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Book Review: Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook

Myfanwy (the w is silent) Thomas has no memory of why she is surrounded by dead people wearing rubber gloves. So starts the story told by Daniel O’Malley in The Rook. The Rook is a paranormal sci-fi / fantasy about covert British (and American) operatives who have supernatural abilities and deal with supernatural phenomena.

The story follows Myfanwy as she slowly discovers who she is. Who she is is a member of said paranormal agency, holding a position known as a Rook. She has been attacked and her memories stolen. Fortunately for Myfanwy, her former self had some prewarning that she was going to lose her memory. So the prior Myfanwy Thomas left the new Myfanwy Thomas a series of letters explaining all that she knew.

The story then delves into Myfanwy trying to reassimilate herself into the Chequy, Britian’s paranormal super group. The telling is, for the most part, a third person narrative of Myfanwy’s experiences as she tries to uncover who attacked her, only to discover that it was someone within the Chequy itself.

Myfanwy’s character is very well developed as is the overarching plot. During the course of the story the reader will be very interested in what a paper pusher for a powerful government organization will do next or cope with the next hurdle thrown in her path. Most of the characters are very well conceived, personality wise, if even they are only given treatment sparsely throughout the book. The author does not seem to mince very many words or get overly heavy on the prose, and that makes The Rook a fairly easy read.

Where the story suffers is on four fronts. First are the bizarre, and completely random, switches from Myfanwy’s point of view. They are so few, and so awkward, that I honestly don’t know why they were used. Anything communicated through them could have been communicated via Myfanwy’s point of view observations. One of these late in the book is clearly only an attempt to hide information from the reader once the Rook discovers who tried to do her in. That is just in poor taste if you ask me. An author should never use POV switches to deliberately hide things from the reader.

The second fault I had was when the author used Myfanwy’s letters to impart huge blocks of wholly unnecessary back story. For example, there was this whole thing about a dragon and it’s being born, but it seemed completely superfluous to the story. To me, it felt like many of these occurrences could have been worked into the dialogue better.

Thirdly was some of the weird, and very loosely described abilities some of the people had. They almost seemed just too cartoonish to believe. Others were very good and believable however.

Fourthly was the far too over the top bad guy who gets introduced towards the end. Prototypical “insane” arch-villain who likes to monologue pretty much sums him up.

Well, looking past those things, The Rook was not a book that was bad by any stretch of the imagination. I think that it tells a compelling story that fans of light sci-fi and fantasy set in the “real” world can lose themselves in. It is a fairly easy read and not your typical, boring paranormal book about vampires. Although there are vampires in the book. If you’re one of those people who get upset about course language and violence it won’t be for you, but for people who don’t get hung up on those sorts of issues, I suggest that you might want to read The Rook.

I give The Rook 3.5 out of five stars.

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