The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

Published January 11th, 2012 by Little, Brown and Company

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“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.

Rating (out of 5):


I was very excited about this book before I read it.  It has an interesting and exciting premise.  Someone “waking up” in the middle of a bunch of dead bodies with no idea who they are, how they got there, or just what the hell is going on.  Then they discover a letter to themselves saying “Yes, I knew this would happen…someone is trying to kill you, you need to find out who and why.”  THEN you add into that, this woman works in the high rank of Rook for an organization that investigates supernatural occurrences.  Anyone who knows even a little about me would know that at this point I’m practically drooling over the thought of this book.  Unfortunately I failed to enjoy anything in this book past about chapter six.  This book’s main problem was an inexperienced author who had no comprehension of knowing how to structure a story well and an editor who fell asleep at the wheel.

My first sticking point with this book was the main character’s name.  The author shouldn’t have to tell me that MyFawny rhymes with Tiffany.  Which isn’t even the proper pronunciation of the name, which the character even says more than once!  It’s just a weird name.  Every time I saw it the same thought ran through my head, my fanny.  Every single time!  It always just made me give a little snort of laughter and I couldn’t get over it.

Then there was the letters and communications from “Thomas”, which is what MyFawny calls her personality from before the amnesia.  At first this information was interesting and I thought we were edging closer to figuring out who tried to kill her.  But after awhile the information was not interesting anyone.  I found myself yelling at the book about how much I didn’t care and could we please get back to the plot!  It only got worse when the author started interrupting action scenes with these info vomit sections. Quite literally the battle is going on, bodies are falling, people are being attacked, and we get treated to 10 pages about dragons that proved to be related to the main plot…well not at all.  I literally fell asleep 4 times in the middle of this information vomiting.

I also had a problem with the female point of view.  It was just off and wrong and felt awkward.  For example, right after the wake up to amnesia MyFawny stands in front of a mirror assessing the quality of her breasts and showing appreciation at her lack of cellulite.  Now, being a woman and knowing a lot of women, I can tell you that women do not behave this way!  In another circumstance MyFawny gains control over someone’s body who is trying to stab people and her first thought is “oh she’s on her period.”  Again, really?  Then we also had a huge problem with MyFawny CONSTANTLY belittling and passively aggressively attacking women who she thought were attractive.  Referring to them as bitchy or hoping they slept their way to the top and were really idiots.  Most women don’t feel that way.  I started to wonder if the author had ever even talked to a woman because he can’t write one.

Now we have the fact that this is set in London, but half the book sounded entirely American.  For example, MyFawny orders blueberry pancakes.  Now, my fiance lives in England and I asked him about this, and he has never really ever seen pancakes at all on a menu unless it was a restaurant that sported an American menu.  Other Americanisms abound like couch instead of sofa, lunch instead of dinner, dinner instead of tea, cell phone instead of mobile, sidewalk instead of pavement.  It just was terribly obvious.  It was even written with American spellings.  The author is Australian so there’s no reason the spelling couldn’t at least be more accurate.  Then about halfway through the book it turned into “Bloody hell where did I put my mobile!?”  It was such a shocking change I actually did a double take.

Finally, the plot was a mess.  The main point, according to the synopsis, was to find MyFawny’s would be assassin.  That was largely ignored and the plot didn’t progress at all until it miraculously got solved in the last 50 pages.  Instead we had this totally different plot entirely, which frankly wasn’t very interesting.  By the time we got to the ending I just wanted it to be over, I wasn’t looking forward to anything and then it just got more depressing.  The ending was so cliched that I just started to laugh hysterically and couldn’t stop myself.  The bad guy kidnaps MyFawny just so that he can have her explain how she found him out and so that he can gloat about his evil deeds.  Then she miraculously turns the situation around and saves herself!  Excuse while I wipe a tear from my eye, the hysterical laughter is back.

This book was just bad, there is no other word for it.  It has a fascinating premise and a few really good characters but all of that amounted to nothing.  Right now this is not planned for a series, and I think that is the right move to make.  Please, I beg you, just let it end here.