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The Rook

A Novel
Written by: Daniel O'Malley
Narrated by: Susan Duerden
Length: 17 hrs and 46 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (20 ratings)

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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

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Enjoyed!

I enjoyed both the storey and the reader, I’ll be looking for other books by this author.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Myfanwy-like-Tiffany

A woman suddenly comes into consciousness in a park, surrounded by dozens of dead people all wearing blue latex gloves. She has no memory of how she got there, or how they got there, or even what her name is.

Luckily for her, the person who was in possession of her body last wrote her a letter and left it in her pocket. It explains that her name is Myfanwy Thomas and that she is in danger. The previous owner of the body when to a lot of trouble to prepare her predecessor for what is to come, and it is this way that Myfanwy is able to escape the scene until she can wrap her head around what to do.

Her letter goes on to tell her that she is a Rook to the Checquy group, a supernatural secret agent type organization that was designed to protect the citizens of the UK. It gives her a brief run down of what has happened to her the past few months, and explains that she must quickly make a decision. She has provided two possible lifes for this new Myfanwy to live if she so chooses. One in her old life in the organization, even though it will be dangerous as there is clearly at least one traitor in the place trying to kill her; or she can simply escape the country, assume a brand new identity and live a simple but comfortable life.

Guess which one she picks. Wouldn't be much of a story if she went for the simple life!

Myfanwy provided a very vast and detailed explanation of her day to day life, which comprised pretty much entirely of her job. It's enough that she is able to return to work with no suspicion from her other colleagues, so she is able to try and figure out who the mole is.

It was really interesting to watch Myfanwy try to impersonate herself, although clearly she wasn't doing a great job. The current Myf is sarcastic and dry, judging the crap out of her predecessor, and it was very entertaining to read. It was much relief to a lot of the world building that happened. The author used the letters for this purpose, which was smart because there was a lot to get through. It was tedious at times, and I think that is where the audiobook really saved the day for me. The narrator was fantastic, and was able to interpret the different personalities of the two Myfanwy's so well.

I am not the biggest fan of supernatural beings in the real world as a type of story, but I enjoyed this story very much. Lots of action and adventure and sass. My kind of book.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Tango
  • Texas
  • 2013-03-18

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.



96 of 100 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Azita Saed
  • KNOXVILLE, TN, US
  • 2015-08-04

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.

48 of 51 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Cidney
  • New Orleans, United States Minor Outlying Islands
  • 2012-10-09

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.

21 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Lydia
  • Texas
  • 2015-10-26

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.

59 of 64 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • A reader
  • Philadelphia
  • 2012-03-23

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.

111 of 123 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Hallie
  • California
  • 2012-08-28

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!

32 of 35 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Garden Serene
  • 2015-04-06

Great story but very annoying narrator

The story is a fun blend between Harry Potter, James Bond, and British humor. The ending is a little weak but the story lends itself to another novel.

The narrator is capable of doing many voices but elected to be incredibly annoying with the main character and reading the story with no inflections. I highly recommend you listen first to a sample to see if you can handle it as it is like nails on a blackboard.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • ZenMuppet
  • 2012-06-11

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.

28 of 32 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Aaron
  • 2016-05-10

disappointed.

The Gene Mutation (i.e., superpowers ala X-Men) "a day in the life of" with an amnesiac main character was an interesting premise, but in the end failed to deliver. There were some stellar reviews, and an interesting premise, but in the end I felt that the story moved slowly, and the climax wasn't worth the 17 hours to get there.

Disclaimer: I am NOT a fan of YA, and this book verges strongly on YA.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Joyalina
  • California
  • 2012-07-25

UNEXPECTEDLY FUNNY AND CLEVER

I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did. Actually, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to listen to it. I bought this audiobook through an Audible sale and didn’t really know what to expect (although one reviewer’s reference to Harry Dresden definitely piqued my interest). So for a few months it just sat in my library until the guilt at buying a book and not listening to it finally got to me and I decided to give it a chance. Five minutes later, I was hooked!

When Myfanwy (pronounced like Tiffany with an “M”) Thomas wakes up without any memory of who she is or how she wound up in a London park surrounded by dead men wearing suits and latex gloves, she finds two letters in her jacket pocket that were written to her by the jacket’s previous owner -- who happens to be the former owner of Myfanwy’s own body! I say “former” because we learn, through a series of subsequent letters, that Myfanwy’s memories and personality have been erased, and the person who opens Myfanwy’s eyes in that park is not the same Myfanwy who closed them moments before. Oh yeah, it also turns out that the person responsible for Myfanwy’s memory loss is one of her co-workers. But not just any co-worker: the “bad guy” is another high-ranking, supernaturally gifted person (like Myfanwy herself) working for the Chequy, a super-secret organization dedicated to protecting Queen and Country against paranormal threats (like dragons and houses made of slime).

Does this sound like the script to an extremely cheesy B-movie? Yes! But that’s because I am not as talented as Daniel O’Malley, who has managed to turn what should be a played-out-supernatural-who-dunnit into a fresh, imaginative, and FUN debut novel. For me, this book embodies the very best of escapism fiction: it’s clever, the characters are well-developed, the plot moves briskly without feeling rushed, and you can get lost in the story for hours without losing yourself to the story (which is a good thing when you have a job!)

Finally, I know others reviewers have complained about the narrator. Personally, I thought she was excellent! I would, however, recommend listening to the preview. The narrator’s voice and cadence remain consistent throughout the book, so if you enjoy the preview, there’s a good chance you will enjoy this narrator. If not? Then I would highly recommend buying this book in print, because it really is that good!

19 of 22 people found this review helpful