The Rook is a paranormal crime thriller that blends together the best of British and American ideas. It may not have a particularly British flavour to it, yet it is set in Britain and features a mix of monsters and characters as bizarre as any seen on the BBC. As far as any comparisons go it feels like a mix of, well (insert paranormal novel here) and The Bourne Identity. Of course, one such paranormal/urban fantasy style novel to compare it to might be the adventures of Harry Dresden in The Dresden Files. Yet, where many other novels have featured a male lead and a glamorous, sexy female lead, this novel does neither.
The main character that Daniel O'Malley creates in his debut novel is a fascinating individual. Myfanwy (she pronounces it Miffany) Thomas, awakes in London, with the corpses of individuals wearing latex gloves surrounding her. So naturally she checks to find out who she is and discovers that she herself, before she lost her memory and identity, had known she would lose this identity and that the result would mean that someone within her organisation had treacherously tried to kill her. Of course, this new Myfanwy has a choice, assume the life of the old Myfanwy Thomas or vanish off and attempt to live a new life elsewhere. Of course, it should be easy to work out what she decides to do, and herein lies the entire fun of the book.
Have you ever felt stuck in a situation where you had no idea as to what you were meant to be doing? Well this is precisely what happens to the new Myfanwy Thomas, only it turns out she is meant to be in charge of organising the logistics for a secret agency (think MI5 or the CIA), only this is an agency organised around a chessboard (with two rooks, two bishops, two chevaliers and a lord and lady - one can't simply go around calling the leaders 'king' and 'queen' in a monarchy after all). Further, this secret agency is focused around defeating paranormal activity and preventing normal English citizens from finding out about this. So naturally you have individuals in the organisation with unique powers and abilities and this makes everything both bizarre and fascinating. Thomas not only has to learn her role, but discover a killer and traitor to the country and court.
The way in which O'Malley blends together his story with the modern discoveries of Thomas, along with old notes about the organisation of the Checquy (pronounced Sheck-guy or something like this) is very clever. In fact, some readers may find it a touch too clever in how it is written and see it as snarky, sarcastic or pretentious in its own right. Hence, if you dislike snark, sarcasm or pretentious writing it may not be your cup of tea. On the other hand, if you like cinematic blockbuster novels with action and superpowers then this may be your cup of coffee. Then there is the main character, another well-written female character (I appreciate discovering these types of characters) who could be seen as a kind of metaphor for human self-discovery (after all she is virtually 'born anew' into this world) or even a metaphor for a profound spiritual encounter (if that caused you to join a secret agency). So, even beyond the fun and adventure there are some fascinating morals and ideas subtly woven into everything. So, again, if you want a fantasy set in the real world that you have not yet read, why not give this a read.