Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Rook- A Very Spoilery Review

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
Read for the July (GIANT) list of picks for the She-Geeks Book Group
Overall Score (out of 5):  3

Let me start by saying- this is my kind of book and I don't know how I missed hearing about it before. I'm so glad the group picked this one for  July.

Here's what rocks about The Rook. The premise is genius. A secret agency of officers with titles and jobs based on a chess board (hence, our agent, The "Rook") who hunt down and hide the existence of supernatural creatures. Many of those who work for the agency has special powers, although some mundanes work for them too. Like a gang, once someone works for the agency they are in for life. There is no putting in your two weeks.

So, the idea is that Myfanwy Thomas (one of the Rooks) is a meek accountant in the agency who also has the power to manipulate people's bodies.  She should be dangerous, but instead she is in danger. 

When she wakes up, she is someone new and that new Myfanwy has to figure out 1. Who wiped out the memory of the original Myfanwy 2. Who has a vendetta against her and 3. How can the new Myfanwy pretend to be the old Myfanwy until she can solve the mystery.

Sounds great, right.

And for about a 100 pages, it is. 
Then the tangents begin. Suddenly we have plots within plots, side plots, flashbacks (via letters the old Myfanwy wrote the new Myfanwy), and new characters that HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ORIGINAL PLOT. We have an American from a sister agency visit. We have a sister come out of the woodwork.

Somewhere along the line, the new Myfanwy has nothing in common with the old one and I liked the new one so much more. The problem is, that is the main plot line so we have to dance back across the tangents to get back to the mystery we were supposed to be solving in the first place and by the time we get there we have a much much bigger evil on the horizon and both the evil and the mystery get tied up in such a way that the reader feels like they've been cheated. 

What this book needed was an editor with a supernatural sized red pen. For real. 
Had Shanty and Bronwyn been cut from the book (eliminating about 100 pages of nonsense) the story would have felt tighter. Also, if we could have remained on the mystery more and the Grafters in another novel, that would have been more focused. 

Also, the cover is terrible. It tells you nothing about the book you are about to pick up. It's too subtle. If I am going to read a book about purple slime invading nutjobs, I would expect a more imaginative cover. 

I didn't hate this book. In fact, there were times when the storytelling hit it's mark and I was in a  complete trance. What worked for me was the scenes when the agency reacted to problems. More of that please. 

O'Malley would do well with fans of Jasper Fforde.