The Rook
Daniel O'Malley
Back Bay Books, 2012

The Rook is a comic fantasy novel somewhat in the vein of the SCP Foundation, except with a plot and characters and stuff. It's probably even more like Charles Stross' The Laundry Files, but I haven't read them yet. Suffice to say, it's about a government agency that takes care of creepy (and very deadly) supernatural stuff so that it doesn't bother us normal folk.

Rook Thomas is a top operative in a Very Secret Organization that controls supernatural events in Britain. Usually, they control them with guns and explosions, and they are very good with guns and explosions. Rook Thomas, however, is of a more administrative bent, and prefers to use careful research, diplomacy, and occasional blackmail to keep things running smoothly. Or she did, until she disappeared.

She's not at all sure what happened to her, but she's definitely gone. Thankfully, she left herself a rather thorough set of instructions as to what to do if she finds herself gone, and she will probably be able to fake herself pretty well while she figures out what happened. But as it turns out, she's not really certain that she likes herself, and she might just try being a new person instead...

But meanwhile, she's wearing her body, so people expect certain things of her. Like, that she will know what to do with a zombie plague outbreak, how to react when a stuffy dutchess takes over her dreams, or how to produce a reasonable facsimile of her own signature. And she has to get it right -- this is a profession in which any appearance of possession is likely to get you killed, burnt, buried, and blessed in record time. Faking your way as a secret agent is never easy, but being a secret agent that deals with demons makes it ten times worse.

This is a wonderfully chaotic book, filled with secret agents that all have rather random magical talents (à la Misfits) fighting rather random magical creatures that have evil powers (à la H.P. Lovecraft). The plot is solid and well-paced, and the characters are well-developed and appropriately likable or hateable. It suffers from an abundance of Redshirts, but this is comic fantasy... We have to go through a lot of corpses, or people might mistake it for a kid's book.

All in all, an excellent read for anyone who likes comic fantasy and/or science fiction, and not a bad read for anyone who is in the mood for a darkly comic spy novel with vampires. If you like Terry Pratchett but want more Cthulhu and corpses, this is that book.

The Rook is the first in a series collectively known as The Checquy Files, although it currently has only one sequel, Stiletto.

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