The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley

The RookI first heard about this book all the way back in January, at which time I said, “I really liked The Rook‘s premise, which involves a woman who has lost all of her memories pretending to be… herself, with all her memories. What. I want this book to be all crazy Inception or Before I Go to Sleep shenanigans, but as long as it does a better job than Face/Off in being remotely plausible, I’ll consider it a success.”

Well, it’s not really like Inception or Before I Go to Sleep at all. And it doesn’t have Nicolas Cage in it, so it’s automatically better than Face/Off, although I won’t swear to the “more plausible” part.

What it reminds me of very much is One of Our Thursdays is Missing, in which a written Thursday Next must pretend to be the real Thursday Next. This is probably a bad example if you’ve never read a Thursday Next novel, which, if that’s the case, go do that now and then come back and we’ll continue.

Right, okay, so now we’re on the same page. In this particular novel, our protagonist, Myfanwy (rhymed with Tiffany because Welsh is hard, dudes) Thomas, comes to devoid of all useful memories, like who she is or what she’s doing in this park surrounded by dead people. Conveniently-ish, she’s got a note in her pocket that tells her her name and also that she is in Terrible Danger and that the former occupant of Myfanwy’s brain has made dual plans for New Myfanwy — she can either pretend to be Old Myfanwy and solve the Mystery of the Missing Memories or she can run and hide where no one will find her. This no-brainer gets ruined, of course, and New Myfanwy is totes on the case.

Oh, but, p.s., Myfanwy has superpowers, and she works for a secret government organization that employs most of the superpower-having people in the tri-state area and also, like, investigates supernatural happenings and junk. No big.

And Old Myfanwy is this total Type A organizer and she’s left a literal suitcase full of letters to New Myfanwy that explain more or less everything that NM is going to need to know if she can ever find the time to read all of said letters. The narrative pops back and forth between the New Myfanwy action and the Old Myfanwy exposition as smoothly as one can expect, and I quite like the way the two sort of storylines fit together.

I also really like New Myfanwy, who’s all, “Am I doing this right? Am I saying the right things? Is this the way Thomas would — oh, fuck it, playing it safe is for losers.” This whole idea of a person unhampered by her past is really well imagined, so much that I still feel bad for Old Myfanwy that she could never have been as awesome as her clean-slate counterpart.

Of course, while NM’s awesomeness is, well, awesome, it does so while sticking its tongue out at plausibility. The problem gets swept away near the end by a, “Well, what kind of impersonator would do such a terrible job of it?” which, maybe, if you’re not part of a secret government organization that kind of deals in body-snatchers and whatnot. I mean, seriously.

But then again, who cares about plausible impersonation when you have a novel that includes people with weird X-Men powers, a duck that predicts the future, dragons, and crazy Dutch Dr. Frankensteins? Not me! File this under Books I Would Totally Read Again.

Recommendation: For those that liked the preceding paragraph and also people who like weird stuff in general.

Rating: 9/10

6 thoughts on “The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley

  1. Steph & Tony Investigate! says:

    I also heard about this book way back in January and was intrigued. And now your review makes it sound AMAZING. I mean, anything that is kind of Thursday Nexty is something I want to read. I may just have to hunt this book down following my dissertation defense as a form of celebration. Sounds sooooo good!

    • Alison says:

      I think it would be great for a post-dissertation celebration! That’s the perfect time to read strange and ridiculous things. 🙂

  2. caridubiel says:

    I loved this book – one of my favorites so far this year. I’m glad you liked it too! Now, when is O’Malley going to write another one?

  3. Book Nympho says:

    Hmm, what an intriguing premise. I am usually attracted to books that are unique so this one sounds like it’s worth a look. But books with characters who have names that you can’t pronounce are a bit of a pet peeve and can make reading unnecessarily difficult. So we’ll see how it goes. Thanks for introducing me to a new book though! 🙂

    • Alison says:

      Yeah, I was a little like, Myfanwy, really? Especially because you also find out the Welsh way to pronounce it partway through, and after that I was like, wait, how am I pronouncing this, and I had to convince myself not to think so hard about it. But, it totally fits in with the story to have the character’s name be so weirdly pronounced, so I hope you’ll give it a pass!

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