One of my favourite books so far this year
It is with great disappointment that I must report that I have finished reading Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley, depicting the adventures of Felicity Jane Clements and Odette Louise Charlotte Henriette Clémentine Leliefeld. I realise that this may not come as much of a disappointment to you, who haven’t read Stiletto yet, but for me, having just turned the final page, I must warn you of impending disappointment of significant levels.
Stiletto is the sequel to the wildly popular The Rook, published back in 2012, to much acclaim. For me, the book burst out of nowhere and knocked me on my socks with its brilliance. Even seeming negatives that I might have pointed out at the time pale into insignificance: The book was simply a tonne of fun.
It came as no surprise, then, that the moment I opened the pages to Stiletto I was immediately hooked.
Daniel O’Malley writes in a way that reminds me very much of a long and winding river. This river stretches across a large land, and twists and turns its way through a myriad of course corrections created by impediments. At times this river dams up into a pond or a pool of water, but eventually returns to its course. As with this river, so with Daniel O’Malley’s style of writing; Stiletto starts a long way from where it finishes, and between the two points navigates a snaking journey which at times moves quickly – as when Felicity or Odette find themselves in danger – or pauses and builds like a small dam – as when the author allows a character to fill us in on a particularly important piece of history. An unforgiving reviewer might consider these info-dumps (as I did several years ago), but in reality they are simply the momentary damming of the story before it plunges on again, forging its way through the landscape.
Several years have passed since I read The Rook, so I don’t remember exactly how much page-time Rook Myfanwy Thomas was granted, but in Stiletto, the Rook is much more of an overarching figure, allowing our two newest characters to play starring roles. Felicity is a member of the Checquy, and Odette a familymember of the Grafters, and the two must come to terms with their hatred for the other. The outcome might be somewhat expected, but the means by which the author allows them to reach this conclusion shows no signs of authorial contrivance to force the matter. Each step of their journeys, and each difficulty put in front of them, reads as if O’Malley were simply recounting a story with great creativity he was given from a secret file. I have rarely found myself quite as quickly falling for two characters in the same book, and the fact that I cannot rejoin them immediately in what comes next for them is the source of my aforementioned disappointment.
In the end, with all hyperbole aside, Stiletto is a masterful sequel to an already exceptional debut. Daniel O’Malley’s grasp of the world in which he writes is fantastic – at times gruesome, irreverent, hilarious, devastating, terrifying, and realistic. O’Malley knows exactly when to weave in moments of humour, and when to allow a character to step into another room to have a cry, and when to warn readers of an accidental weremoose.
Stiletto will make you laugh out loud and cringe in horror, but will never leave you bored. Whether you’re a fan of urban fantasy, London, or whether you just enjoy good writing, Stiletto must make an appearance on your bookshelf, electronic or wooden, soon. This is definitely one of my favourite books so far this year, and I can’t wait for more.
Review by Joshua S Hill
9/10 from 1 reviews
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