Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
Within O’Malley’s The Rook there is an interesting blending of two fairly popular genres. The first is the spy novel. We are treated to secrecy and intrigue at the highest levels, impersonations, investigations, and infiltrations abound and sufficient baddies and brawls to sate followers of Ian Fleming’s notorious 007. Second, elements of urban fantasy/paranormal, which seems to continue in popularity.

The Rook opens out protagonist (Myfanwy Thomas) coming to in a rainy park with no memory of who she is or why she is so bruised and sore, seemingly from fighting, and surrounded by dead bodies. In fact, only a note from her past even lets Myfanwy even know her name and that her memory and even her personality have been erased. As she tries to grasp what happened and find out who is behind it, we learn that is a high level member of the Checquy, an organization that battles supernatural threats to Britain. As Thomas struggles to impersonate past, wiped-personality, she also learns that there is a plot afoot to overthrow not only the Checquy group, but to also invade England. To make matters worse, it is someone within the Checquy leadership that attacked Thomas and the plot to take over England.
Initially, the concept of this supernatural organization feels a bit like a spin-off of the X-men, with some powers that seem just odd. However, O’Malley does introduce a character by the name of Gestalt, who is one mind in control of 4 bodies and does some rather interesting things with the concept.

Stylistically, we are subjected to letters from the old Thomas giving useful but ill-timed information right as the new Thomas is about to start something dangerous. The effect is very similar to mini-cliffhanger commercial breaks in TV shows.
While The Rook does have the feel of a debut novel, it is still an entertaining read. Also, with some more experience and polish, I can easily see O’Malley taking this spy/paranormal/fantasy genre some very interesting and fun places.

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