The Rook – Picture vs Page

The Rook Film vs Novel Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

This story had everything that I loved. The paranormal, a mystery, a strong female lead, a dry comic wit, interesting characters, a supernatural secret service, and plenty of weirdness.

A warning though: be here some spoilers as this is a comparison between the book and the television series.

The biggest draw-back with the novel was its propensity to excessive info-dumping. In the form of diary entries, letters, re-tellings… and they went on for pages. You would get some sort of background information, flashback, or journal entry every 5 pages or so. It really bogged down the pacing of ‘The Rook,’ and frankly, had me losing interest many, many times. The subject matter was interesting and slightly relevant to the plot, but altogether longwinded and far too common in the narrative. I feel like this novel could have been 150pages shorter and been one heck of a read. The television series handled this a lot better; instead of lengthy letter reading, we get succinct video files. A more omnipresent form of narration meant we got to see things unravel for ourselves. This story is built better for television.

Consequently I had started this novel twice and abandoning it before getting 50 pages in because it was, well … scattered. At my third attempt, I pushed through as many pages as I could before I was again bombarded with all-too-many info-dumps. It wasn’t until I got just passed the halfway point (pg 260 or thereabouts) that I felt like the plot had a direction and a driving force for protagonist Myfanwy pulling the story into focus. I was hooked on the television series right away however. It is more in the tone of a spy thriller though… and to that end a lot of the paranormal happenings, and the outlandish comedy of some of these things from the novel were ignored by the small screen version to keep a more serious tone. A bummer really – I loved the concluding scenes of the novel, and there is nothing like that in the tv show.

I have a bit of a thing with amnesia as a storytelling device. It’s an overused trope and can either be executed poorly, or brilliantly. Thankfully ‘The Rook’ falls into the latter category. This wasn’t an ‘I bumped my head and my memories are slowly coming back’ type plot, but a part of a paranormal mystery. In the novel Myfanwy never gets her memories back, but the television show had her gaining back her memory in short snippets which I felt was a massive disservice to the story (and the abilities of paranormals)… but I guess it works better for a visual presentation. But Emma Greenwell’s portrayal of Myfanwy Thomas is definitely a highlight of the series. I was also bummed out at the special effects and how she uses her powers – like she was having a seizure – and the blackened fingers. I felt this was an unnecessary addition to add drama. I liked the fact her abilities were more covert like it was represented in the novel.

The Rook Season 1 2019

Daniel O’Malley has a quaint writing style with a dry sense of humour. He has a gorgeous way of painting a picture for character descriptions, and I thoroughly enjoyed – and got lost – in the narrative. Again, my only gripe is – edit! Edit lots! I’m uncertain if all the information we get in ‘The Rook’ was relevant to the storyline. Is all that superfluous information going to be resolved in the sequel ‘Stilletto,’ or was it just that Daniel was so immersed in the world of ‘The Rook’ that all the details felt like they were important? There are no pacing issues with the small screen version, but I was repeatedly wondering why they made the tweaks to the story they did. The show felt a little bland. The humour is gone. The tension of Myfanwy having nowhere to turn, not knowing who to trust was great in the novel – but in the show, felt a little all over the place.

Where American agent Monica Reed (played by Olivia Munn) was an ally in the novel, she has become more of an antagonist, or an alternate protagonist in the tv series, I was most unhappy of the treatment of the storyline involving Monica, Myfanwy, and Marcus Kevler. The whole thing had me going hrmmm…

The Rook Film vs Novel Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

The paranormal powers were so imaginative, scary, and hilarious in the novel. So many obtuse and unique abilities to rival the X-Men. There are a lot of characters in ‘The Rook’ too. Even with all the copious explanations and backstories, I didn’t start to identify all the cast separately until after the halfway point. It was much easier in the television series, but did not like the treatment and storyline of Conrad Grantchester (played by Adrian Lester.) It moved away from the ominous tone of the members of the Checquy, how Myfanwy has to face them… and the power struggle, political manoeuvrings that play into the novels epic conclusion. The tv show went in a different – and in my opinion, much watered down tangent.

The Rook Film vs Novel Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

There are definitely great characters in this story and to delve even further into them would turn this post into a novel in itself, but notable appearance and interpreted by some great actors were also Gestalt (Jon Fletcher, Ronan Raferty, and Catherine Steadman) and Lady Farrier (Joely Richardson.) Also of note – I was extremely disappointed to see Gestalts pregnancy ignored in the tv show… I thought that was a great twist.

The Rook Film vs Novel Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The main plot of the story in the novel is that Myfanwy is basically an impostor, impersonating her pre-amnesia self as the timid paranormal agent (or rook) and discover the identity of which of her workmates was responsible for the attack. An attack which was a failed murder attempt (we find out later in order to cover up a covert takeover of the Checquy.) It is all about deduction, investigation, and following instinct; not to mention dealing with all the strangeness of the paranormal around her. Working out who to trust. ‘The Rook’ is definitely up there as one of my favourite reads. While the television show followed the same vein, much of the fear of the Checquy (and their awesome abilities) was removed, or humanised. I guess it makes it more palatable to the general viewing public and keeps the tone of the show in a paranormal spy thriller (and omitted all of the wit and comedy from the novel.) I hoped it could have stayed truer to the source material.

In the novel the characters are all colourful and fully realised – how can they not be with all the narrative O’Malley dedicates to each. The storyline is intriguing and was the driving force in me picking up this title. At 482 pages long – and the formatting is at a maximum to fit a lot of words on each page without it looking crowded means this is a long book. Which brings me back to the pacing… ‘The Rook’ felt waaaay too long.

But when all is said and done, O’Malley has written a marvellous novel and I will definitely be continuing on with the series, and I hope a lot of the elements introduced in ‘The Rook’ will be addressed in the sequel ‘Stiletto.’ The tv show has yet to be cancelled or renewed as yet, and I will be interested to see in what direction the next season will go: will it swing back to the tone of the novel, or continue on its path of power struggle and political intrigue within a covert spy organisation?

I’d love to recommend this novel to all, but knowing the issues I had with the pacing, I don’t think everyone will have the patience to see it through to the end. But if you can handle a slower pace and love paranormal detective stories, then ‘The Rook’ has a lot to offer. Otherwise the small screen adaptation is a cracker of a show and one I’d happily recommend.

The Rook Film vs Novel Pic 07 by Casey Carlisle

In the meantime, stay tuned for my book review of ‘The Rook’s’ sequel ‘Stiletto’ in the months to come. Another Aussie born author I’m glad to add to my shelves.

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Books I read in 2019

Here are some goodreads stats and book covers of everything I read over the course of last year…

Casey Carlisle Books Read in 2019

…and if I had to pick my favorite read for last year it would have to be ‘Contagion‘ by Erin Bowman.

What was your most enjoyable read from 2019? I’d love some great recommendations.

UPPERCASE lowercase 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Scorch’ (#2 Croak) by Gina Damico

Angsty Teen Grim Reaper.

Scorch (#2 Croak) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal

No. of pages: 332

From Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Lex Bartleby is a teenage grim reaper with the bizarre ability to damn souls. That makes her pretty scary, even to fellow Grims. But after inadvertently transferring her ability to Zara, a murderous outlaw, Lex is a pariah in Croak, the little town she calls home.

To escape the townspeople’s wrath, she and her friends embark on a wild road trip to DeMyse. Though this sparkling desert oasis is full of luxuries and amusements, it feels like a prison to Lex. Her best chance at escape would be to stop Zara once and for all—but how can she do that from DeMyse, where the Grims seem mysteriously oblivious to Zara’s killing spree?

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It was fun to visit the emo, sarcastic teen protagonist (and Grim Reaper) Lex again. However ‘Scorch’ was a little lighter on the snark that I was so entertained by in the debut of this series.

Scorch’ left me wanting a meatier, more substantial plot development other than the cat-and-mouse chase with antagonist Zara.

I guess this suffered from the middle book syndrome. Though I was definitely engaged and entertained. I want to say an element was missing from the story to send me over the moon. So while a great concept, thrilling and kept me glued from the page; maybe some more character arcs, or a more intertwined plot would have bumped up my rating of ‘Scorch.’

Scorch (#2 Croak) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleLex was always complaining about something, and though she was researching information to get Zara off her back, and save innocents from being ‘Damned,’ I did not get a sense that she was particularly proactive. Additionally, the ‘forced’ breaks to enjoy being a teen for Lex and some of the other characters felt out of place. It didn’t seem like it was to let off steam, but rather engage in teen activities to pique interest with the target demographic… it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to the story. I would have rather Lex been a bundle of nerves, on the edge of a breakdown, go smash up a car with a baseball bat, than go clubbing and gossip. Ya know?

There was an interesting twist with Lex and her gift at the end of ‘Scorch’ I did not see coming; but am conflicted about her justification, because her attitude earlier in the story contradicts the final standpoint.

The romance between Lex and Driggs was cute and funny, but something about it felt frivolous, not having as much heat and interest as it did in ‘Croak.’ I kinda wanted Driggs to become more independent and have an arc of his own. This couple was attached at the hip too much.

Uncle Mort was my favourite character in ‘Scorch.’ His fatherly duties mostly comic relief, but well placed throughout the novel. Although the non-explanations and ‘for you own good, just trust me’ standpoint were too common and started to get on my nerves. Granted, he is the only adult around Lex, and has much more knowledge about the Grim mythology, and his position lends his moving political chess pieces about the board, plotting steps ahead – it makes sense that Lex would be in the dark for most of this. We get a lot of her frustration of being kept out of the loop, but it only added to the parent-child relationship these two shared.

The whole Zara-as-the-villain, and another reveal in ‘Scorch’- while great fodder to pace the story forward – I’m still grabbling with some realistic motivation for what played out; though I’m anticipating an explanation in the last instalment in this trilogy ‘Rogue.’

Scorch’ is a fun easy read, the pacing is mostly tense and engaging. My issues came from plausibility and character motivations… and wanting a more intricate plot. But there are some great surprises. Gina Damico’s writing style is succinct, and captures the emo tone and dark business of being a Grim Reaper. Love the mythology of the business of death, and am keen to see where it all goes in ‘Rogue.’

I’m on the fence about recommending this one, because it’s more of a passion read – if you loved ‘Croak,’ then, yes, read on. If you weren’t particularly impressed with ‘Croak,’ then ‘Scorch’ is much of the same. But I thought it was a nice little escapist read for a lazy Sunday.

Overall feeling: Jan, Jan, Jan!

Scorch (#2 Croak) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Scorch (#2 Croak) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

#bookporn

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Had to do a mini-book haul a few weeks back – I’ve read the first novel in many new series and needed to purchase the rest of the collection… This duology was outstanding! If you loved ‘Illuminae’ this is right up your alley. Go Sci-fi!!

#bookporn

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Dying to get into another Sci-fi – I’ve had some brilliant luck with my picks of late and want to continue the streak.

Whats the best science fiction novel you’ve read of late?

#bookporn

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‘Croak’ has been sitting on my TBR pile for over a year – recently got time to read it and fell in love – jumped online to buy the rest of the series, so keep a look out for the reviews to come 🙂 A sarcastic teen protagonist much in the same vein as the tv show ‘Dead to Me.’

#bookporn

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Interested to see how this trilogy wraps up… I’m on the fence about this collection and ‘Rebels of Eden’ could tip my opinion either way.

Has anyone read this yet? What am I in for?