The Rook
By: Daniel O’Malley
Published by: Little, Brown
ISBN: 978-0-316-09879-3

“The body you are wearing used to be mine.” This is the first line of the amazing, page-turning, suspenseful paranormal thriller The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley, coming to a store near you in January of 2012. It’s destined to be one of the most-used first lines in book reviews, and one of the most memorable first lines of any book so far in this decade. To describe the novel as being “way cool,” is accurate, but it downplays just how cool the novel actually is, and it isn’t really a descriptive synopsis of it. This first line comes from a letter that Myfanwy (rhymes with “Tiffany”) Thomas writes to some person whom she hopes will occupy her body and carry on her
work after she has died, though at the time Myfanwy writes the letter, it is far from assured that whomever wakes up in her body will decide to expose her killer(s).

The plot interweaves letters that the Rook Myfanwy Thomas (a high-ranking operative of one of England’s paranormal secret government agencies, the Checquy) has written and the efforts of the person who has taken over her body to convince everyone around her that she is Myfanwy, and expose the traitor in the agency who murdered her. Myfanwy (well, the person who now is in her body) awakes in a London park surrounded by dead bodies all wearing latex gloves. She is battered and has two black eyes, but is alive, which is more than can be said for the bodies around her. Yet, the person inside of
Myfanwy has no recollection of who she is, or was, before her rebirth.

She reads a letter in an envelope marked #1, and like in the movie the Matrix, she is offered a choice: to be established in a safe, comfortable new life with all the money she desires; or, to still be very wealthy, but to live a life of danger as a Rook, one of the most psychically powerful Rooks and members of the Court of the Checquy (though generally speaking, she’s also one of the meekest) who has ever lived, and discover who within the agency has tried to eliminate her.

Myfanwy decides to take the safe route, though she is very intrigued about the whole mystery surrounding the loss of her memory and rebirth, etc., but when she goes to a bank to get the promised funds, she is attacked by more people wearing latex gloves who attempt to inject her with a hyperdermic needle. Under intense pain as one attacked twists her arm, she screams out, and unleashes her powers, leaving her would-be assailants unconscious and/or dead. She then decides on the second, more dangerous, course of assuming the
identity of Myfanwy Thomas.

So begins one of the, as I stated, coolest books of this decade. Myfanwy learns through the letters and a purple binder that her predecessor has left her about her past (Myfanwy’s past, that is) and how she came to be one of the Rooks, and one of the most feared of them, at an early age. She is in an administrative role, but deals with the other Rooks, government officials, and high-ranking officials from other governments, on a daily basis. Myfanwy
is very good at what she does, though she knows that if someone touches her, she can kill them (though, someone touching her is not really necessary–she can kill them or incapacitate them, anyway). She is reluctant to do so, and even seeing someone being tortured to gain information has often made her physically sick to her stomach.

However, the new Myfanwy is different, and relishes her powers. She has to play things low-key, to try to pass herself off as being her old self, but she is much more forceful. The new Myfanwy is not even afraid of the Rook known as Gestalt (one individual but one who occupies four different bodies), who has a hive mentality. Gestalt always is aware of what each of its bodies is doing and saying. Each is like an individual being in some ways, but each is controlled by Gestalt like puppets.

Gestalt is only one of the many unique characters with paranormal abilities the author, O’Malley, writes about in The Rook–there’s also an aristocratic woman who can enter one’s dreams, a person who can sprout tentacles, and many more very original and interesting Checquy agents. Reading about them and how Myfanwy was taken away from her parents and trained in a facility called the Estate makes for a fascinating tale, indeed.

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley is a paranormal Urban Fantasy which I feel is destined to becoming a classic. It’s a very imaginative and original novel, that will keep you awake late into the night wanting to find out what happens to Myfanwy and the other characters next. Besides trying to discover whom her killer(s) is/are, Myfanwy and the Checquy face the rise of the Grafters and others, enemy agencies knocking on the Checquy’s figurative (and literal) gates, intent on taking over the world. If you’re a fan of paranormal Urban Fantasies, The Rook by Daniel O’Malley is a Must Read book.

–Douglas R. Cobb–