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Review: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

The Rook is basically would happen if you tried to blend Torchwood and the Bourne Identity together and then threw in a dash of Harry Potter for good measure. The premise is intriguing – Myfanwy Thomas, our female lead, wakes up in a body previously occupied by…herself, essentially, though she’s completely lost her memory. Only a letter from her previous self helps lead her to the truth, pushing her head first into a world of supernatural bureaucracy. And I wanted to like it, I really did. I’m a sucker for a good supernatural crime plot and nothing sounds more fun than a lost identity and a secret government entity committed to solving supernatural situations on the DL for the good of king and country. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

Unfortunately, quite a lot. Whatever creativity the author displayed in writing this story was almost immediately negated by a subpar grasp of language and a belief in his own wit over his actual ability. It was supremely disappointing to get caught up in a scene involving the liquefaction and subsequent regurgitation of an entire invasion force by a house filled with flashing lights and chanting, only to have the repeated descriptions of the “tech nerds” thrown around without any apparent need to describe them any further than a basic stereotype; one woman was actually described as “the plump nerd.” She’s considered catty as well, but nothing she says actually indicates that she’s being catty. Elsewhere, characters are described simply as “attractive-looking” or worse, “anorexic-looking.” This last was used to describe a bodyguard whose only other descriptor was his race. The sheer number of times the descriptions were watered down to a combination of hyphens and very little else easily outnumbered the times he chose, seemingly at random, to fully describe some aspect of his favored villains or a plot device of choice. What was clearly intended to feel as a quick, dismissive impression as perceived by the female lead ends up feeling sloppy, even lazy. 

Meanwhile, in a scramble to reveal just the right amount of plot devices and worldbuilding as the right time, the author uses a series of letters from the Myfanwy’s past self to help establish the plot. At first, the letters build suspense and set the stage for coming confrontations. Some 250 pages later, however, readers are still receiving direct info dumps from the Past!Myfanwy and it starts to wear thin. Every time a new letter cropped up, I could practically hear my high school writing teacher yelling, “Show, not tell!” Incidentally, these letters display some of the best writing in the book. Past!Myfanwy isn’t what you’d call a brave character, much to the scorn of her current incarnation, but in these letters she’s free to be strong, bitter, reflective, and even funny (see: The Ghost of Pimpings Past and other such setups). The author hits a stride with her voice and it feels strong and consistent, even when the letters disrupt the action with a few pages of backstory.

Speaking of the middle of the book – suddenly vampires! Yeah. A goth vampire, no less, with flowing blood-red hair and ambiguous motives. Not that the vampire is even directly related to the plot itself. He just sits in the background, brooding and providing a vague, horrifying sort of entertainment when he shows up at a night club in a mesh shirt, claiming to have smelled Myfanwy on the wind. It was an unfortunate turn of events to have gone from the creativity of every other character’s superpowers and to then suddenly be presented with…a vampire. It felt like a cop out, honestly, especially after all the buildup with that particular character throughout the beginning of the book. I wish I could tell you these vampires seriously contributed to the end of the book, as entertainment or otherwise, but they didn’t. For all the buildup to the final showdown, it was stunningly neat, easy and overwhelmingly mediocre. 

Let’s face it, any author capable of thinking up and writing a character who has a single consciousness with four bodies and four brains to draw on, all of which operate simultaneously, deserves some credit for his creativity. Still, the lack of command and control shown over the writing destroyed my ability to appreciate the plot of this novel. If the greatest strength of this novel was it’s creative, tongue-in-cheek approach to supernatural crime fighting, it was brought down by the overestimation of its actual wit and a decided lack of cohesion.

Game of Thrones Rap

Stop what you’re doing and listen to this.

No really. Trust me.

Take Me Home by Ray Bradbury

Take Me Home by Ray Bradbury

Check out the last article Ray Bradbury had published. Full of enthusiasm and warm nostalgia, it got posted in the New Yorker on Monday, just two days before his death. What a legacy to leave behind, hm?

Rest in peace, sir. You changed a lot of lives and left a lot of inspiration in your wake.

Top 10 YA Books That Should Be Adapted for Film

Top 10 YA Books That Should Be Adapted for Film

LitReactor posted their picks yesterday, so of course I read through the list and furiously added a few more books to my To Read shelf on GoodReads. I’m a fan of Graceling by Kristin Cashore and I’d love to see it on the big screen. The aesthetic of Graceling and Fire both would be worth seeing, if someone could find a way to do it justice without making it cartoonish, and frankly seeing Cashore’s characters come to life would be a joy. While neither plot is particularly new or genre defining, the way Cashore develops her characters and moves them through the plot makes the book a pleasure to read.

Of course, looking at that list got me thinking about which books I’d like to see put to film, so I put together a list of my own. They aren’t all YA and some of my picks are old school, I’ll admit, throwbacks to favorites of middle school or high school years. I have no regrets.

In no particularly order:

  1. Ship Breakers by Paolo Bacigalupi – Solid world building meets dystopian steampunk. What more could you ask for?
  2. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld – Because everyone loves techy alt-history and bio-engineered flying whales.
  3. Sabriel by Garth Nix –  Just to see Sabriel and her bells striding through Death would be some serious wish fulfillment for my high school self, which could only be upped by the sudden appearance of a portal to Middle Earth in my apartment.
  4. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss – Again with the solid world building, with pitch perfect pacing and a full cast of interesting characters.
  5. Inda by Sherwood Smith – See above. See also: pirates.
  6. Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb – Talking. Ships. Strong female protagonists. Pirates. That is all.
  7. Shade’s Children by Garth Nix – You want some dystopian YA lit? I got that shit right here.
  8. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – It’s Neil Gaiman and the things that lurk under London, does this really need an explanation?
  9. Perelandra by C.S. Lewis – Purely to see this world fully rendered, honestly. The descriptions along are stunning; just imagine seeing a planet covered by water, with floating islands and brilliant, vivid colors on the big screen.
  10. Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce – Here’s my high school self again; I loved Daine and her ability to speak with animals. This quartet completely absorbed me, though admittedly I haven’t gone back for a re-read to see if it holds up to the test of time.

So there you go – ten of my favorite books I’d love to see played out on the big screen. What’s your list look like?

Accurate

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