The Rook (The Checquy Files #1) by Daniel O’Malley
Published by Little, Brown and Company on January 11, 2012
Genres: Fantasy / Pages: 486
Format: Book / Source: Gifted
Rating: 5 stars
This is one of the best urban fantasies I have ever read!*
“The body you are wearing used to be mine.” So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.
She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.
In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.
Filled with characters both fascinating and fantastical, The Rook is a richly inventive, suspenseful, and often wry thriller that marks an ambitious debut from a promising young writer.
*My friends were passing this book around and gave it to me with the description “It’s like Harry Potter meets James Bond.” Sign me up!!!
The main characters
Myfanwy (pronounced like T-iffany with an M) Thomas wakes up in the middle of a park, surrounded by unconscious men wearing latex gloves, and with no memory of who she is. Inside her coat pocket is a note marked “To you” from her former self that gives her two options: she can run away from whatever happened to her and hopefully lead a peaceful life or she can pretend to be the real Myfanwy and try to find out who betrayed her and stole her memory. Obviously she chooses to run away (because she is a smart bunny) until she gets attacked AGAIN and awakens her gift to manipulate people’s bodies to narrowly escape. Now she’s mad and wants answers. Thus begins our adventure into the world of the Checquy Group.
The Checquy Group is the UK’s paranormal government agency that protects and hides paranormal occurrences and people from everyday human knowledge. I’m listing them as a character, because there are SO MANY interesting and intriguing people that affect Myfanwy that it would be confusing to list them all out of context (it is not confusing when you read the book though). The leaders of the Checquy are the Lord and Lady, the two Bishops, the two Chevaliers and the two Rooks. Myfanwy is a Rook – and it was one of the other leaders who betrayed her.
Ingrid is Myfanwy’s secretary who has no supernatural abilities, but is still a great support system for her Rook. Even when bad events and betrayals start to come to light, Ingrid is always at Myfanwy’s side. I included her in this list, because I honestly don’t think Myfanwy would have survived the story without her!
The good stuff
- The paranormal world is phenomenally different than what I expected. None of your traditional Earth/Water/Fire magic here (which is my preferred form of candy, but sometimes it’s nice to switch it up), the “gifts” are specific to the person and while research is being done to figure out how they work – the answer is that they still don’t know. While that may bother some readers, I fell in love with the pure variety of gifts that I didn’t care how it worked. There’s Gestalt who is one mind in control of four different bodies, Shantay who can turn her skin into a kind of metal armor, Grantchester whose body oozes a chemical mist that he can manipulate into different formulas, and that’s just a few!
- A lot of the world building and character background information is given via letters from the pre-amnesia Myfanwy to the new Myfanwy. The pre-amnesia Myfanwy kept being approached by people on the street telling her that she would wake up not knowing who she was. At first, like most people, she ignored them, but as it kept happening, she decided to take precautions and wrote out instructions/details for herself in case she did lose her memory (carrot points for the smart bunny). These letters are really conversational in tone and FUN TO READ. At least for me. 🙂
- Then there is ALL OF THE FIGHTING. There are lots of supernatural battles in this book. Not every page mind you, but once one situation has been cleared up another jumps out of the basement and starts wreaking havoc. Mix that with the suspense of searching for who betrayed her and there were a lot of times I was screaming “TELL ME WHO IT IS NOOOOOOOWWWW!!”
The bad stuff
I loved every minute of this book.
My book club cohorts who don’t like fantasy (and who I “made” read this book anyway) really enjoyed it, but thought the middle section of the book was slower than the start and the ending. -> that was it. I think that is high praise!
PLEASE TELL ME IF YOU HAVE READ THIS BOOK SO WE CAN FANGIRL TOGETHER!!! If you haven’t read this book, what books do you bombard your friends and family with it until they read them??