It’s happening, people! After months and months of saying I would reading Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley I have finally done it! *pats own shoulder with pride*
As the sequel to The Rook, this second installment in the Checquy Files continues the story of Myfanwy Thomas from a different perspective with new characters, problems, and wrinkles. Stiletto is brimming with supernatural mishaps, snarky humor, and enough plot twists to give you whiplash.
One of my favorite aspects of this series is its humor. The dialogue is quick and clever and even descriptive paragraphs are wittily written. I always looked forward to the hilarious banter between Felicity and Odette. For instance:
“[A]s someone who has seen living forms changed and twisted beyond recognition…’ She trailed off awkwardly.
‘I hate to say it, but this dress is the worst crime against nature I have ever seen in my life.’
Felicity cringed a little. The dress lay on the bed, malignant and resentful, like an angry jellyfish. It was technically an evening grown, in the same way that dirt is technically edible.”
It takes skill to make a book about violence, war, and scary scientific advancements funny without downplaying the seriousness of the aforementioned topics. Fortunately, Daniel O’Malley seems to have mastered this skill. Though Stiletto is quite comedic, it also discusses actual problems that our society faces today (masked in supernatural elements, of course): inequality and tension between different groups of people, applying morality to scientific advancements, terrorism, family loyalty in the face of political differences, etc. It might seem like this novel is filled with fantasy, but the story actually reflects more about reality than one might initially expect.
The most remarkable aspect of Stiletto is its impressive world-building and attention to detail. The structure, history, and operations of the Checquy as a branch of the government are absolutely fascinating. I love when writers are able to create fictional elements that can be seamlessly interwoven with normal society. Daniel O’Malley almost makes it seem as though these supernatural occurrences could be right around the corner, unbeknownst to the reader; rather, the Checquy have simply taken care of it without us knowing! The most fun part about fictional worlds is becoming invested in them, which is exactly the opportunity the author provides the reader with Stiletto.
Interestingly, this novel’s strength is also its weakness. Though the world-building is fascinating, it also slows down the pace of the story considerably. Sometimes there are too many “info dumps” (sections of the novel solely dedicated to rambling off information without actually furthering the plot). These sections aren’t explicitly necessary or relevant in the long run. I feel as though many of these “info dumps” could have been summarized instead of dragging on for pages and pages.
I might sound like a hypocrite for simultaneously praising and criticizing the intense world-building in this series; however, I believe it’s important (and possible) to find a careful balance between too many details and not enough information. Rather than criticizing the fictional world itself, I’m commenting on the way that the world is constructed.
Sometimes sequels are hit or miss, but Stiletto certainly hits the target. I highly recommend this series to anyone interested in supernatural creatures, secret government operations, and snarky banter.
What are your thoughts on Stiletto? Have you read The Rook? Have any recommendations for similar books? Let me know in the comments section below!