Review – The Rook – Daniel O’Malley

The Rook

Hello Internet. Welcome back for Review #36. And while I ignore the topic of conversation which is the Teaser as I formulate another experimental form of bonus content, here’s a Fantasy Novel!

Right, let me brush off this coating of purple mould from my jacket lapel and let’s get to work. The Rook, hey (*ding*, 14)? An interesting mix of the Bourne Identity, James Bond and Harry Potter’s Ministry of Magic, The Rook reads like a spy novel and struts along like a political thriller whilst having the balls normally reserved for a second-rate teen sci-fi novel about to get a gratuitous and inevitably horrid movie adaptation. And let me tell you those organs are not misplaced, as the Rook might as well have a fucking neon cover designed as a British flag being draped with stylistic brain-fluid-pink slime and eldritch tentacles poking holes through it. And if someone actually does make that freaking awesome book cover idea a reality let me know, you’ll find my number on my card (from halfway through the deck, of course). That’s an Ace of Spades by the way, just for the pun-impaired. And yes I know cerebrospinal fluid is clear.

Our protagonist awakes without a memory surrounded by bodies wearing rubber surgical gloves. No, they aren’t into BDSM or have a doctor kink, it’s just that she’s a part of a major national organisation dedicated to preventing Britain from ever being invaded by supernatural forces who want to destroy London and the Belgians, and thanks to a magical power she has inherited with her new body she can’t touch people. Yeah, it’s that kind of book. And I have to say, O’Malley has definitely captured the right style to use whilst writing this book. Which is to say, refreshing and completely and utterly without regard for any sense the reader might have for what is going on. You know how I normally dislike framing devices? Well, let me learn you a thing (yes that was intentional Engrish, I can tumblr with the best of them).

The story is told between “flashbacks” (or the novel equivalent), where the late Myfanwy Thomas (Miff-un-ee. Yeah, completely butchering the proper pronunciation) leaves letters for the new, amnesiac Myfanwy who is attempting to run the day-to-day operations of a complicated and surreal organisation called the Checquy (don’t ask about the pronunciation). And this means that, like Myfanwy II, the audience figures out things about the lore and plot devices as the letters are read. Leaving massive questions, like how the hell this Checquy organisation actually functions, up in the air like a pizza maker with tremendous skill manages to levitate a circle of dough. Honestly, how do they make those things stay airborne?

But look. There are some things wrong with this novel. It manages to incite annoyance over the rather old-hat idea of an amnesiac hero, which has been a videogame staple since videogames found out about RPGs, and overused a couple of months after that date. Not to mention the whiplash you get from splitting between things which have already happened and things happening in “real-time”, which should not be an excuse to pad this sense with exposition. C’mon, show don’t tell.

The Rook was published in 2012 by Hachette Book Group. It can be found on Amazon here.

Yours: J.M. Pear

Review – The Rook – Daniel O’Malley