What is ‘The Rook’?
The Rook is a paranormal crime thriller that blends together the best of British and American ideas. It may not have a particularly British flavour. Yet the novel is set in Britain and features a mix of monsters and characters as bizarre as any from Doctor Who.
As far as any comparisons go it has the hybrid tone of any paranormal novel and The Bourne Identity. Of course, one such series of novels are the adventures of Harry Dresden in The Dresden Files. Or you could more aptly compare this to the adventures of Mercedes Thompson in Moon Called. Yet, where many other novels have featured a male lead with magical abilities. Or a glamorous female lead, with love interests, this novel follows its own mysterious path.
The main character, whom Daniel O’Malley creates in The Rook, is a fascinating individual. Myfanwy (she pronounces it Miffany) Thomas, awakes in London, with the corpses of individuals wearing latex gloves surrounding her. So naturally she checks to find out who she is. And in the process discovers that she herself, before she lost her memory and identity, had known she would lose this identity. Which meant that the result would mean that someone within her organisation had treacherously tried to kill her. Of course, this new Myfanwy has a choice: assume the life of the old Myfanwy Thomas or vanish off and attempt to live a new life. Herein lies the entire fun of the book.
Have you ever had no idea as to what you were meant to be doing?
Well this is precisely what happens to the new Myfanwy Thomas. However, she is meant to be in charge of organising the logistics for a secret agency (think MI5 or the CIA). An agency organised around a chessboard. With the positions of two rooks, two bishops, two chevaliers and a lord and lady. One cannot simply go around calling the leaders ‘king’ and ‘queen’ given the state of the monarchy after all.
This is a secret agency focused around defeating paranormal activity. While also preventing normal English citizens from finding out about this. So naturally there are individuals in the organisation with unique powers and abilities – which makes everything both bizarre and fascinating. Thomas not only has to learn her role, but discover a killer and traitor to the country and court.
The way in which O’Malley blends together his story with the modern discoveries of Thomas, along with old notes about the organisation of the Checquy (pronounced Sheck-guy) is very clever. The writing could be seen as too clever. Readers may see it as snarky, sarcastic or pretentious in its own right. Hence, if you dislike sarcasm or anything you would see as pretentious writing it may not be your cup of tea.
On the other hand, if you like cinematic blockbuster novels this may be your cup of coffee. There is the main character, another well-written female character. Mifanwy is a metaphor for human self-discovery. After all she is virtually ‘born anew’ into this world. And she is a metaphor for any profound spiritual encounter. If said encounter caused you to join a secret agency.
Even beyond the fun adventure therefore there are some fascinating morals in this novel. There are thematic ideas subtly woven into everything across this narrative. For these reasons I thoroughly recommend picking up this novel and reading it.
Themes and Ideas8.5 /10
Unique Plot, Characters or Worlds9.0 /10
- Cleverly written
- Brilliant debut
- Highly entertaining story and unique world/characters
- Some might see the writing
- Some might see the book as lacking full depth and not capitalising on its full potential
- Needs a television show or film version