Wow! What a debut for novelist Daniel O’Malley. I was in the bookstore a few weeks ago and picked up this gem of a novel just on a whim. The title and cover intrigued me, and the information on the inner flaps piqued my interest. By the time I was 10-15 pages into The Rook, I was hooked.
In The Rook, O’Malley deftly weaves a story of supernatural intrigue around his female protagonist, Myfawny (like Tiffany, but with an M) Thomas. Myfawny wakes up with a bruised and battered face, and with four bodies surrounding her. The thing is, she has no clue as to what happened; as a matter of fact, Myfawny has no memory of anything that has occurred in her life prior to her waking up.
She eventually begins to uncover pieces of her past through a series of letters…letters that have been left for her by the previous inhabitant of her body, who knew ahead of time that she would be losing her memory and leaving her body behind. Through these letters, Myfawny comes to realize that she is part of a secret, supernatural organization named the Chequey that protects the United Kingdom from supernatural forces, and that she has lived and trained with this organization since she was a small child. Not only has she, for the most part, been with the Chequey since she was very small, but Myfawny learns that she has a high ranking position (she is called a Rook, Rook Thomas to be exact) within this powerful, supernatural organization that is set up like a chess hierarchy (pawns, rooks, bishops, chevaliers—instead of knights, and the lord and lady—in the place of the king and queen). More shockingly, Myfawny realizes that she has supernatural powers herself as do all of the higher ranked members of the Chequey’s “Court”. Or ruling body. What exactly are her superpowers? She can control the nervous systems of others, well, most others.
The Court is central to the book, and central to the protection of the U.K. The court keeps intelligence on the various supernatural enemies of the United Kingdom, some of whom can fill homes with mold……and that is the least of the court’s worries. Fortunately for the members of the court, they all have powers of their own, such as the ability to enter one’s dreams and to be split into four bodies. These and other powers allow the court to keep enemies at bay, or do they?
After a while, Myfawny realizes that someone close to her is behind the attack on her that caused her memory loss? Could that someone be a member of the Court with whom she closely works? After a while, Myfawny finds herself in a race against time…..and in a race for her life.
O’Malley brings, in The Rook, a world rich in fantasy, but also a world rich in action, suspense, and even some political maneuvering. It is a book that a wide range of readers will no doubt find highly appealing. Give The Rook a try; you will not regret it. — Duke Foster