There’s something about chess that appeals to my inner strategist. Grant it, I’m no savant; there are kids at my library who would put me to shame. But I can play and this might be why The Rook caught my eye. That and the fact that it involves the supernatural–I’m a sucker for sci-fi/fantasy.
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley is full of secret societies, amnesia, intrigue, betrayal and quite a bit of ass kicking. The book begins with Myfanwy Thomas standing outside in the rain, surrounded by corpses and no memory of who she is. But Myfanwy isn’t completely on her own. In the pocket of her coat she finds a letter from herself with instructions on being Myfanwy Thomas and how to find the people who stole her memory.
Myfanwy can remember how to function; she knows who the English Prime Minister is and many day to day facts but she has no clue who she is and all her memories are gone. So it comes as quite a surprise when Myfanwy finds out she is a Rook–one of eight leaders of a massive secret organization that keeps England safe from the paranormal.
Forced to adopt a persona she doesn’t remember, Myfanwy’s only guide are letters from her lost self. Can Myfanwy uncover her would-be murderer, run a secret organization and deal with her own supernatural powers all while keeping her amnesia a secret?
This book had a lot of elements that appealed to me. There was a lot of action that kept the story going. Each of the characters were unique and had their own personalities. There was a good bit of world building and detailing. And even though elements were archetypal, it had a unique premise that I haven’t read before.
Myfanwy is the star of this show. She is what I imagine a woman with no memory would be like, if they were thrust into the supernatural and told someone was trying to kill them. She’s sarcastic, funny, terrified, smart and just a wee bit unbalanced. She’s got that “oh… what they hell” attitude that I wish my logical mind would adopt. At one point she looks at her fellow leader and says, “You look like sex in boots!” Wow.
I did not, however fully enjoy the letters from pre-amnesia Myfanwy. These were often long interludes which somewhat stalled the story for me. Don’t get me wrong, the story needs these letters, the background they afford, but they could have been condensed. It’s one of those moments where you understand why they writer did it that way and you have no idea what could make it better, but it was just the interruption to the pace that got to me.
One thing this book succeeded at was the merging of fantasy and lore. There were so many pieces of different fantasy stories here that one would expect to be overwhelmed, but it works. There are vampires, psychic ducks, a hundred different mutant like powers, poltergeists… you get it. The Rook’s plot allowed all of these elements to work together wonderfully.
Overall, this was a fun read. I’m curious about the sequel and am hoping there are no more letters in it. The book is shelved in YA in our library but Myfanwy is in her late 20’s and other then having a currently popular YA genre, I’d consider it an adult read that would be appropriate for teens.
That’s all for now!