“The Rook” by Daniel O’Malley (Little, Brown, 2012)

The Rook

Daniel O’Malley’s debut novel, The Rook, has a storyline that will hook any person who’s looking for a book in the fantasy genre that’s something a little bit different.  Myfanwy Thomas wakes up with no recollection of who she is or where she is or whether this is even her body.  When she reads the letter in front of her she finds out that this is in fact all true.  She is now somehow in the body of this Myfanwy Thomas who is no more.  As this new Myfanwy puts the carefully laid out pieces together, reading more letters sending her on to specific destinations, she discovers she is a “Rook,” which is a special elite-level operative working for a secret government agency within the United Kingdom, known as the Checquy.  The goal of the Checquy is to rid the world of supernatural beasts, but Myfanwy finds out there is a mole within the organization who wants her taken out of the picture.

While this sounds like a riveting story with a lot of promise, it is the method in which it is delivered that is disappointing.  There is a way of writing about a compelling story such as this one that can be done by showing and revealing through dramatic scenes and descriptive writing, and the other is through telling and regurgitation of what happened with little variety.  Sadly, The Rook pertains more to the latter, and while it can be said that a combination of these two writing styles can be employed to effective means, this particular one is told through the recounting of scenes and exposition-filled letters.  It is a style of writing that was practiced much in the past, and is antiquated and outdated, which is sad for a story like this that at first seems interesting and compelling, but the constant “infodumping” becomes a nuisance that ultimately distracts from the story.

Originally written on February 11, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

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