Stiletto is the follow-up novel to Daniel O’Malley’s 2012 The Rook. While I generally enjoyed that novel and appreciated this sequel, I’ve found myself finally realizing that writers have nothing new and are just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
What I mean is that O’Malley’s book resembles Ben Aaronovitch’s River of London series, and Aaronovitch’s series resembles Paul Cornell’s Shadow Police books and (and probably many other Urban Fantasy’s) all borrow themes from each other at an alarming rate. This has made me feel like not reading anymore, because it’s obvious that publishers no longer want original or risky novels –they just want a variation on a theme (The Hike, the previous book I read, is a prime example of a publisher letting a writers imagination out, so hope is not all lost that novels can break down the wall of conformity).
“When secret organizations are forced to merge after years of enmity and bloodshed, only one person has the fearsome powers—and the bureaucratic finesse—to get the job done. Facing her greatest challenge yet, Rook Myfanwy Thomas must broker a deal between two bitter adversaries: The Checquy—the centuries-old covert British organization that protects society from supernatural threats, and The Grafters—a centuries-old supernatural threat. But as bizarre attacks sweep London, threatening to sabotage negotiations, old hatreds flare. Surrounded by spies, only the Rook and two women, who absolutely hate each other, can seek out the culprits before they trigger a devastating otherworldly war.”
While I sort of enjoyed the first book in The Checquy Files, Stiletto isn’t nearly as persuasive a story (and if possible, even slower than The Rook). It’s overlong (a problem that is increasingly a bad development in multi-volume series), and goes off in often dull tangents -O’Malley has a tendency to create some favorable action buildup only then to have the him “take me out” of flow of that action by focusing on unnecessary history lessons (that go on for pages and pages) and dense exposition that do sometimes later bear fruit, but seem ridiculously arrogant and pointless when you are reading them. There are too many subplots –like a guy who suddenly develops the ability to instantly grow huge crystals out of any hard surface, and is murdering people for no real reason- that a better editor would’ve told the writer to dump, because it really has very little to do with main narrative. The book can be a bit complex, yet it reveals nothing new, just rehashing of themes we’ve seen before (it is, essentially, a British version of The X Men, even though the writer is Australian)
There are many strengths to the book, though, as O’Malley has created some very strong female characters. Even though this book does on focus on Myfanwy (rhymes with Tiffany –the “w” is silent) Thomas, Odette is a wonderfully three dimensional woman. Still, regulating Thomas to a supporting role was disappointing. And his humor remains sharp and often times, laugh out loud funny, but like The Rook, the writer cobbles together a lot of other people’s ideas and sews together a paint-by-numbers thriller that should’ve been better.