THE ROOK by Daniel O'Malley


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Secret agents as Rooks and Pawns? Plausible, since Checquy Group "is a paranormal version of Britain's MI5."

In O'Malley's fantasy debut, Myfanwy Thomas awakens in a London park, chilled, wet, suffering amnesia and surrounded by dead people wearing latex gloves. In her pocket are letters from her past self, a self who understood she was in peril of memory loss and possible assassination. The letters are plans for her body's future. With that, Myfanwy (rhymes with Tiffany) discovers she is a Rook in employ of the Checquy, an organization in service of Britain since ancient times. Checguy has field agents called Pawns who are overseen by Rooks, Bishops and Lords. Each has a supernatural power, as exampled by the Pawn able to "breathe cyanide and sweat tear gas." Employing more letters and dossiers left by her former self, Myfanwy-without-memory takes her place in Checquy, attempting to suss out who she is, what she does and who wants her dead. She learns she is a high-level administrator, her supernatural power being mind control, but with a personality more forceful than formerly, she attracts the attention of her Rook counterpart, the disturbing Gesalt, one personality alive in four bodies. Myfanwy soon earns kudos protecting Britain against the antler cult, a houseful of goop and a villain manifesting as a roomful of human flesh. However, it is only after she uncovers the ancient Wetenschappeljik Broederschap van Natuurkundigen of Brussels—the Grafters—that she finds clues leading to the Checguy traitor who robbed her of her memory. With O'Malley using first-Myfanwy's letters to provide history and backstory, second-Myfanwy grows into her hero-role and other characters are revealed as suitably creepy in the right and wrong ways. O'Malley's narrative is peppered with sly humor, referential social commentary and the ironic, double-layered self-awareness that will have genre fans believing Buffy the Vampire Slayer has joined Ghostbusters.

No clairvoyance required to recognize there will be more outlier reports from Myfanwy, Rook of the Checquy.



Pub Date: Jan. 11th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-316-09879-3
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2011


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