Narrated by Susan Duerden
Length: 17 hours 51 minutes
When Myfanwy Thomas awakens in a room full of dead bodies, she’s not sure who she is or what has happened to her. Very quickly, she discovers a set of instructions that will tell her all she ever wanted to know and more. It seems that Myfanwy Thomas is a Rook: one of the highest players belonging to an organization called the Chequy. The Chequy are secret British government operatives that deal entirely with the supernatural elements that most of society never even realize exists. As Myfanwy becomes more and more aware that there is danger all around her, she realizes that her consciousness in this new body is like that of a babe in the woods. As she fumbles her way through meetings with the other very unusual Chequy operatives, each possessing a powerful and strange skill, she learns that she can trust no one but the Myfanwy of the past who has left her a large set of information and instructions. But things are getting too hot to handle in the Chequy, for there seems to be a dangerous member in their presence—a member who can destroy the delicate balance between a world of normalcy and a world of exceptional hostility. Will Myfanwy be able to discover who she is in time to save not only herself but the world that counts on her to keep the balance? Or is it already too late to harness the powers that have been unleashed upon the unsuspecting Chequy operatives and the more average world beyond? In this sassy and clever debut, Daniel O’Malley melds the world of the ordinary and the alternately witty and wild world of the supernatural together as they engage in a battle for supreme control. And at the center of it all is Myfanwy Thomas: a woman who can’t even remember her own name.
I first heard of this book over at Nicole’s website and was instantly intrigued. Her review was wonderful and gave me just enough information to be tantalized, but didn’t spoil a thing. When I realized that this book could be had on audio, I knew this was my opportunity. Though it’s a long book–clocking in at almost 18 hours–the narrator, Susan Duerden, had a wonderfully crisp British accent and great skill at doing many voices and accents, which lent the audio version a life and vibrancy that I would have missed had I read this one instead of listened. Duerden was always composed and even a bit snarky at times, and by God she was funny! There was a lot of suspense here, and the trepidation in the narrator’s voice as she read really cemented the successfulness of the genre mixing and superb character creation of this tale.
The listener or reader really meets Myfanwy (pronounced just like Tiffany) as she is first meeting herself. Awakened to a mass of bodies lying all around her, she is only discovering that she has immense power for the first time, and that she has no idea where or who she is. This could turn into a farce, but O’Malley injects so many intelligent and tight plot devices and characters into this mix that the effect was like listening to a mixture of The X-Files and Bridget Jones’ Diary. Myfanwy is timid but powerful, and comes to realize that she is a new consciousness in a Rook’s body. This particular Rook was very feared and skilled, but she was vastly underutilized—a fact that the new Myfanwy seems to enjoy reversing. As she pores over the notes left behind by her old self, she begins to discover her hidden skills and takes pleasure in removing former obstacles and preconceived notions about the person who used to be housed in her body.
The Chequy operatives are a shady bunch, and amidst them are some real surprises. There are some who share one hive mind and several bodies, some who can invade dreamscapes, and even some who are strange vampiric creatures. Each has a special talent, and as a group they are both fearsome and funny. They don’t often work well together, and this makes for a very unstable atmosphere just ripe for unrest and tyranny and possibly even defection. I was delighted by the lengths that O’Malley went to in order to make his fictional universe diverse and creative, and felt that although there are a lot of books out there that deal with the supernatural, this one felt fresh and exciting.
As each operative knows, the biggest threat to them all are the Grafters. These sinister monsters take their superior advancements and turn them upon each other, surgically and organically creating horrific monsters that are built for mutilation. The Grafters are a nasty bunch, and for some reason they’ve come out of hiding to terrorize the people of England and the Chequy themselves. They want something, and someone has granted them access. But who could it be? It’s Myfanwy’s imperative to find out, and as she does, the shy girl that people used to cower away from is transformed into a warrior of fierce measure, someone even the Grafters fear. Duerden does an incredible job with her vocal talents in giving this story presence and imbuing it with a sinister air, and really does justice to O’Malley’s genius of a plot.
I would have to give this book a full endorsement in audio, though I imagine that the print version is probably quite wonderful as well. The life and imagination of this story seems to crackle out of the speakers, and as with the best audiobooks, I never wanted it to end. Suspicion, thrills and humor roll smoothly together into a tale that never stops pulsing. For those readers looking for something new and exciting that will thrill you to the very marrow, you need look no further. A rambunctious and highly captivating novel. Recommended for all types of readers.