Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley — Audiobook Review

Recorded by Hachette Audio
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.

25 comments:

Amritorupa Kanjilal said...

It sounds very scary :/
Great review, though! Do visit :)

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds great, and also like the audio is an absolute must (I would have never known that Myfanwy is pronounced just like Tiffany, for example, and that would have hindered my reading (since I would have been saying to myself something like: my fanny - LOL!)

Audra said...

Need this, immediately -- sounds fantastically fun!

Ti said...

You really have a knack for giving us the important stuff without giving it all away. I love the premise this one. It sounds so mysterious and a tad dark.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I LOVED this book in the print version and heard so much about it on audio! It's just a fun story all around and I can't wait for more from this author!

Suko said...

Wow! This sounds really incredible, as either an audio book or a printed book. I'm adding this one to my TBR piles, in spite of their size. Wonderfully written review, as always!

bermudaonion said...

I remember Nicole's review too. I would have dismissed this book based on it's cover (shallow, I know) so I'm glad you two have reviewed it.

Alison's Book Marks said...

This sounds fantastic, but I think I'm going to need the audio since I already am stumbling over some of the names. Great review, thank you!!

Andi said...

I keep seeing this one around, but I hadn't given it enough attention. It sounds like something I'd LOVE right now. As long as the world building is done exceptionally well. Will have to give it a go!

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

Boy, can you write a summary! I actually haven't seen this one anywhere I don't think...but it does sound very interesting :)

Buried In Print said...

This sounds like a great summer book and I like the way that you've described the benefits to the audio version; I agree that an audiobook that long can fly by when you're engaged by the narrative style (and it being funny sure doesn't hurt either!).

Robin McCormack said...

You sold me. Read the first few pages on Amazon and just downloaded it to my nook!

Athira said...

This book does sound fabulous! I will have to look for it too. I love that name Myfanwy! So quirky!

nomadreader said...

I'm trying to make another go with audio books for the gym, so I'll add this one to my list. It's a little long (my library's audio check out periods are pretty short, and we have to pay for each check-out and renewal), but I'm definitely intrigued!

Harvee Lau said...

This book sounds as if it was made to be listened to, so that the suspense and other worldliness can be heard in the dialogue and descriptions. Nice review.

Aarti said...

I was TOTALLY pronouncing the name the same way that Jill was and giggling to myself about it. Oh, well. We can't all be mature all the time.

This book sounds so intense! How do you pronounce Chequy? I hate when authors do things like that- it was one of my pet peeves with Anne Bishop's books, when instead of spelling the word "witch," she spelled it "w'itch," and I basically hiccupped in my mind every time I read that word (which was a LOT OF TIMES), and it greatly impeded my enjoyment.

Beth F said...

Wow. Between you and Nicole, this sounds like a must read. And since the audio is a winner, you know I'm going to go that way.

Vasilly said...

I would have never had heard of this book if it wasn't for your review! I had no idea that Myfanwy was pronounced Tiffany! ;-)

Lisa said...

You say "paranormal" and I kind of zone out, thinking there's no way I'll like a book. But your description of the audio makes me think that this book, on audio, just might make me change my mind!

geosi said...

The sound of this book is superb. Thanks.

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

I am so glad to read you enjoyed this one! I added it to my shelf in a print version recently, and I am really looking forward to discovering it. I haven't heard much about this one in fact, and picked it mostly for its premise; reading your review though, it seems even more imaginative than I expected! Great review :)

Stacy at The Novel Life said...

you've sold me! I'm adding this to my wish list for my audible credits and plan on getting this one first next time I have credits available! I love, love, love books like these and with a bit of snarky comedy that makes it all the better. Fantastic review!

Stacy at The Novel Life said...

and Heather, I'm really glad to see you back. You are my go-to for thorough reviews and spot-on recommendations

Jules said...

Nice review Heather! The science fiction side of the story has me intrigued, as it sounds like it has a interesting premise and background to it. But the thriller side of the book has me on the fence. I'll have to think about this one.

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

This must have been so much fun in audio! I love accents!

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