5 stars. I was a huge fan of Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook, thanks to its engaging world, madcap action, sly humor, and brilliant lead character Myfanwy Thomas. Stiletto brings back all the fun of the first volume, with a deeper and richer story that is more subtle and more meaningful as two former enemy organizations–the British supernatural defense agency called the Checquy and the Belgian surgeons/scientists of the Grafters–seek to merge their talents. Pawn Felicity Jane Clements is assigned to protect Grafter Odette Leliefeld, and their mistrustful and antagonistic relationship shows that the merger will not be easy. Not to mention that someone is actively trying to disrupt the merger…
My initial complaint about Stiletto is that Myfanwy is a minor character in the book, but I came to enjoy the very strong leads of Felicity and Odette very much, and telling their story was the right way to handle the narrative. The pace is more thoughtful, allowing the tension to build, as well as letting characters and the relationships between them develop naturally. The world-building is extensive (with perhaps some that was non-essential to this story that could have been better delivered as a short story on the author’s website…) and allows for an immersive experience.
The action delivers the same punch as The Rook, with a turn towards the outlandish and icky that adds a bizarre humor to the scenes. A twisty plot also provides ongoing fun. O’Malley’s engaging prose gives the proper sardonic edge, delivering several laugh-out-loud moments as well as snide chuckles. Themes of institutional distrust and overcoming hatred (which seem very timely these days!) are handled subtly and gently.
Stiletto is an exciting and immersive read, a worthy successor to The Rook. I can’t wait to read more of O’Malley’s world.