The Rook by Daniel O’Malley book review : A heroine with a Checquy past
Daniel O’Malley’s delightful first novel has two familiar premises: a mindwiped protagonist who must find herself from scratch, and a government body dealing with the otherworldly and magical. But O’Malley weaves these common ideas into a hugely likeable world, mixing action-adventure with winning wry humour.
Our heroine is “born,” shivering in a London park, into a 31-year-old body with adult smarts and skills, but no memories. Her guide is a series of motherly letters left by her pre-mindwipe self, Myfanwy Thomas. Thomas was a “Rook,” an official at a centuries-old agency called the Checquy, which copes daily with dragons and demons. The new Myfanway must discover which treacherous colleague erased her memories, as Britain is faced with a terrible flesh-moulding menace.
The book is blessed with strong plot hooks, a witty authorial voice and a heroine with her own mind (sensibly, at first Myfanway tries walking away from the adventure altogether!) The magic cast includes four eerie siblings with one mind between them, and a revolting demon in a fishtank in a limo. The main female characters are convincing and fun, and the relationship between Myfanwy’s past and present selves is touching without them ever actually meeting.
The story is baggy and unevenly paced, with the sort of surfeit of ideas typical of debut fantasy novels, and the conclusion underwhelms. But the characters are so good that you root for Myfanwy and her friends all the way. There’s a great TV show here…
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