Second time through this book, I thought I might add a star, but nope. This one holds strong at four because (unfortunately) it’s not quite as fun on re-read, at least in my experience, because that feeling of not knowing what’s going on and being along for the ride is now gone, and that turns out to have been the main thing I liked best last time.
But by no means is that a slam on this book, it’s still really good, just not an I MUST FINISH THIS NOW book. And most people don’t re-read anyway, right? So you’re fine.
For those who haven’t heard of this book, The Rook is an urban fantasy/paranormal mystery set in London, and the book opens with the main character opening her eyes with no memories at all, surrounded by dead bodies wearing gloves. The conceit is that her past self knew she was going to lose her memory, so she wrote her future self letters to guide her either in setting up a new life and identity, or taking over her old one, which is complicated and full of danger and intrigue and superpowers.
I’m not a huge urban fantasy/paranormal fan, but this book feels really different to the average book in those genres. Can’t really put my finger on why. Perhaps it’s the hook, that we’re following Myfanwy (which she pronounces like “Miffany”) as she relearns her life, which is very strange. Maybe it’s the tone, which has a very British sensibility despite being written by a guy who has American and Australian blood flowing through his veins, and no British at all. It does have a pretty wicked sense of humor as well, and is actually legitimately creepy/scary for large sections.
It also does some really clever things with the theme of memory and identity, and treats amnesia in a way I’ve never seen before. Most amnesia plots feature a person with amnesia essentially being the same person, just sans memory, but here, Myfanwy shares skills and practical knowledge with her predecessor, but her emotional life and personality is completely different. She is a different person. Relatedly, the way that O’Malley treats the super-secret organization The Checquy isn’t the way most genre novels would treat it, like with the found family aspect, and it being a positive experience. O’Malley’s Checquy is not a nice organization, it’s one that takes children from families and hones them into weapons, as we learn through Myfanwy, often at the expense of their personhoods.
Glad I re-read, because a lot of this I did not remember at all from my first read in 2012, and I’m starting the sequel today. Would definitely have felt lost otherwise.