Checquy statistics indicate that 15 percent of all men in hats are concealing horns.”

Thanks to the Checquy, Britons are blissfully unaware that supernatural forces constantly threaten the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. (The Checquy’s American counterpart is called the Croatoan, a little in-joke that is never explained but which students of American history will immediately get.) The worst of these threats to the U.K. are the Grafters, who come from Belgium, a mild-mannered nation that O’Malley manages to render extremely sinister.

Throughout a rip-roaring narrative, O’Malley off-handedly weaves deadpan humor. As a Rook, Myfanwy is more paper-pusher than field agent, and her job lacks glamour: “There’s a reason that there’s no TV show called CSI: Forensic Accounting.” She always gets stuck with tasks like “figuring out why the hell a two-door wardrobe in the spare room of a country house is considered to be a matter of national concern.”

But crises loom, duty calls, and Myfanwy soon finds herself using her own superpower to battle horrid Belgian monsters — at least whenever she isn’t “laboriously penning formal invitations to the members of the Court to come dine at the Rookery tonight before observing the unbelievably magical amazingness of the United Kingdom’s only oracular duck.

“Of course, I couched it all in slightly more impressive terms.”
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Daniel O'Malleyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Duerden, SusanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
For my father, Bill O'Malley, who read to me at bedtime,
and my mother, Jeanne O'Malley, who read to me the rest of the time.
First words
Dear You,
The body you are wearing used to be mine.
She stood shivering in the rain, watching the words on the letter dissolve under the downpour.
Quotations
According to Thomas, the city had once been a veritable hotbed of manifestations, with every sorcerer, bunyip, golem, goblin, pict, pixie, demon, thylacine, gorgon, moron, cult, scum, mummy, rummy, groke, sphinx, minx, muse, flagellant, diva, reaver, weaver, reaper, scabbarder, scabmettler, dwarf, midget, little person, leprechaun, marshwiggle, totem, soothsayer, truthsayer, hatter, hattifattener, imp, panwere, mothman, shaman, flukeman, warlock, morlock, poltergeist, zeitgeist, elemental, banshee, manshee, lycanthrope, lichenthrope, sprite, wighte, aufwader, harpy, silkie, kelpie, klepto, specter, mutant, cyborg, blrog, troll ogre, cat in shoes, dog in a hat, psychic, and psychotic seemingly having decided that THIS was the hot spot to visit.
Thus, while other members of the organization attain high positions through their remarkable accomplishments in the field, I became a member of the Court simply through my work in the bureaucracy.

Does that sound lame? I'm very, very good. There's not a formal timeline for ascending to the Court. In fact, most people never get in. I am the youngest person in the current Court. I got there after ten years of working in administration. The next-youngest got in after sixteen years of highly dangerous fieldwork. That's how good an administrator I am.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
"Dear You:
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 dead bodies — all wearing latex gloves. With no memory of who she is or how she got there, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and escape those who want to destroy her.

She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-level operative in the Checquy, a secret government agency that protects the world against supernatural threats — from sentient fungus to stampeding ectoplasm — while keeping the populace in the dark. But now there is a mole on the inside, and this person wants Myfanwy dead.

In her quest to save herself and unmask the traitor, Myfanwy will encounter 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 could ever have imagined. And she must learn to harness her own rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability.

Suspenseful and hilarious — "Harry Potter meets Ghostbusters meets War of the WorldsThe Rook is an outrageously inventive debut novel for readers who like their espionage with a dollop of purple slime, or their supernatural thrillers with an agenda and a pencil skirt.

Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316098795, Hardcover)

"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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:17 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A high-ranking member of a secret organization that battles supernatural forces wakes up in a London park with no memory, no idea who she is, and with a letter that provides instructions to help her uncover a far-reaching conspiracy.

» see all 3 descriptions

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