By Daniel O'Malley
Review by Jarad Johnson
It’s difficult to know where to begin with a book so full of intricate plots, which is probably what makes the book so enthralling. The author has managed to find the perfect balance for the novel by combining high-octane, page turning writing with humor. The two are not always mutually exclusive. Myfanwy Thomas wakes up surrounded by bodies and with no recollection of who she is, only having in her possession a set of instructions on how to keep herself safe, or relatively so. She eventually learns that she is a relatively high-ranking member of a government organization that deals with supernatural conflicts around the country. If that sounds like a lot, you haven’t seen anything yet. This book defies categorization and is hard to pin down. However, it is rich with world-building and character development, twists and turns, and unexpected advances.
Myfanwy Thomas is an easy character to follow, so it’s only fitting that she carries almost all of the book. In my opinion, she’s a very believable female character, making her easy to cheer for and relate to. What I mean by that is, she doesn’t seem invincible or without emotion. In recent years, it seems that main characters who are women have been kick-ass, and of course, but I think that sometimes you need to see a character stumble a little, because it shows a stronger person in the end. She seems a bit underdeveloped at the beginning, but that’s mostly because she is. She’s devoid of any memory, and by extension, personality as well. The amnesia trope has been seen in hundreds of novels, but the author made it neither cliché nor gauche. In other words, it doesn’t read like a trope, but like an original novel. Plus, I always enjoy a sarcastic smart-ass.
One of my favorite parts of the novel was the organization that Myfanwy works for, the Checguy. The entire power structure of the organization is well thought out and is based around the game of Chess. As with everything in the Rook, the intricacy is enthralling. We don’t get just a vague notion of the Checguy to advance the plot, we get details on the history of the organization, it’s founding, and their enemies, along with office politics. Its rich in detail and world-building.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the tangled plots and subplots within this book. I adored the rich detail of the entire story, and I found it to be a completely immersive read, which is always great. Some books with a great amount of detail and world-building can seem busy and rushed, but the author paces the details beautifully, and every one counts. I think everything with this book is just right; the pacing, the detail, characters, etc. If it had been any more or less, it would not have worked. But it did. So far this year, it’s a standout among the other books I’ve read.
Jarad attends Middle Tennessee State University, loves tea, and tries to spend every spare second reading. Jarad is majoring in English. Bless his heart! Let's all light a candle for him and send him happy thoughts!