Archive for the ‘Daniel O’Malley’ Category

Some kindly person recommended The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley, and I was delighted to find it filled with frolic and wild images–very inventive, and charmingly silly.
It starts with our heroine–Myfanwy (Miff-un-nee, rhymes with Tiffany) Thomas –finding herself in a park in the pouring rain, standing inside a ring of dead bodies. All the bodies are wearing blue latex gloves. There is a letter in her pocket explaining who she is. Because she hasn’t the foggiest.

“Dear You, The body you are wearing used to be mine.”

And so we begin. It is funny and sparkling, with a certain amount of violence and LOTS of bad language. After an initial feeling that I was in the wrong place in the wrong book, I found that on the contrary, I was engaged and very amused.

The story is set in an alternative London, where the secret government agency called the Checquy protects the UK against frequent and dangerous supernatural manifestations–meanwhile presenting an alternate version of the truth to the populace, who would get very upset if they knew what was really going on. The Checquy is run by officials whose titles and positions within the organization are taken from chess pieces. Hence, Myfanwy, as Rook, finds herself a figure of authority within the hierarchy,  with power over the Pawns. There is a heavy penalty for betraying the Checquy, a long series of punishments

 culminating with the guilty party being ritually trampled to death by the population of the village of Avebury, which seemed unlikely, or at least somewhat difficult to arrange.

Myfanwy manages her new job brilliantly, attends social events, and basically—SAVES THE COUNTRY, again and again. She is quite a woman. And someone is trying to KILL HER. Naturally, she foils this fiendish plot.


In the sequel, Stiletto, she meets up with a contingent from Brussels, the Wetenschappelijk Broederschap van Natuurkundigen (aka the Grafters.) They are brilliant scientists, whose astonishing feats of surgery–on themselves and each other–have made them into supermen and women.

Long ago, there had been war between the Checquy and  the Grafters, which ended in the destruction of the Grafters. Gradually they had recovered, animated by a terrible hatred of the Checquy. Until the war (WWII) they lived in peace and prosperity, the leading family having a splendid home in Paris:

Architects fought in the garden, mathematicians and sculptors folded origami in the gazebo, and rosellas and parakeets flew freely through the rooms, never relieving themselves on the guests’ heads, since they had been altered to subsist entirely on sunshine and second hand smoke.

The war almost destroyed them, but they somehow survived. Hatred for the Checquy continued, but it had been decided to initiate a truce, and even a joining. This was not popular with either group, and the plots and disasters which ensue try Myfanwy’s powers. I think I am not going to startle anyone when I hint that the end is not an unhappy one.

Here is a link to the first couple chapters of Rook, which are from the author’s page, here. I was pleased to see that the books are already in line to be made into a television show! That might well be rather fun.


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