The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It's refreshing to find a book that takes familiar tropes like super secret government agencies and the supernatural, and makes them its own. The Rook is one of those. But while just that might appeal to urban fantasy fans and thriller fans alike, the best part about this book is the character Rook Myfawny Thomas.
The book opens with a letter written by Myfawny for Myfawny because she has lost her memories. This set up gives the reader the unique opportunity of getting to know pre-memory wipe Myfawny (Myfawny 1.0) and post-memory wipe Myfawny (Myfawny 2.0) since the rest of the book is littered with letters that Rook Thomas has written to her new self.
Myfawny 1.0 is a mousy woman. Physically she is nothing special with average looks and a petite build. Despite the power to control the nervous system of living things, she prefers administrative work over anything else. In essence, she is the head paper pusher of a secret organization called the Checquy who will cry if you speak to her too loud. O'Malley does a fascinating job with Myfawny 1.0. The reader never meets her, yet knows all her insecurities and fears while reading the letters of a highly intelligent person who never quite lived up to her full potential. I found myself feeling bad for her and regretting her inevitable fate. It's even sadder knowing that it couldn't be prevented because then we wouldn't be reading this fabulous book.
But what opens her eyes in the rain is amazing.
Myfawny 2.0 possesses all the strengths of version 1, but lacks all the fears and insecurities that held her back. She is resilient and capable from the moment she makes her first memories. Version 2 is very much her own character. She likes her coffee different and dislikes the dour wardrobe left behind for her. She's assertive and just as intelligent. O'Malley makes this paper pusher a certifiable bad ass. She might not be able to handle a gun, but she knows everyones secrets. The best part, she felt real. Myfawny is multifaceted coming across as both a woman and a professional without having to tower over people in heels or manipulate them with words. Her greatest asset is her brain and she uses it. This is an urban fantasy character that was very much needed.
The rest of O'Malley's world is just as well developed. I don't want to give too much of it away here because that would ruin the learning curve that both the reader and Myfawny 2.0 must develop. I'll say that the supernatural feel in the book is closer to that of X-Men due to the major variance in the characters' powers.
As for the Checquy, O'Malley has done a thorough job creating an organization to help quell supernatural threats with a rich history and a straightforward hierarchy. While it might have been tempting to show the organization from the combat perspective, the reader sees it from the view of a quiet bureaucrat. Don't let that disparage you, there is plenty of action.
The reason why I give it four stars is that I feel the ending was a bit rushed. Either than that, this book was handled nicely. I highly recommend and look forward to reading whatever else this writer produces.
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