The body you are wearing used to be mine.
So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.
She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.
In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.
First of all, let me say that even though the main character is very clear that she pronounces her name Miff-uh-nee, I couldn’t help but pronounce it what I believe to be the proper way, which is Muh-fan-wee. And the reason for this is the show Little Britain. I was even saying it in Daffyd’s ridiculous haughty voice. If you have never seen this show, do yourself a favor and look it up, it’s hilarious.
Anyway, back to business. I thought The Rook was kind of like a cross between the X-Men, the X-Files, and MI:5 with a little James Bond thrown in for good measure. Sound like a crazy combination? Well, it is. And it made for a really fun read. I loved reading about all of the various “abilities” that members of the Chequy possessed and how they used them. Some of them have the most hilariously lame superpowers of all time.
I loved the idea that Myfanwy is a stranger in her own body and only relies on notes that she’s left herself for information on her life, her job, and just to get through her day without totally screwing up or outing herself that she’s got amnesia (the Chequy does not deal well with people who know their secrets but have to be removed from the organization). I guess you can throw in a dash of Memento to the X-Men, X-Files, etc, as well.
I really liked Myfanwy herself. She’s presented a choice – either take off for destinations unknown and live out her life in peace, or stay and figure out what happened to her. She chooses the latter, and it was definitely not the easier of the two choices. Granted she’s pushed in that direction a bit, but still – it made her really awesome right from the get-go. And it wouldn’t have been much of a book if she had chosen the other option, so hooray for making hard choices.
The Rook is a riveting whodunit as Myfanwy tries to figure out who has stolen her memory and tried to kill her, racing against time to get it all sorted before they try again or she inadvertently reveals her memory loss. There’s a large and interesting pool of suspects to choose from but she knows that it’s someone of power in her own organization, which narrows it down significantly. It also makes it hard for her to know who she can trust. The Rook definitely kept me guessing right up until the end and while I don’t think there were a lot of clues to help the reader figure out who the villain was, I didn’t feel like it was a cheap ‘gotcha!’ reveal either.
I was impressed by how ambitious this was for a debut novel and I’ll definitely be interested in reading more from Daniel O’Malley.