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The Rook by Daniel O'Malley

The Rook (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Daniel O'Malley

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1,4741235,057 (4.12)166
Title:The Rook
Authors:Daniel O'Malley
Info:Little, Brown and Company (2012), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 496 pages
Collections:2012, 2016, Your library, Books I own, Favorites
Tags:fiction, fantasy, suspense, humor, horror, supernatural, mystery, history, britain, conspiracies, series: chequy

Work details

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

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» See also 166 mentions

English (121)  German (2)  All (123)
Showing 1-5 of 121 (next | show all)
A supernatural thriller that gets you sucked into a world of paranormal spy agencies that doesn't take itself too seriously, with good writing and is, at times, very funny. What's not to like?

Myfanwy finds herself waking up with no memories - surrounded by dead bodies. Her story, and the story of herself before the memories are lost, is a terrific read that will have you staying up late at night. I'm not sure which was the better story - the post amnesia Myfanwy or the pre-amnesia Myfanwy - but it really doesn't matter.

Evidently this is book one of a series of books, can't wait to read the next one..... ( )
  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
This took me two attempts to really get into, but it definitely repaid the effort.

The main character wakes up with complete amnesia, surrounded by corpses all wearing latex gloves. She doesn't remember who she is, or anything about why this might have happened, and therefore has to deal with these twin problems.

This was partly what delayed my really getting into the book at first; it's quite hard to feel any kind of connection to a person who doesn't know who she is (and also, to be fair, initially didn't seem to be the sort of person I'd go out for a drink with). However, persistence paid off, and although I probably wouldn't go on holiday with the main character, I would probably go so far as a couple of after-work drinks - though the office I work in is less interesting than hers.

The story itself is a romp. One never really doubts that Rook Thomas will win through (apart from anything else, the fact that it's Book 1 of a series can be regarded as a Clue), but the fun is in trying to work out how she will do it - and who, exactly, was responsible for what ended up as a ring of corpses wearing latex gloves.

There are some really funny parts (the bit with the duck, for instance) and some creepy bits (you'll figure that out). There are also some thought-provoking parts: if someone wipes your memories, is the person who wakes up in your head you, or somebody else?

This is a book to enjoy when you want mind-candy, but you don't mind finding tentacles in it. ( )
  T_K_Elliott | Mar 12, 2017 |
Myfanwy Thomas awakes in the middle of the night, surrounded by bodies, with no memory of what has happened or knowledge of who she is. However, she possesses a letter which introduces Myfanwy to her identity prior to the incident and warns her of the grave danger she is in. So begins her journey into the world of the Chequy, the covert agency dedicated to protecting Britain from supernatural threats, as Myfanwy navigates her new reality with the written guidance of her predecessor and investigates the attempt on her life.

I'm a little in awe of the mind of O'Malley. The overwhelming breadth of this novel, the intricacy of the superbly crafted Chequy Group, and the indelible, witty Myfanwy Thomas. I'll admit to being intimidated by the sheer size of The Rook and to feeling an initial hesitancy over the paragraph after paragraph of details and backstory. And yet, I was completely engrossed by marvelous Myfanwy, her bizarre predicament, and the enchanting British agency she works for. There's an unexpected level of delightfully dry wit in both the characters and the dialogue which leant itself admirably to holding my interest through such a lengthy, intricate tome. O'Malley's debut, The Rook, is ambitious, inventive, and uniquely thrilling. ( )
  GennaC | Mar 5, 2017 |
Extremely gimmicky secret agent stuff not for me. ( )
  fhudnell | Jan 31, 2017 |
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. ( )
1 vote stellarexplorer | Dec 24, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 121 (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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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.
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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Wikipedia in English (2)

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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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