“The body you are wearing used to be mine.”
The Rook (Checquy Files #1) by Daniel O’Malley
This is a fun book! A terrific mashup of superpowered british agents, secret organizations, purple ooze, plots that span centuries and horrific Belgian (!) mutants combined with an action packed story and solid doses of great humor.
It’s pretty hard to believe that The Rook actually is Daniel O’Malley‘s debut novel, and besides one crucial point I have very little to criticise. Admittedly, The Rook is not a huge literary achievement, nor does it try to be. Actually it will be described as a very light book, but that is a moot point as it is so entertaining and goddamn fun all the way through.
The story begins with an amnesiac woman waking up in a park in London with dead bodies all around her. She learns through letters (written by her former self) that she is in the body of a Myfanwy Thomas, has strange psychic powers and administers a secret governmental agency, called The Checquy, that protects the UK from supernatural powers and mad, evil, cackling Belgians. All the members of the Checquy have titles after chess pieces, and Myfanwy is one of two rooks. The Checquy also administers a school for supernatural talents, reminiscent of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Through the pre-amnesiac letters she has written to herself Myfanwy learns a great deal, and she adapts more or less easily to her pretty weird situation. It soon becomes apparent that the reason for her amnesia as well as other mishappenings at The Checquy is the work of a traitor in their midst. The action-packed story that follows is filled with such things as American agents, a skinless Belgian in a tube, purple slime and a gruesome body-fusing entity. The Rook balances sufficently icky ideas with a great sense of humor and mystery.
The one gripe I had with this book is how the letters are the one thing driving the story and mystery to the conclusion. It is a good idea and in the beginning it works quite well, but as the story progresses the letters seem more and more contrived and more of a necessity and a plot enforcer than it probably should.
If you like audiobooks I recommend highly that you check out the Audible-version narrated by Susan Duerden. It is the best narrated audiobook I have ever listened to. The reading is perfectly paced and the way she does the voices contributed very much to my enjoyment of The Rook. That being said I definitely want a hardcopy of this book, and I’m eagerly awaiting O’Malleys sequel. I wonder what the Belgians did to anger him so?