Book Review – The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

Genre: Science Fiction

Ciera’s Rating: 4 / 5 

Josh’s Rating: 4.5 / 5 

My husband has been recommending this book from the moment I met him. I have avoided it for years, but recently decided it’s time to take the plunge. There was a lot of pressure riding on this one, so I was hesitant to write a review. Thankfully, I enjoyed Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook a good bit. 

Because this is a favorite of my husband’s, and because this is an older book,  I wanted to do something a little different for this review. First I want to say this isn’t the typical no-spoiler post. This review is going to be a back-and-forth conversation between my husband and I regarding various elements of The Rook. THERE WILL BE SPOILERS BELOW. We won’t give away any key plot points, though, so at least you should be safe there. 

Ciera: Let’s start on a positive note – what I liked about the novel. It’s rare to find a unique and new storyline. Yes, the names, places, and general order of events change from book-to-book, but it’s not often I find a novel with something unlike anything I’ve read before – The Rook did that for me. I wasn’t reminded of other novels as I read the pages of Daniel O’Malley’s book. I was surprised at each turn and impressed by the individuality of the plot. 

I also really enjoyed the mixing between the letter writing to general narration. 

Josh: I agree, this unique take on the secret society motif truly felt new and inspired. What kept me turning the pages wasn’t just an interest in why Myfanwy Thomas, the main character, woke up in the rain without her memory, it was also the rich history of the other characters and the Checquy, itself. It’s rare for a book to keep me engaged and curious on every page but The Rook accomplished exactly that. I’m usually bored with an info-dump of this scale but it was well weaved into the story and never felt like pointless lore. Everything felt important and necessary for the thickening plot. 

Ciera: Honestly, the whole time I was reading I was thinking about how Mulder and Scully spent all of those seasons trying to find the truth when all they needed to do was read this book. 

Now, to one thing I didn’t like. There is one section at the beginning of the novel where Myfanwy is heading to her meeting with the inner court. The author switches narration to the court members getting ready for their meeting which is a weird change that never happens again. Myfanwy is the narrator and there’s no way she could’ve been in the rooms watching them. It really threw me off, but it didn’t happen again. 

Other than that small thing, the other piece I struggled with was how unbelievable it was. Not the secret society or supernatural power or weird sewn together people – it was how quickly this new person just stepped into Myfanwy’s life. When people suffer from amnesia like that, they have to relearn a lot of things, much less a whole backstory of some super secret agent. There should have been some sort of explanation of how she recovered that fast. Otherwise, how did none of the people surrounding her, who are trained to pick up on these kinds of things, not notice? Just seems too good to be true. 

Josh: I agree with you about the transition into the other court members. Though, while it was a jarring transition, I see why it was necessary. There needed to be a way of introducing the members before the meeting. That way there wasn’t this weird scene of going around the table inside of Myfanwy’s mind. It seemed like the author was prepping the reader with character imagery just before the reveal. 

See, to your second point, I thought it was brilliant. The old Myfanwy was invisible. No one expected anything of her or knew anything about her life. So, one day it just seemed like she had a midlife crisis and started wearing colorful clothes and speaking up for herself. No supernatural ability would be able to detect that she is a different conscience because she wasn’t. Not to say that the people closest to her knew immediately that something was wrong. The Lady after entering her dreams and her office assistant Ingrid both found out before the first day was over. The device was clever because of the other character’s motives. You don’t see what you aren’t looking for and no one was searching for an amnesiac with enormous power. 

Ciera: I guess that’s a good point. That’s one of my favorite elements of American Psycho. Patrick Bateman keeps blatantly telling people what he’s going to do or has done and people either refuse to believe him or are paying so little attention they don’t hear him at all. Completely different story, same concept. 

Let’s talk about something a little more fun. Of all the superpowers in this book, which would you want to have? Four bodies, ability to control others, wiping memories? For me, it’s definitely Myfanwy all the way. I think if she spends some time learning to strengthen her ability to control others with her mind, she could accomplish some spectacular things without ever having to lift a finger, literally. 

Josh: Oh, that’s a tough one. There were a lot of interesting powers. The ability to enter dreams, be a vampire, and Myfanwy’s nervous system control are top contenders, however, I think I would choose Eckhart’s power. Not only does he not age, he is bulletproof and can sculpt metal to meet his any need by touching it. Immortal, invincible, metal bender named Joshua? Yes, please. 

Ciera: Overall, I really liked this one. You say I’m a tough grader, with my 4 out of 5, but I save my 5s for books that impact my life in a significant way. This book was an excellent story, but it didn’t have me sobbing in a corner or examining my soul. 

Josh: I’m just glad you finally read it! This has been four-and-a-half years in the works. I get that it may not be life-altering but, for those who use books as escapism, this novel is worthy of delving. I have so much more praise and nostalgia for Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook, but perhaps your readers will just have to search the rest of its secrets out themselves. 

Want to join in on the conversation? Read it and then tell us what you thought of The Rook below in the comments, on Instagram, or via email!

Purchase The Rook by Daniel O’Malley here at Old Town Books, or your local bookstore!

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