The Rook (The Checquy Files #1) by Daniel O’Malley

When Myfanwy Thomas wakes in a London park, she is surrounded by dead bodies and no memory of how they, or she, got there. There is a letter in her pocked, supposedly written by her former self and containing a set of instructions. Myfanwy’s only chance of survival is to trust the note and follow its directions.

Quickly, she learns she is a Rook – a high-level operative in a secret agency whose purpose is to protect England from supernatural threats. She also learns there is a mole inside the agency and they want her dead.

But who among the agency would want Myfanwy dead? The person with four bodies? A woman who can enter dreams? It seems nearly everyone has an agenda and Myfawny has to untangle the knot to save not only herself, but possibly England and the world as well.

The Rook was again one of those books recommended to me by Goodreads. I hadn’t really paid much attention to it since I only read the first paragraph of the review and wasn’t really drawn to it. However, as a good reviewer, I know I should read and review as much as I can. So I found the book at my local library and decided to give it a shot.

I am quite glad I did.

Another reviewer over on Goodreads said The Rook is something like The Bourne Identity meets Johnny English and I couldn’t agree more. Reading almost like something by Pratchett or Douglas Adams, O’Malley manages to combine humor and suspense in a way that keeps the reader entertained. The tense, edge of one’s seat moments are tempered (but in no way lessened) by the humorous ones. And while O’Malley himself is an American, he captures the dry wit of English humor quite well.

Readers who enjoy authors like Terry Pratchett might do well to give O’Malley’s The Rook a try. At times nail bitingly tense and at others laugh out loud funny, I found it to be an enjoyable page turner and well worth the read.

No review this week 8/16/16

Good afternoon my dear readers.

Sadly, there will be no book review this week. If you have been watching the news, there has been some very bad flooding in Southern Louisiana where I live. My family and I have had to evacuate our home.

While I do have the book I intend to review as well as the computer to write the review, my energies are currently directed elsewhere. I am sure you, my dear readers, understand.

A Shadow All of Light by Fred Chappell

Falco is a young man from the country with high ambitions. He travels to the port city of Tardocco with the intention of becoming an apprentice to a master shadow thief. Almost immediately he meets Maestro Astolfo, the most well known of all shadow dealers, who sees a great deal of potential in Falco and agrees to take him on as an apprentice.

Maestro Astolfo is a unique man. Secretive with a power of observation and intellect that would rival Sherlock Holmes himself. As Falco trains and learns more of the Maestro, he cannot help but wonder if the rumors he hears are true and just how far Astolfo’s knowledge goes.

Set in a pseudo 17th-18th Century Italy, A Shadow All of Light is told in a series of short stories. Each short story chronicles a time in Falco’s training and eventual partnership with Astolfo as he learns the art of shadows. Through the stories we see Falco grow and mature from a brash young man in the beginning to an older married man in the eventual end.

If I have one complaint about the book, it would be that the speaking style of the characters is rather stilted. Their speech is obviously based on speaking patterns of the time and can be rather odd to the modern ear. I found it to be very reminiscent of reading Shakespeare and there were several times I had to reread a sentence a few times to understand the meaning.

The action itself was well written and well paced. There were also numerous humorous moments that made me smile.

A Shadow All of Light was another of those books that came to me as a recommendation. Being a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I often find it interesting how authors will take his well known skills and fit them to another character. Maestro Astolfo is one such character in that he has taken a lifetime of study and applied it to become the most well known and richest of shadow dealers.

If it weren’t for the sometimes awkward speaking style of the characters, I would have gladly given A Shadow All of Light full marks. As it is, I do recommend this book to most readers. I just advise them to take their time and go slowly and enjoy.

An Unattractive Vampire by Jim McDoniel

After over three hundred years trapped underground, thousand year old vampire Yulric Bile awakens only to find no one believes him to actually be a vampire. Though he was once known as The Cursed One and The Devil’s Apprentice, now he is considered too ugly to actually be taken seriously. To his horror and dismay, he soon discovers that vampires today are pretty, weak, and horror-of-horrors…good.

Yulric is determined to correct this turn of events and re-establish his blood drenched reign. Or failing that, murder the person responsible.

An Unattractive Vampire was another one of those books that was recommended to me by my local library. And I am so very glad it was.

An Unattractive Vampire follows Yulric Bile as he awakens in the twenty-first century. Over three hundred years have passed since his imprisonment and while he and others of his kind were once feared, now opinions are worryingly different. Vampires of olden days have been replaced with a modern version; and to Yulric the new version is far inferior.

Fast paced and quite funny, I found it to be reminiscent of some of Terry Pratchett’s work. From me, that is high praise indeed as Pratchett continues to be one of my favorite authors. The inclusion of amusing footnotes only cements the comparison.

The book doesn’t hesitate to poke fun at the various tropes that have populated vampire lore in recent years. It also doesn’t hesitate to poke fun at itself which keeps the book light hearted if a bit violent at times. Yulric doesn’t apologize for what he is, he embraces it with enthusiasm and often malicious glee.

As I said earlier, McDoniel’s first novel reminds me a great deal of Terry Pratchett. Incredibly amusing, I found it quite a good read. Fans of vampires in all their many forms and the absurdity behind it will likely enjoy it as well.