I've seen this book described as M15 for wizards but I think it might be more X-Men for bureaucrats. That said, I really loved it and found it highly ..Show More »entertaining. Can't wait for the next book.
I'm glad I didn't realize that The Rook was classified as YA on some lists when I downloaded it or I would probably not have given it a listen since I..Show More »'ve been rather disappointed with my sampling of previous YA genre books. I'm not sure what makes a book YA, but this one to my relief did not suffer from the problems I have seen in my previous YA "dips". No sign of the simplistic, unrealistic YA characters - the Rook has well developed characters that a reader can identify with or at least understand (i.e. motivations track with their back stories and behavior is consistent). No teenagers taking charge of the world - all the central characters are full grown adults; some quite ancient so you get NO teenage angst or the overdone "coming of age" sexual rabbit trails in this tale. And finally, thankfully, no insipid romantic convolutions to veer the plot off track, undermine the female protagonist, or bore the adult reader.
There is some good world building in this hidden fantasy world set "beneath" our real modern day world - the politics of this fantasy world are laid out well and remain consistent although the constant introduction of new abilities throughout the book gets a little tired after a while. In spite of a lot of action, the plot line is pretty basic and the mystery of Myfanwy's attack/amnesia isn't that mysterious. However, I will not be overly critical of the plotting because I thought the development of the two Myfanwy characters was beautifully done. The amnesia angle might be a bit cliche, but it was handled so perfectly that I will forgive the cliche. Myfanwy doesn't just develop amnesia from a bump on the head - she has all of her personal memories deleted from her so that the woman who wakes up after the attack only resembles the pre-attack Myfanwy at a cellular level. All that nurture and experience did to influence what nature started with in Myfanwy is gone. We learn of pre-attack Myfanwy from her letters to her future "sister" as we watch post-attack Myfanwy develop her own new persona. I loved the way O'Malley made the two characters unique and yet related. Ex: Old Myfanwy by way of her life experiences is quite shy (nurture); new Myfanwy isn't shy, but is still fairly introverted (nature). After all, you are who you are by way of nature and nurture, lose the nurture and you couldn't be you. But nature sets the initial boundaries so any version of you would have to have some commonality with any other version. By the end of the book, both the reader and the new Myfanwy come to understand and appreciate the old Myfanwy and it feels like you've been part of a story with two individual female protagonists. I came to like both of them very much. All of the characterizations in The Rook were interesting and quite well done.
Reviewing the performance is harder. I had some trepidation about the book after reading some of the negative reviews about the narration. You can hear what the reviewers were complaining about from the sample, but you might not be prepared for how incredibly irritating this strange voice mannerism is over 18 hours of listening to it - OUCH! The sad part is that Susan Duerden's reading makes it difficult to tell how good/bad O'Malley's writing is. She reads as if the author wrote the whole book in sentence fragments and rarely utilized any periods. She breaks up every sentence into phrases and leaves each phrase hanging out there - her voice never drops at the natural end of a sentence or a thought as a normal speaker would. I found this to be a major distraction that broke the flow of O'Malley's writing. But, Duerden isn't universally bad which makes the review hard. Her voice is nicely modulated and with a pleasant British accent she is a pleasure to listen to other than the weird phrasing thing. In addition, she does great character voices for men, women, children, and monsters and the dialog parts of the book are really fun with her presentation. (She did a better American accent than almost any British narrator I've listened to.) Parts of her narration I would give a 5 star and parts a 1 star. I finally settled on 2 stars because she so badly impacted the author's writing for me and that's a big No-No in my book.
This is a great little fantasy tale with wonderful characters. No hesitation recommending the book, but check the audio sample before you download and just make sure you are prepared for Susan Duerden's reading the whole thing as a series of sentence fragments before you take on the audio version.
I rank this as a 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 5 In 2012, Daniel O’Malley published his debut novel “The Rook”. An instant best seller, it was nothing sh..Show More »ort of brilliant in its vision and execution and, in my opinion, the strongest and best debut of an author since Stephen King’s “Carrie”. In short, I LOVED IT! And I am not the only one with this opinion; look at the reviews on Audible or Goodreads and you will see overwhelming adoration of not only “The Rook” as a novel but the book’s protagonist, Myfawney Thomas.
2016 brings us the sequel: Stiletto. It took awhile to get to book form but, considering the tremendous height of the bar set by “The Rook”, “Stiletto” has some huge shoes to fill so I couldn’t begrudge the extra time. I had pre-ordered the audiobook a month or more in advance and stayed up late so I could download it as soon as it was available. Yep, I am a fanboy…
I was caught off-guard immediately when not only was the book narrated by Moira Quirk (as opposed to Susan Duerdan, who narrated “The Rook”), but the book is told in first person by a young Grafter woman, Odette, and a young Checquy woman, Pawn Clemens. You have to understand that Myfawney Thomas of “The Rook” inspires such feelings of loyalty (“love” wouldn’t be too strong a word also) that it is almost heresy to not have her at the forefront of its sequel. Not only is she not at the forefront, she is barely mentioned until the second half of “Stiletto”. I see it as a huge gamble by the author, but one that I believe payed off and will ultimately provide freedom to the author in future sequels. Other reviewers will probably not agree: they will say that while “Stiletto” is good, they couldn’t get into it because Myfawney wasn’t there. This is why I felt I needed to expound on Myfawney’s overwhelming influence on the success of “The Rook”: any sequel that didn’t continue with Myfawney’s first person narrative was going to be doomed to lukewarm reviews by a significant percentage of reviewers because of her absence alone, regardless of Stiletto’s plot or the author’s skill.
A brief synopsis: “Stiletto” picks up immediately following the events of “The Rook” with the proposed incorporation of the Grafters and a Grafter delegation is in London to hammer out the terms and conditions of the Grafters joining the Checquy. The Grafters are keeping secret (or trying to) the fact that they are being systematically hunted by an unknown group. Combine this with the inbred hatred the Grafters and the Checquy are taught to feel about each other from a early age and the tension is a powder keg with a lit fuse. Stiletto is told in the first person by Odette, a young Grafter woman and the Checquy guard who is assigned as her body guard, Pawn Clemens. Through their eyes, the listener/reader gets to experience the intense hatred and mistrust that each group has for the other and to contemplate what it might take to have the two groups become one without outright civil war.
Moira Quirk delivered an outstanding performance and narration. I had noticed immediately that she was not the same narrator who performed “The Rook”, but since “Stiletto” isn’t about Myfawney Thomas, it makes sense to have a different narrator and she demonstrated skill, talent, and a remarkable amount of distinct voices and accents for the myriad of characters contained in “Stiletto”.
Bottom Line: “Stiletto” is an excellent sequel to “The Rook” if the listener/reader is able to accept it on its own merit and a continuation of the Checquy's storyline. If the audience is looking for “a part two to The Rook”, he/she is going to be disappointed. At over 23 hrs of entertainment, “Stiletto” is a welcome addition to the mythos of the Checquy and will contribute significantly to its current and future success in both plotlines and fresh characters.