4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I loved pretty much every moment of this book, and it's not even my preferred genre. The opening sentence alone enticed me to purchase it. "Dear you, the body you are wearing used to be mine." I just had to read it and know what it was about. Any struggling indie authors out there, this is how you write an opening sentence that grabs the reader and pulls them in.
There are concepts in this book that I've seen done before, but this author managed to introduce them in creative and interesting ways. There are lots of amnesia stories out there, certainly, but none quite like this one. A secretive organization comprised of individuals with supernatural powers? The Necroscope series comes to mind, and that's another fun series, but this one stands apart. The powers possessed by various characters were never the stereotypical ones that one might imagine. For instance, one (or, er, four?) of the characters I found the most interesting was Gestalt. This is a group of four siblings, who all share one mind. One person, four bodies. I couldn't get tired of reading about that character.
The format of the book goes back and forth between letters from the main character, before losing her memory, and the present main character. Occasionally, when chapters end in cliff hangers, this can be frustrating. The writing style was clever and often humorous enough to have me laughing out loud, reading sentences out loud to the people around me, who as a result are all likely to be reading this book in the near future.
Most of the plot developments came as surprises to me. There were, admittedly, a couple of things that could have been done differently that would have made it moreso, but in the interest of not providing massive spoilers, that's all I will say on the matter. My overall verdict is incredibly happy with this book, and incredibly eager to read the next installment as soon as it becomes available.
20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Wonderful start to the book - the protagonist has figure out who stole her memories while concealing from her supernatural coworkers that she has lost them. Sadly, as the book progresses, the main character, who was initially intriguing, loses all resemblance to a real person. I bailed when she decides to go clubbing the night after an attack that killed several of her friends - even though she knows the organization behind the attack are still at large. I guess it was supposed to be funny, but having your main character, who is repeatedly described as unusually intelligent, behave like an an idiot (and an unfeeling one at that) is a betrayal of the reader.
39 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on January 28, 2012
I've never felt compelled to write a review before, but this book is an odd one, a rare case where it wasn't bad enough to stop reading, but I found myself tearing my hair out the entire time in frustration at the author's choices. Frankly, I'm surprised that at the time of writing this, there are 18 5-star reviews. Smells fishy to me.
O'Malley is a creative. He has a great future ahead of him, but this book, about a secret British government paranormal society and their international conflict with a mysterious group of body hackers from Belgium, is so poorly constructed and filled with loopholes that I'm surprised his editor lifted a pen. Though, I know from experience that British editors are quite lax, so perhaps the American editor didn't get a chance to make changes.
The book follows Myfanwy Thomas, a powerful woman in this organization who wakes up with no memory of herself, inhabiting the body of a member of the Court, the upper echelons of her organization. Her rank, you guessed it, Rook. A clever device, at first, Myfanwy left herself notes so she can guide her new self along with information about the body and life she leads. This starts well enough, but, quickly becomes absurd. The convenience of the notes, timed per event in the book make no sense. At first, Myfanwy would pause, not know something, and dig up a note that corresponded. This device worked for a bit, but still frustrated me as she spends plenty of down time doing nothing, and if you or anyone woke up without memory and were handed a folder of notes from your former self, you'd sit yourself down and read them all through immediately. The author refused to follow human logic and had her bring up her notes as they went along. Worse, he then conveniently forgot that he initially tied the notes to her 'needs' and just started interspersing them, like a device, completely authorial, and full of many useless stories. Heck, I love dragons, but cut that piece - it's totally extraneous and is a sign of poor editing. Same with the Greek.
Worse, the plot. We get a big build up, betrayal, and then (SPOILER ALERT) the author refuses to do anything with the plot and just let it all sizzle slowly into a way too easy solution. As if he were tired of writing. Moreso, he can't write as a female, doesn't get her voice down at all, and seems to believe that a) every woman and man is either super attractive or 'large'. No more descriptors than that. It's hard to remember characters when all you get is that they are soooo hot. Or they are a large bodyguard. The dialogue is stilted, useless, and meandering. The appearance of Myfanwy's sister is so mindbogglingly out of nowhere, totally bad for the plot, wow.
I am honestly surprised this book is getting the kind of press it has, and that it was published by a place like Little, Brown. I get that its a quick read, and that it's creative. But I really don't recommend it. If you want something good to read like this, pick up Glenn Duncan or Charlie Huston.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I love this book. The story is imaginative, the writing is tight, and laugh out loud funny. Each character is well developed, and I found myself rooting for both versions of the heroine. Honestly one of the best books I've read in years. Please buy it, we need this guy to be able to afford to keep writing.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
The Rook is surprising and original; detailed and well thought through. It's clever, but does not take itself too seriously.
'The Rook' creates a world with its own mythology. It also draws on some well established traditions of mythologies, and does it so well and in a way that just helps to blend the real with the fictional. This is a book that cleverly brings you into a world that could be real, just populated with things you don't see every day (but might, if the agency described in the novel did not exist!).
As well being filled with places, events and a history that feel real, The Rook is also populated with well-drawn people who do totally human things. Villains who have human failings (despite their other attributes), and the good guys who care about and do things for each other. This gives the novel heroes who have heart as well as courage.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Some really strong concepts here that pull you in right away. Unfortunately, the author overuses the plot device of a heroine with no memory except for the omnipotent journal of her predecessor as a mechanism to describe her world. I repeatedly found it impossible to accept the premise of Myfawny's ignorance and juvenile mannerisms being ignored in the elite organization where she finds herself. This was very distracting for me, as was the poorly written dialogue. I tried, but quit after around 75 pages. Maybe it gets better...
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2012
In "The Rook", Daniel O'Malley does a few things really, really, really well. And then he does a number of other things rather poorly.
The world that O'Malley creates has so much potential. The environment is delicious with newness and creativity. While I am no expert in super powers, all of the characters have incredibly unique talents and abilities (the concept of Gestalt blew me away). But despite the beautiful and unique character descriptions and the rich playground we are privileged to be a part of, watching the characters overcome hurdles and interact with one another was mildly painful. Instead of developing the characters through their interactions with one another, they became surprisingly unbelievable and frustratingly flat. I kept reading mostly because I believed that with a world so rich, the story had no choice but to end on a high note. Unfortunately, it doesn't deliver.
I heartily recommend this book as a study on unique and interesting character and world creations - in that way, I felt like I'd found another "Harry Potter". I don't recommend it for much else.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2012
Myfanwy Thomas opens her eyes to see a ring of bodies surrounding her and finds a letter in her pocket explaining what must be done next. She has no memory of who she is, what she does, or how she ended up in this place. The letter leads her to a safe place where she is given a choice, adopt the life she seems to have taken over, or run. Though her choice might be clear, extenuating circumstances force her to become Rook Thomas. As she reads the old Thomas's notes, explaining the organization she works for (The Checquy), what a Rook does, and all manner of strange things, the new Myfanwy takes to her life and position in a way that the old Thomas never seemed comfortable with.
This is another one of those amazingly fun books that's hard to pin down but is an absolute must read. The narrative is funny, at times laugh out loud so, and the story is quirky. The structure is interesting as well. The character has no knowledge of these things, and so the story unfolds as two tales, that of the new Myfanwy and that of the old. The new Myfanwy is our narrator and the old tells her tale through letters and notes written for her "replacement."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2014
Every once in a while you come across a book that just utterly delights you from the beginning to the end. The Rook did this for me. And within its pages, I met a character that quickly became one of my favorites to read about, miss Myfanwy Thomas.
The story begins when she wakes up in a park with two black eyes and surrounded by dead people wearing gloves (really grabbed my dark little heart with that one!) and no memory of who she is or how she got to where she is at. She begins to learn of herself through a series of letters written by her former self before the incident in the park which took her memory away. She is Rook Myfanwy Thomas, operative in the Checquy, a basically black ops organization fighting or enlisting supernatural creatures and phenomenon for the British government.
Myfanwy is one of the most unique unwilling heroines I have seen depicted. She is a rich and multi-layered combination of very standard female that loves nice things, looking pretty and a strong helping of plain girl complex coupled with a razor sharp analytical intelligence and the ability to control another person’s body.
The new Myfanwy learns the history and knowledge to survive in this world through the letters her former self left her. Each letter begins with “Dear You!” and end with “Love Me” I was utterly charmed with this aspect of the book and it so endeared me to the character and I could see her sitting at her desk transcribing all these letters to her later self. And through all the interchanges, the escapades, the encounters, the learning, Myfanwy never becomes the typical government operative personage. She is constantly surprised, curious, righteously pissed and amazed at the world she has woken up in. It is very easy to put yourself in her place and seeing her react just the way you think you would.
This was a book that I listened to on audiobook. My long commute makes this a nice way to wile away the time from point A to point B. Plus, there is the added amusement of watching the neighboring cars give you strange looks as you burst out laughing insanely at some titillating passage, and there was an abundance of those in this book. The reader, Susan Duerden, did a superb job of the reading, creating unique voices for each character and making you feel like you were right in the room where it was all happening.
I give this book 5 Stars only because that seems to be the most you can give. My only grievance is that it seems Mr. O’Malley hasn’t finished the sequel! Put it on your to read list, move it up to the next on the list. You won’t be sorry!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2013
This missed five stars by, as Maxwell Smart would say, this much.
The opening chapters intrigued me, not enough to pay the inflated price that the publishers wanted for the ebook, but enough to get it from the library. It was the old amnesia-victim gambit, but done really well (and, as it turns out, with much better justification than usual). It's not the Bourne Identity, though. The main character knows who she is, or at least, who her body was, because the previous inhabitant has left her a note about it.
The book keeps on being original like that. It's a bit like Charles Stross's Laundry novels, except that the British civil service in Stross is much more realistic (this one is more like James Bond; for some reason, the British Government pays their supernatural secret agents extraordinarily well, even though they don't have the option of not working for them). The humour is wry and funny, which always gets me to excuse some flaws.
And there are some flaws, though not big ones. I would have expected someone who had a master's degree in medieval history, even one from Ohio State University, to know how to refer to a knight. (Always Sir Firstname, never Sir Surname, definitely not, as in this book, a random mixture of the two.) I probably wouldn't expect such a person to know that you can't have a geosynchronous satellite stationed over Britain (because it's not on the Equator), but nevertheless this is the case. And, much more importantly, I would have expected a student of history not to write a centuries-old organization in which women appear to have always been more or less equal, as if that was natural, inevitable and not worthy of comment. That's the kind of error a bad writer usually makes, and Daniel O'Malley is a very good writer.
I'm not counting the Americanisms in a book set in Britain as flaws. I allow for those, though I find them amusing.
The editing is professional. I mention this even though it's traditionally published, because these days that isn't a guarantee. Beyond that, though, the use of language is clever and original. The voice of the main character, and her odd sense of humour, is beautifully done. I also believed her as a woman, and not every male author can write a woman's viewpoint believably. Five stars for language.
The plot is... convoluted, and there's a lot of cruft layered on it. Some of the quoted letters from the main character's former identity are not actually related to the plot, and just become annoying interruptions. It could have done with trimming down a bit. Four stars for plot.
Although the main character, both of her, comes across wonderfully, most of the other characters are a bit thin. It seems like they're only there as adjuncts to the main character and to the plot. The book is very much from the main character's viewpoint, either first person (the letters) or very tight third person, though, and since she's not emotionally close to anyone this is understandable. It still means only four stars for character.
The setting I found strained my suspension of disbelief a little. Not only the well-paid secret agents (there are hints that the organization is self-funding, so perhaps that's believable), but the suppression of the extremely high body count with the flimsiest of cover stories, and the maintenance of secrecy even though practically every senior public servant in Britain apparently knows that there are people you call when things get weird. Also, the existence, for centuries, of a hidden organization that's loyal to Britain rather than to its rulers, and that (I'll repeat) has apparently always allowed women to hold its highest offices. My rule of fantasy is that the non-fantastic elements should be as plausible as possible, and I found some things about this one not all that plausible. Four stars for setting, and lucky to have them; it was nearly three, but the humour bonus saved the fourth one, just.
Overall, I enjoyed The Rook a lot, and I will definitely look for more in the series. Maybe one of the future volumes will make it to five stars.