Good evening all! So I know that I said earlier that my next book review would be on the Oz series by Gregory Maguire, but I got sidetracked. Any readers who know me in real life know I’m usually reading 3 books at any given moment 🙂 Also, this book is so good I had to share it right away. Seriously, go get it right now. I can’t believe I didn’t get this as soon as it came out, but I’m already waiting to pre-order the sequel!
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
The Rook is probably best described as a contemporary urban fantasy novel. The main character, Myfwanny (pronounced Miff-any, like Tiffany) lives and works in London for a secret government agency that deals with supernaturally-talented individuals and the interesting situations that they (and other supernatural creatures) create. At the outset of the book, Myfwanny awakes in the middle of a park, with no clue about who she is, surrounded by dead people wearing latex gloves. As she digs in the pockets of her coat, she discovers a letter from her pre-amnesia self that gives her two options: danger, adventure and power, or a fake identity with which she can disappear from London and lead a peaceful life. Myfwanny makes her decision and spends the remainder of the book attempting to cope with the consequences, which range from the curious to the downright weird.
I was absolutely entranced by The Rook from the first chapter. O’Malley has a skillful way with words and the book is very cleverly paced and written. As this is his first book, and the author chose to create an entirely new “world” of supernatural beings within London, the sheer amount of information he wanted to convey could have made the plot seem slow, but O’Malley’s ingenious plot device – Myfwanny’s letters to herself – adds increments of information when new characters or things come into the main plotline and really keeps things moving along.
Also, I love that since Myfwanny starts with no memories and no knowledge of herself, the reader gets to see how she decides who she will be (as opposed to who she was) as the book progresses. In the end, although Myfwanny has the same body and all the same skills and abilities as her prior self, the two end up being very different people. I think this particular piece of the plotline is all the more genius because it reminds us all that ultimately we are all in control of our own lives, and if we don’t like the way things are going, we can always change.
On a bit of a sidenote, this is another one of those fiction novels that I picked up at Barnes & Noble to read the description on the cover about 3 different times before I actually bought it. I was really in the mood for something sci-fi/fantasy based one day, so I decided to just go for it. I don’t know about anyone else, but when browsing in bookstores lately I feel like most of the descriptions on the back covers/dust jackets sound really trite (as in, been-there-done-that, this-is-so-cliché). I don’t know if it’s because the publishers have to try to draw you into the book in very few words and without revealing spoilers, or if it’s just that I’ve read sooooo many books that I feel like it’s harder for an author to surprise me. This novel’s description made me pause (which is why I picked it up 3 times in the store before I actually bought it) because it sounded a little hokey. This book is not hokey, it’s awesome. Read the first 3 pages instead of the blurb on the back cover. If you’re not hooked after that, I’ll be surprised.
Happily, the last couple of books that I purchased have been amazing! (The Night Circus, anyone?) I bought The Rook in paperback and not on my Nook, which was a fabulous decision, because I’m sure it will get lent out to many people! Mr. O’Malley is also apparently hard at work on a sequel to The Rook (which I’m amazingly excited for) and every now and then he posts updates about it on his blog, http://www.rookfiles.com/.
Recommended for fans of: The Night Circus, The Abhorsen series by Garth Nix, Holly Black’s books, or Dr. Who and Torchwood.
Now, a question for my readers: I’m finding it very difficult to describe my favorite portions of the book without giving away the entire plotline and everything exciting about it (which in this case is every. page.of.the.book.) Do you like the subtly hinting vague descriptions I’ve left you with, or are you clamoring for more detail? I’m toying with the idea of a general book review at the top of each book review post, followed by a more in-depth possibly-spoiler-containing review. Thoughts???