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Publisher's Summary

Myfanwy Thomas awakes in a London park surrounded by dead bodies. With her memory gone, her only hope of survival is to trust the instructions left in her pocket by her former self. She quickly learns that she is a Rook, a high-level operative in a secret agency that protects the world from supernatural threats. But there is a mole inside the organization - and this person wants her dead.

As Myfanwy battles to save herself, she encounters a person with four bodies, a woman who can enter her dreams, children transformed into deadly fighters, and an unimaginably vast conspiracy.

Suspenseful and hilarious, The Rookis an outrageously inventive debut for listeners who like their espionage with a dollop of purple slime.

©2012 Daniel O'Malley (P)2012 Hachette

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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Performance

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Story

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Tale of Two Myfanwy's

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'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.



32 of 32 people found this review helpful

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Harry Dresden meets English bureaucracy

This was unexpectedly excellent. There are so many elements that you would think would seem trite for the genre - the main character has amnesia, the setting involves modern supernatural forces, lots of funny banter, etc. - but it all comes together expertly in a way that seems very fresh. In The Rook, he amnesia concept has an interesting twist, the modern supernatural elements are unique (not many vampires or werewolves), and the humor is occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. And, as for the set-up, think Harry Dresden (but less dark and conflicted) or the Charlie Stross's Laundry series (but less satirical), and you'll get the general idea - the world is full of scary forces, and our heroine, along with a government agency, has to kill, out-maneuver, or out-think them.

The plot zips along, the writing is just excellent, and the characters are fun and compelling. This is not a particularly deep book, but it is a really well done supernatural-political-workplace drama that I can't wait to see more of. The details of the plot don't need spoiling, but I highly recommend this, especially to Dresden or Laundry fans.

The only caveat is that the reader takes a few hours to get used to, though she improves as she goes. The early part of the book seems to be read in short phrases, with odd spacings and a questioning rising note in the middle of many sentences. The accents are pleasant, though, and by half-way through you won't notice any issues, and, in any case, it doesn't undermine the book.

97 of 102 people found this review helpful

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Can't get past the narrator

This is the first time I've ever returned a book on audible - the narration was completely horrid - I could not focus on the content at all because of the weird sing-song cadence of the narrator. Every sentence was just an arpeggio - with her voice going up and down with each syllable. I have no idea how people gave the performance anything above one star. It's completely bizarre.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Best surprise in over a year...

It's sorta a spy-ops type of book, but the spies have superpowers. All sorts of superpowers. To the point where you'll be wondering why you don't find it over-the-top when, really, you should. But you won't. It is written with such a straight-face that you won't even bat an eye at a girl with leaves for hair.

The way the amnesia was dealt with was interesting and original and, at the same time, gave the author a chance to flesh out some other parts of the world by exploring events outside THIS rook Thomas' world. You get to see events from the past that aren't, technically, flashbacks.

And while the bulk of the book was spent covering supernatural material, the mystery as to who caused Thomas' memory loss (and how) was also well done and very suspenseful. I can even see the point of Bronwyn's appearance - it throws a bit of a wrench into the mix and I spent a good part of the book waiting for her appearance to "mean something".

Would I have liked the pace to be a bit faster, yes, probably... and I don't know that the last "manifestation" scene added anything to the story other than to make it a bit longer. But this might have been because by this point in the story I wanted to know who Thomas' enemy was...

I really enjoyed how the story was wrapped-up - the ending was believable and had a bit of a twist (twistedness too).

I particularly enjoyed the narrator. I found her to be very rhythmic and I loved the flow of her phrasing (almost sing-songy), seriously... I really enjoyed how it was read. And I think her male characters were excellently done too. I enjoyed it so much I'm actually going to go look for books written by this author and books read by this narrator.

44 of 47 people found this review helpful

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  • Cidney
  • New Orleans, United States Minor Outlying Islands
  • 10-09-12

Bond+Bourne+X Men/China Mieville=Rook

But this is a great story that truly cannot be summed up in a simplistic formula; however, readers might recognize elements of all of the above flavored with Mievillesque surrealism.

There are differences: it’s Jane Bond not James, and her Bourne-like memory loss is due less to amnesia and more so because she’s become someone else -- or someone else has become her (it makes sense in the story), and there are people with X Men-like abilities, but there are also vampires, and other, uh, entities.

Readers familiar with Mr. Mieville’s work will recognize and perhaps feel comfortable with the wave of weirdness when it hits. Unfamiliar readers might exclaim “what the frak?!” and feel that the book has gone off the rails or jumped the shark because the story does get a little… out there.

There’s also plenty of human drama, enough to care very much about our heroine Myfanwy, enough to feel eager for the next book. Mr. O’Malley has done a fine job with his first book, and I can’t wait to read more about Myfanwy and the mysterious Cheque organization. Oh, and good job with the trailer for the book. It's very funny.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Who Knew Fighting Monsters Could Be So Funny...?

I wonder sometimes who it is that selects titles for Audible's sales. I'd really like to know so I could thank them for bringing about my discovery of The Rook. I doubt I would have found it otherwise, and that'd have been a real shame, as this is a truly hilarious book with some uplifting undertones.

Imagine someone having to cope all at once with the existence of supernatural threats to humanity as well as their leadership role in an organization established to hold the line against such threats. This story could get very dark very quickly, but it doesn't, as the author and the reader enjoy themselves too much along the way. Our hero has plots to uncover, monsters to vanquish, and people to fool, all while learning who she was before her memory was lost and who she wants to be now. It all makes for a quick pace as she meets all sorts of colorful characters and risks her life to save the people of Britain, blissfully unaware of the dangers all around them.

The narration takes some getting used to, filled with an urgency suited to some events, but not to others. Eventually though, the voices of the characters shine through and allow the narrator's vocal talents to dazzle the listener, particularly with Myfanwy and other characters' spontaneous reactions to the odd events they encounter.

There are occasions when I wonder whether a book's sale price colored my opinion of its merits, not so in this case. I had far too much fun, something born out by the fact that I'll be buying the sequel as soon as it hits Audible.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Hallie
  • PIKESVILLE, MD, United States
  • 08-28-12

A fantastic story from beginning to end

I will definitely listen to this book more than once. From the first few minutes I was sure it would become one of my favorites.
The array of accents Susan Duerden perfectly performed was impressive, and she made each character come to life. I agree with another reviewer that the lack of a love story made this book even better. The dry, sarcastic humor kept me chuckling and the action-packed scenes were wonderfully balanced with the intermittent letters from Thomas to herself. It had a relatively complex plot that was fun to follow and twists and turns that I never would've expected.
I would recommend this to any paranormal mystery fan, especially fans of The Dresden Files. The humor is very much the same and I came to think of Thomas as the female equivalent of Dresden. I can't wait to see what Daniel O'Malley comes up with next!

26 of 28 people found this review helpful

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Loved it!

Let me say right off the bat, I am not a fan of mysteries or "whodunnits". Even so, I loved this book, and I sincerely hope the author writes a few sequels. The premise of the story was intriguing, the setting was vivid the plot kept the intrigue up right until the end. The main characters were well-written but still left some questions open, and that's a good thing, since the ending leaves room for this to become a series. The narration was great and I had no trouble keeping track of the different characters. Also, it was really nice to read a book with a female main character that does NOT involve a love story anywhere along the line.
Overall, a great read. I'd highly recommend this one, especially to women.

25 of 27 people found this review helpful

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Narrator killed it for me.

I had very high expectations for this book. The premise was intriguing and the plot was exciting. However, the reader's performance was extremely sub par. She alternated between the same three pitches in the same sequence for 95% of the sentences throughout. The predictability of her speech was so annoying that I was distracted from the plot and had a difficult time staying interested. I will have to buy the paperback to reread; I simply cannot listen to this woman again.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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I couldn't listen any longer

The book itself is ingenuis and I'm sure will be quite fun but the reader's speech pattern made me crazy. She has a lovely voice but the sing-song style with a lift and then drop at the end of Every. Single. Sentence. It was more than I could bear after a while.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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