Last year, my boyfriend bought me a book called “The Rook: A Novel”, by Daniel O’Mally. I wrote up this summary as soon as I finished reading it, but didn’t get around to posting it until now. Woops!
The concept for The Rook is pretty straightforward – X-Men meets James Bond. The story centers around Myfanwy Thomas, a 30-something living in London, and her work with the secret government organization called the Cheque, which trains operatives gifted with special abilities to defend against supernatural threats to England.
The story opens when a woman wakes up one day, to find herself surrounded by dead bodies, all of which are wearing latex gloves. Just to make things worse, she has no memory of anything prior to that moment. She finds, in her jacket pocket, a letter addressed “To You”, The letter informs her that the body had previously been inhabited by a woman named Myfanwy Thomas, who was employed by a secret government organization, and that somebody is trying to get rid of her.
The letter also offers her a choice: escape – start a new life, with an assumed identity, and enough money to live out the rest of her days in relative comfort. Or, she can assume Myfanwy’s identity in order to find out who had been targeting her, and bring them to justice.
The story is told from the first person perspective, from the point of view of the main character, Myfanwy Thomas. However, since she’s an amnesiac, and you learn about the fictional world at the same time she does, you wind up missing out on a lot of information. But fear not, Myfanwy wrote herself letters before losing her memory, that explain everything that you, and Myfanwy by proxy, may need to know about Cheque and the supernatural world! Hooray!
I promise, it’s not actually all that complicated, and it works remarkably well. It gives you a very good feel for the two distinct personalities of Myfanwy past and present.
The stories pacing is good – it takes the time to develop characters, and lets things happens at their own pace, while still keeping things interesting.
The lead is a strong, believable female character (despite the strangeness of her surroundings). She’s smart, and capable, with a no nonsense attitude. She is surrounded with equally smart, capable, interesting , funny women. There’s even a collection of non-white characters, who manage to not feel like tokens. The writing is excellent, running the gambit from thrilling to hilarious, and even terrifying at times.
Sometimes, and this is going to sound a little strange, Myfanwy is a little too competent. You’d think that someone with amnesia would make some mistakes every now and then – would fail to excel at everything she attempts. But no. She’s just too cool for that.
I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone I meet. It’s cool, funny, kinda creepy, and just utterly well written. I mean seriously, what bad can you say about a book where the only real complaint you have is “this person is a little too good at what they do!”
The Rook is a winner. It earns a solid “A”. Awesome. The world would be a much better place if all fiction strove to be this good. Get yourself a copy, get one for your friends, your boyfriend or girlfriend, your mom and dad. Heck, get one for your dog. It’s that good.