The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

The Rook       
Daniel O’Malley         
Little, Brown and Company 


Myfawny Thomas [she pronounces the name to rhyme with Tiffany] has lost her memory. She has an adult body, attractive enough albeit kind of mousy, standing in the rain, in a park, with bodies strewn around her, all wearing latex gloves. In the pocket of her coat are two envelopes addressed to her that begin the process of restoring her memory. They tell her that she is a member of the Court, holds the position of Rook, and she has two choices: try to run away to begin a new life or continue as the Rook to discover who did this to her and why.

Circumstances and her innate personality lead to choosing to continue as the Rook. Up to now Thomas has been a shy retiring accountant, fearful of using her talent, but thoroughly engrossed in the administration of the Court. The Court, consisting of a Lord and Lady, two Bishops, two Chevaliers, and two Rooks plus all the supporting staff of Pawns and Retainers required to fulfill its mission, is a centuries-old organization charged with protecting Britain from supernatural calamity. Over time, the Court has meshed with the mundane government while maintaining its secrecy. The trouble is there is a traitor among the Court. The story is her journey to find and expose the traitor.

The new Myfawny steps into the old Myfawny’s shoes. With a combination of forensic accounting skills and her own talent, she pursues the investigation. Myfawny discovers her talent is taking control of people’s will, at first through physical contact but, as she grows in experience, by telepathy. She becomes a more rounded personality as well as a more powerful Rook.

Over and above the traitor’s threat, she discovers another organization, the Grafters, is also planning an invasion of the Isles. Likewise a supernatural threat, the Grafters use biology and science to create their monsters whereas the Court uses natural talent. A long time ago, centuries, the Grafters attempted an invasion of Britain but were soundly defeated on the the Isle of Wight. The Grafters haven’t forgotten. They intend to even the score.

Through a series of letters written by the old Myfawny to the new version, the back story gets filled in including how the original knew to write the letters. While the letters give us the information needed to keep up with what’s happening, the modern day events give an introduction to and a complete view of the Court’s functioning. The supporting characters are satisfying and, quite often, intriguing in their own right, with idiosyncrasies that contribute to their aura of power while making their absurdity seem very human.

There is enough mystery and action to keep you turning the pages – why would anyone mail a human heart to Myfawny? – and the conclusion is satisfying while leaving the door open to further adventures.


Highly recommended.


© 2012 Dan Bieger

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