Stiletto by Daniel O'Malley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book took me eleven days to finish.
That doesn't happen to me very often, except when a book is, like, 1200 pages and I'm super busy, and that's not the case here. As someone who loved The Rook and evangelized it up and down to everyone I knew, I preordered this two years ago when it showed up on Amazon and I was so, so excited when it finally landed on my doorstep.
So why didn't this connect so well for me? I still don't know, but I have a few ideas.
For one, The Rook was great because of the world O'Malley developed. The world of the Checquy and what they're fighting was just off enough, and Myfawny was the perfect type of hero with a lot of interesting things happening to her from page one. Stiletto suffers from having a lead in Odette early on that simply isn't as engaging (by no fault of her own, as we learn later), and seeing as we already have an established universe in which to play, the expansion of what's happening just isn't the same. Granted, I am a sucker for worldbuilding, so I carry my own biases in this area, but if you're going to inflate a book a couple hundred pages, I might end up looking for more of it.
The solid part of the book, though, is that it does reward patience. The early part of the book has parts greater than the sum, but a reveal midway through ties it all together and created an investment for me that I didn't have before, and the book largely works its way to the finish in a much better state than it started. The book's lack of balance, however, ends up being its downfall - while I can think of a lot of different parts of The Rook that amused or resonated with me five years after the fact, Stiletto is missing a lot of those, resulting in a more standard narrative that just doesn't have the same heft.
I feel like I'm overly negative about a book that's probably closer to a 3.5, but it's worth noting that this book is just very different from its predecessor, and that the differences make for a lesser book as a result. Does it keep me from being excited about this series and where it might go? Will it keep me from recommending this series to everyone I know who likes quirky urban fantasy? No on all counts. But do I kind of wish this book was able to keep my interest and enthusiasm enough so I could finish it in three days instead of keeping me from other things I preferred to read for nearly twelve? Absolutely.
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