Myfanwy Alice Thomas awakes having no memory of who she is, and discovers she has the ability to manipulate people’s bodies with a touch: a superpower that qualifies her to hold a high-ranking role in a supernatural wing of the British Government.
“Dear you. The body you are wearing used to be mine…”
Our heroine reads these words after awakening in a park surrounded by a ring of dead bodies. She has no memory of who she is, how she got there, or any idea why all of the corpses are wearing latex gloves. Someone has tried to kill her, and the attempts do not stop in the park.
Equal parts James Bond, X-Men, Ghostbusters, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook tells the story of two women named “Myfanwy Alice Thomas:” the one we meet in the park in the book’s first pages, and the old one who emerges in letters and journal entries left for her future self. Along with the body, the new Myfanwy inherits “certain problems and responsibilities;” she is a high ranking official in the Chequy, an MI6-like branch of the British government that deals with supernatural phenomena. Just like with the Ghostbusters of 1984 (and 2016), when a building is inhabited by a person-eating fungus or there’s a vampire to be dealt with, the Chequy, with its well-placed network of informants, will be there to take care of it. All members of the Chequy court are given titles taken from the game of chess; there are two Rooks (one of which is Myfanwy), two bishops, two chevaliers (knights), a Lord and Lady, and innumerable pawns. All have X-men–like powers; a pawn may be able to hover in the air or manipulate metal. The other Rook, Myfanwy’s counterpart Gestalt, is a single consciousness that can inhabit and control four siblings, even from opposite ends of the world.
As Myfanwy learns about her new life and powers, aided by a litany of letters from her past self, she will find herself faking her way through a job she seems particularly suited for, kicking some serious supernatural butt, and discovering a far-reaching, international conspiracy of genetic engineering at its scariest. The Rook is not to be missed, and you can read the further adventures of Myfanwy in O’Malley’s sequel, Stiletto.