Book Review: “Stiletto” by Daniel O’Malley

Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley

At last, the long awaited sequel to The Rook (2012 )!

If you haven’t read the first book, do so right now! I’ll wait….

After unmasking a deadly infiltration, Rook Myfanwy (rhymes with “tiffany”) Thomas and the Checquy, are now engaged in a tricky diplomatic effort to unite with their ancient enemies, the Grafters. The mysterious and irrational powers of the Checquy contrast with the astonishing advanced, but completely scientific, biotechnology of the Grafters (who certainly illustrate Clarke’s third law, “sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”).  both sides must overcome centuries of visceral hate and fear. Can peace prevail?

In the story we meet many fascinating characters, including two plucky young women, Grafter Odette Liliefield, an extremely skilled surgeon, and her minder Pawn Felicity Clements of the Checquy. We also learn much more about the supernatural history of England, and meet many, many interesting people, each unique.

Practically every page has several strange and wonderful magics and/or technologies, which are rendered ordinary by the aplomb of the people involved, the ordinariness of the settings, and by layers of bureaucracy and procedure. The latter are in place precisely to keep the magic in check and working for good.

The people are basically ordinary people dealing with extraordinary powers and situations, as best they can. Just like us, except with weird superpowers.

The story is chock full of crazy supernatural incidents, and the heroic responses of the defense forces, aided by the prospective Grafter allies (who are really, really, really good doctors).

Odette and Felicity must navigate not only desperate combat, but also her little brother, diplomatic meetings, an appearance at Ascot, and a terrifying full dress ball.

Underground forces seek to scuttle the diplomacy, and they are willing to deploy horrible attacks upon the secret agents and the public. The opponents must be uncovered and stopped, or there will be war, and mass deaths.  (Or worse than death–the side-effects of magic can be awful.)

This book was everything I hoped for, and worth the wait.  Seeing the shear density of wonders here, I can understand why this might take time to create! O’Malley has an amazing imagination, and a smooth, dry style that makes the most implausible magic seem mundane, and the most horrible disaster an occasion for courage.

Get it, read it, enjoy it.

  1. Daniel O’Malley, Stiletto, New York, Little, Brown and Company, 2016.


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