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The Rook: A Novel by Daniel O'Malley
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The Rook: A Novel (2012)

by Daniel O'Malley

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Checquy Files (1)

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Showing 1-5 of 117 (next | show all)
This is the kind of book that makes me feel extremely curmudgeonly. It's highly rated on LT, though I did not read the reviews before writing this. Promising premise: women wakes under mysterious circumstances, having lost all memory of her identity and previous life. But she finds a letter in her pocket with emergency instructions. The previous inhabitant of her body knew she had an enemy, and that the result would be that she would awaken in this state of amnesia.

This was the highlight, and it is unfortunate that the momentum and attention created were not maintained. This might have been an edgy story of sustained tension and an emerging battle for survival and identity-seeking. But it is not. It is something roughly in the "Urban Fantasy" realm or thereabouts, and things rapidly morph from a convincing thriller into a corny and jocular tale of the paranormal that does not seek to be taken seriously.

Let me put my bias up front: I don't care for parody and humor if done in a way that prevents me from buying into the reality of the book-world. Do you like razor-teethed henchmen? Skinless sacs of sentient fluids? Multi-spinal villains who cannot be stopped by the severing of a single vertebral column? Some of these inventions are creative, but in totality they are more in fun, and I found it quite impossible to maintain any suspension of disbelief at all.

Another insurmountable difficulty for me was the matter of the back story. This is a book in which the amnesiac protagonist needed to bone up on truckloads of history: her own, that of all her potential collaborators and enemies, and the intricacies of the centuries-old organization in which she was a major figure. Massive info-dumps in the form of letters from her previous self were frequent and tedious. Perhaps she might have discovered these things in some other way? The previous identity becomes in large part a vehicle for conveying information in a mechanical way that lacked subtlety, and further interrupted immersion in the ongoing narrative.

This is not to say that I didn't enjoy it at all. The central conceit, woman with partial self- and historical knowledge attempts to soldier on in the face of danger, still had some charm. But ultimately this was not enough to carry the story. The whole thing had jarring elements of parody and silliness that made it impossible to take seriously. Crediting the author, one can only assume this was the spirit in which it was written. But it didn't work for me, and the promising start made that a disappointment. ( )
  stellarexplorer | Dec 24, 2016 |
The only reason this isn't getting a 5star from me is because I'm not sure about its re-readability. If I ever re-read this, and like it as much as I did this time, I'll be bumping it up to 5.

The writing was clean and tight. No spelling gaffs, or grammatical errors or awkward sentence structures to pull you out of the story. this was written well, then even better, EDITED well. with the influx of indies, good editing shows, sadly.

The story. Mysterious, engaging, cool, neat and wraps up well. Thankfully Mr. O'Malley doesn't spend time on WHY the Rook has lost her memory, it is just an event that catapults the story forward.

The humor. I was grinning for a lot of this book. Not laughing out loud, or rolling on the floor, but grinning. Wise-ass humor was rife and I loved it. Oh thank God."Not to worry, it's not a weird monster. It's just three rotting dead people. Page 290 ebook edition
How can you NOT love humor like that?

Characters. Good, bad, mean, nice, nasty, innocent, naive and disgusting. They were all there and nobody was a cookie cutter throwaway. Given, some characters had more facetime and were developed on a deeper level, but everyone felt like a real person, not just a name with some actions attached to them." ( )
  BookstoogeLT | Dec 10, 2016 |
Perhaps one of the best & most enthralling original novels I've read in a very long time. Now shall be including among my faves. ( )
  izohgore | Nov 28, 2016 |
Suspense, mystery, a strong female lead, paranormal, humor. The Rook has it all. Myfanwy (pronounced like Tiffany with an M instead of a T) Thomas wakes up in a park surrounded by dead bodies. She has total amnesia. Her life is in danger. Help comes from the most unexpected place, a letter in her jacket pocket.

Through that first letter in her jacket pocket, Myfanwy discovers her name and takes the first steps to save her life. A series of numbered envelopes, each containing another batch of information, and a purple binder are all she has to guide her. The only person she can trust is the author of the letters and creator of the binder, herself. “Forewarned is forearmed” take on a whole new meaning in The Rook.

The story kept my interest to the point where I stayed up very late at night just to finish the book. The mystery of how Myfanwy lost her memory was wrapped in the mystery of what did she actually know that made her a target. She is surrounded by spies, literally. She works for the Checquy , the paranormal equivalent of MI5. Think James Bond but much, much cooler. The author’s use of the letters and the binder to provide backstories was genius. Myfanwy is one of the best written females I have ever encountered. Due to the amnesia, she is an evolving personality and it is marvelous to watch. The paranormal aspects of the story were great. There were the old favorites, like a vampire, but some very fresh and surprising superpowers.

The narration and production values were first rate. Susan Duerden did an excellent job. She brings that right amount of sinister, humor or decency to each character. She did the main character, both before and after amnesia, with very subtle shading and inflection. She did multiple women, each with their own voice. Her men were fantastic. Really fantastic. Her accents were also extremely well done. Myfanwy has several conversations with a Belgian “gentleman”. Had I read those exchanges I would have been somewhat amused. Hearing Ms. Duerdan narrate them I was laughing out loud.

I purchased The Rook in January of 2014 at my son’s advice (It is one of his favorite books). I finally listened to it. As a “mea culpa” to not trusting my son’s recommendations, I will be pre-ordering the audiobook format of the sequel as soon as it is available.
  nhalliwell | Nov 13, 2016 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 117 (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 editionscalculated
Duerden, SusanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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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