Hundreds of books ago (way back in CBR4), I jumped on The Rook bandwagon. I adored the story of the bizarre supernatural government bureau, the crazy powers that its members and employees have, and its high-ranking official who wakes up one day surrounded by dead bodies and no clue where — or who — she is.
When I hear that the sequel, Stiletto, was FINALLY coming out, I realized that I desperately needed to do a re-read of The Rook. It was so full of amazing details and characters, I really didn’t want to miss anything.
And you know what? I loved it even more the second time. I thought it was funnier and crazier and I enjoyed the hell out of it. While I was reading it I hit up Amazon and sent copies to a handful of friends who I thought might appreciate it. And every single one of them was blown away by it.
Myfanwy Thomas is a Rook (a high-ranking official) in the Checquy, the UK’s secret government agency that deals primarily with the supernatural. Made up mostly of agents with unexplainable powers and abilities, the Checquy handles every crisis that the regular government cannot explain or handle. Her secret ability is that she can control other’s minds.
One rainy evening, Myfanwy finds herself in a park, surrounded by bodies, with no idea who she is. Her entire memory is gone. But in her coat pocket, she finds a few letters addressed to herself, from herself, explaining her situation and what her next steps might be…to go to the bank, cash out, and live forever on a quiet, tropical island, OR, to adopt Myfanwy’s name and life, and find out who the hell did this terrible, unspeakable thing to her.
New Myfanwy opts to investigate and find out what led her to this horrific point in life. And then the fun begins.
We meet all sorts of bizarre — seriously, so weird and imaginative — characters and Myfanwy finds herself in some absolutely crazy situations. Like being sucked into a mammoth cube of flesh, or attacked by a living house. As you do.
New Myfanwy takes her new world in stride, and actually makes some positive changes at the Checquy. She’s a much more bold person than old Myfanwy, more willing to speak up, more likely to use her secret ability, and just an all around more confident person.
At the end of The Rook, Myfanwy finds herself in an unlikely alliance with the Checquy’s greatest enemy — The Grafters of Belgium. And this is where Stiletto begins.
I’ve read some reviews of Stiletto that are somewhat critical. And while I agree that I didn’t ENJOY this book as much as the first one, I think that’s simply because this one just isn’t as fun. Not that it isn’t as good.
I wasn’t laughing to myself while reading it, and didn’t feel the need to ship copies to my friends immediately. But it was still a decent sequel. It just wasn’t the sequel that I wanted.
I wanted a fun romp through the world of the supernatural with Myfanwy and the Grafters butting heads and saving lives and generally kicking ass all over the UK.
And we sort of got that. But we also got a story of an unlikely friendship, and a story about terrorists, and a story about home-grown prejudices. And that was good. But not what I wanted.
So when I put aside my selfish wants, and realized that the story I was given was actually pretty good, I actually enjoyed it a lot more.
Told in alternating narratives between Myfanwy; Odette Leliefeld, a young, but very high-ranking member of the Grafters; and Pawn Felicity Clements, we are told the story of how — and if — the Checquy and the Grafters will eventually join forces.
We see what its like for Odette to be plainly despised by everyone she comes in contact with in the Checquy, simply because of who she is, not because of what she does. She’s a brilliant surgeon, but her skills are not welcome because she’s a Grafter.
We learn how hard it is for Pawn Clements to be paired with Odette. Guarding a Grafter goes against everything she’s ever been told. Plus, Odette is young, rich, and beautiful, which also annoys Felicity.
And we see how “new” Myfanwy works to hold everything together, even after London begins being attacked by some sort of supernatural terrorists, who don’t care if innocent civilians get in their way. Someone wants the talks between the Grafters and the Checquy to fail, but we don’t know who, and we don’t know why.
As a standalone story, I liked this very much. I just didn’t have as much fun reading it as when I read The Rook. I started out angry that it took Daniel O’Malley such a long time to give us a sequel, and then that sequel was different from what I expected. HOW DARE YOU, TALENTED AUTHOR…WHAT ABOUT WRITING THE BOOK THAT I WANTED???!!!??? But once I gave in and just went along for the ride, I found that I couldn’t put the book down.
I hope Daniel O’Malley keeps writing about Myfanwy and her world. And I’m sorry I was so quick to judge Stiletto. If you loved The Rook, give this one a shot. It isn’t The Rook, but that’s ok. Its still an imaginative and exciting read, filled with crazy characters and situations. I promise it will be the best book you’ll read this year with a lead character trapped in a blowhole.
5 stars for The Rook. 4 stars for Stiletto.