Oh my giddy aunt. This book is nothing short of superb. Like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, this story is simultaneously cerebral and highly entertaining. I’m not talking high brow intellectualism. I’m talking about assassination via tea kettle. F&@king fantastic. O’Malley does a mind bending job of creating a character inhabiting a recently involuntarily vacated body. She’s empathetic, but fierce in her drive for survival and her loyalty. There are times when you will completely forget that there used to be a different person in Myfanwy Thomas’ body, sometimes because of the plot twists and sometimes because of the new Myfanwy. What’s incredible about this book is the level of investment for both versions of Myfanwy, in no small part because of how much the old version cared about the new version. (In writing this, I’m already getting bogged down with Myfanwy versions and yet O’Malley wrote 482 pages without once getting bogged down. This is yet another reason this book is so remarkable.)
Myfanwy Thomas awakes in a London park surrounded by dead bodies. With her memory gone, her only hope of survival is to trust the instructions left in her pocket by her former self. She quickly learns that she is a Rook, a high-level operative in a secret agency that protects the world from supernatural threats. But there is a mole inside the organization and this person wants her dead.
As Myfanwy battles to save herself, she encounters a person with four bodies, a woman who can enter her dreams, children transformed into deadly fighters, and an unimaginably vast conspiracy. Suspenseful and hilarious, THE ROOK is an outrageously inventive debut for readers who like their espionage with a dollop of purple slime.
I think the part of the story that amazes me the most was the inclusion of Old Myfanwy’s letters to New Myfanwy. (Version problem solved. *grin*) In the hands of some writers, they would have been nothing short of torture. In O’Malley’s hands, they were informative, helpful, compelling, touching, and did so very much to add to the sense of urgency. There were times when I saw italics and yelled at the book because I needed to know what happened next too badly to wait through a letter, but then I’d read the first few paragraphs of the letter and my brain would shift my concern onto a backburner and focus on whatever Old Myfanwy was talking about. It surprised me a little bit every time it happened, but then I would smile and nod my thanks to Mr. O’Malley and re-apply my eyes to the page. The letters are an incredible tool of exposition that every writer would be lucky to have. Curious about Character X? Here’s my dossier on him written in tidy curlicues. I found myself looking forward to the letters because I was enormously curious about the secret supernatural semi-independent department of the British Government and the people who would populate it.
As to those people, O’Malley’s ensemble of characters is downright lovely. They are charmingly quirky in a way that only the supernatural British could be, which is all the more impressive when I learned that O’Malley is a native of Australia. The meekness of Old Myfanwy combined with Ingrid’s constant reminder to take a jacket thrown in with Grantchester’s 007 bachelor pad all make for a tableau of all things English. But I digress; the characters are so much more than just their nationality. They have their supernatural powers as well, but O’Malley also makes them each uniquely human. We literally get to watch the New Myfanwy discover herself. I particularly enjoyed it when she realized that she had more of a backbone than the old Myfanwy.
I’m just now realizing that I could go on and on and on about this book. It’s action packed and intense, but at the same time it’s filled with heart. The pages will fly by. It’s like Doctor Who meets the first Men in Black only with more paperwork and a whole lot more oozy slime. The paperwork, surprisingly, is not boring at all.
5 ink bottles.
The book trailer is below. I don’t normally include these, but I love this one so much.