My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement. Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider spoilers and continue on at your own risk!
I recently read a list of people’s top books of 2012. One reader recommended 3 books that I had read and enjoyed, and the fourth book was The Rook, which I had not read. Since we seemed to have a similar taste in books, I decided to give this one a chance. Here’s what I thought:
A girl wakes up in someone else’s body, and that body has special abilities (like controlling other people’s bodies). The previous occupant of the body has left the new girl instructions on how to take over her life (or she could just run away and live comfortably- but then we wouldn’t be reading a book about it). Oh- and the body’s original owner is a high ranking member of a secret British force that fights bad supernatural guys. The New Girl takes over the body and does a better job with it than the previous owner.
While reading the book, I was not sure whether the Original Girl had amnesia and couldn’t remember herself, or if the New Girl was someone who had a previous body, but had taken over a new one. Come to find out, the Original Girl had part of her memory wiped, so she couldn’t remember who she was, which I suppose freed her up to be a bad ass. A better plot twist might have been the option that someone separate had taken over her body.
The plot is interesting, but standard. Girl loses memory (although no one seems to notice due to extensive documentation left by the Original Girl). Girl discovers traitor. Girl kicks supernatural booty. There were some ‘plot holes’ for me- for example, this is a top secret organization that recruits members as children, and does their best to hide and protect them (for example, by tracking anyone who even googles one of their names). But they don’t change the kids names? Myfawny’s sister finds her because of tax records. If you don’t want to be found, step 1 is changing your name. There is one part where she says “It’s not a case of putting all your eggs in one basket; it’s a matter of keeping your valuables in a safe”. (Referring to the fact that all the recruited children- and some adults- are all kept at the same estate). I thought this saying was stupid, because if you had several valuables, you would keep them in separate safes- at separate locations. What a lame way to validate why you got all the kids together.
Plot Score: 3/5
Location, Location, Location?
This book takes place in London, mostly at facilities run by the Checquy Group (the supernatural super secret British spy agency). Even though this was a super cool secret spy agency, it just didn’t come to life for me in that way. There are a few secret passages- but one leads to her onsite residence, which she was afraid to even re-style after the previous male occupant left.
Location Score: 2/5
Characters and Relationship?
The Original Girl – Myfanwy (Miffany- rhymes with Tiffany) had cool supernatural abilities, and is one of the most powerful people in Checquy group, but she is meek and timid and always afraid. Just the type of character that is unworthy of a book. The New Girl- also Myfawny Thomas, takes more of an aggressive role. I’m not sure how a memory wipe would make you starting kicking major booty, but it worked for Myfanwy.
Although there was no romance in this book, Myfawny did make two friends, both were developed very quickly (Shantay- who became her BFF after one conversation) and Bronwyn, the Original Girls sister (they were separated when Bronwyn was 3 and Myfawny was 7-9, so no need to tie up lose ends on why they didn’t remember the same stuff). I felt it was odd that someone waking up in this type of scenario starts to latch onto strangers and developing BFFs after a conversation. Her executive assistance, Ingrid Woodhouse, was developed more slowly, over the course of the book, which was more realistic.
Character Score: 2/5
Bigger Meaning Score: 0/5
This is where the book really fell apart for me. This is what I like to call a ‘skim book’. There is no reason to read every word, because most of it makes no difference- in fact, there are entire chapters you can skip (the tiring letters the Original Girl wrote to the New Girl). I had originally liked the concept of getting glimpses of the Original Girl through letters (why wouldn’t she leave video messages so that the New Girl could see her mannerisms- which would help with blending in), but after a while, it just was information overload. I don’t need the complete history of every character she comes across! And at one point, these summary notes would break up the little bit of action that the book contained. I felt this book could have been cut down by about 100 pages (It was a total of 487 pages). At one point she lists about 80 types of manifestations, couldn’t you go with 2 or 3 and leave it at that? Who is reading all that? It adds nothing to the advancement of the story.
The other issue I had with the Original Girls letters, is that she would write them as if the letters were a novel- for example she wrote
“Good evening, Sir Henry,” I said demurely. “Welcome.”
Who writes in a journal like that? Did she really remember that she spoke ‘demurely’? Then she would have journal entries where she could only partially remember things. Does the Original Girl remember everything- down to how she spoke, or can she not even recall a conversation properly? Pick one…and stick with it.
Style Score: 1/5
-At first the letters from the Original Girl were interesting, but after a while I just started skipping those chapters…boring!
-Once a book is on the same list with ‘Name of the Wind’, it has a huge expectation to live up to. Perhaps my expectations were too high for me to really enjoy this one.
-The magical children at the estate reminded me of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Any one else get that feeling?
Total Score and Recommendation
8/25 – Skip it. If you want an entertaining supernatural read that is lighthearted, read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series or Patricia Brigss Mercedes Thompson series.
Tagged: KayKay Daniel O'Malley Sci Fi