I wanted an absorbing sci-fi book to read on a long plane ride (sometimes I know *exactly* what type of book I am in the mood for), and I am SO GLAD I picked Daniel O'Malley's The Rook off the shelves of a Barnes & Noble in the suburbs of Las Vegas. If you're not into science fiction, this is for sure not for you. Ready for the overview? Take a deep breath....
Myfanwy Thomas wakes up in a London park, surrounded by dead people wearing latex gloves. She has no idea how she got there, or who she is. She reaches into her pocket, and there's a letter from herself:
The body you are wearing used to be mine. The scar on the inner left thigh is there because I fell out of a tree and impaled my leg at the age of nine. The filling in the far left tooth at the top is a result of my avoiding the dentist for four years. But you probably care little about this body’s past. After all, I’m writing this letter for you to read in the future. Perhaps you are wondering why anyone would do such a thing. The answer is both simple and complicated. The simple answer is because I knew it would be necessary....
And so the story begins. Mwfanwy, she learns, is part of a secret organization called the Checquy (essentially an ancient organization that functions as an intelligence agency for all things paranormal) in Britain, where she's a high-ranking officer called a "Rook" (hence the title name. All the officers are named after chess pieces).
And because Kirkus Reviews wrote a great summary, I'm just going to quote it... "Employing more letters and dossiers left by her former self, Myfanwy-without-memory takes her place in Checquy, attempting to suss out who she is, what she does and who wants her dead. She learns she is a high-level administrator, her supernatural power being mind control, but with a personality more forceful than formerly, she attracts attention..."
The book is a really fun mix of fantasy, espionage, and navigating paranormal monsters and government bureaucracy (yes, really). At the heart of the story is Mwfanwy (both the first version of her, via letters, and the second version of her, post-amnesia), who is bad-ass and easy to root for. Lev Grossman, a book critic, said in a review: "You learn about the world along with Myfanwy, and it’s utterly convincing and engrossing — totally thought-through and frequently hilarious. The writing is confident and fully fledged. Even this aging, jaded, attention-deficit-disordered critic was blown away." So was I.
It's now being made into a TV show by Starz, which is very exciting!
PS. When I finished, I also immediately read the sequel, Stiletto, which was also delightful and engrossing and I may have stayed up til 2 a.m. to finish it.... but I won't review it because SPOILERS!
Get The Rook here: https://amzn.to/2miY9rC