Book Review: Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley

A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

StilettoStiletto by Daniel O’Malley

Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal

Series: Book 2 of The Checquy Files

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (June 14, 2016)

Length: 583 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

I must confess, I only finished The Rook last month when the surprise arrival of a Stiletto ARC prompted me to do some quick catching up with the series, so I can’t claim to have waited for this sequel for as long as others. That said though, I was no less excited to jump right in! I loved the first book, and practically dove into this next one straight away.

The first thing you should know about Stiletto is that even though it picks up where The Rook left off, it’s also not your typical conventional follow-up. For one thing, Myfanwy Thomas is no longer the main protagonist. Instead, we get two new leading ladies: a Checquy Pawn named Felicity Clements, and a Grafter surgeon named Odette Leliefeld. After centuries of being on opposite sides, the two young women are suddenly thrown together when their respective organizations are forced to make peace in a new alliance. However, putting aside their differences is easier said than done. The enmity between the two groups runs deep, and not everyone is happy about the new partnership. Almost immediately after arriving in Great Britain with the Grafter delegation, Odette becomes targeted by an angry and bitter Checquy agent, and in order to avert diplomatic disaster, a new bodyguard is swiftly assigned to her in the form of Pawn Clements.

Meanwhile, bizarre paranormal attacks continue to plague London, keeping the Checquy busy running around putting out fires. It’s all just business as usual…or is it? Do the Grafters in the delegation know more than they let on? What kind of secrets are they hiding from their hosts? Who can they trust? Both factions are on edge, with a fragile peace hanging between them. Surrounded by paranormal dangers, threats of sabotage, and deep-seated hatreds, just about anything can shatter this delicate young alliance.

Not going to lie; I was initially surprised when I started this book and discovered that we’d shifted away from Myfanwy Thomas as the main protagonist, since the publisher description makes no mention to the contrary. At the same time though, I wasn’t especially jarred by the change. Perhaps it had something to do with the short time I had between reading The Rook and Stiletto, but I found the new voices pleasantly refreshing. Don’t get me wrong; I loved Myfanwy and was delighted to see her make a return in the sequel (albeit in a supporting capacity) but clearly the Checquy-Grafter alliance is the key focus here, and there’s no better way to portray all the consequences and challenges of the fledgling partnership than to give us a new character from each side. Myfanwy might be the Rook in charge of brokering this deal, but in order to get right down to the nitty-gritty details, we had to go to the straight to the frontlines with a Pawn.

Enter Felicity. She’s a warrior, meticulous and determined. She is also completely loyal to the Checquy, aspiring one day to join the Barghests, their most elite combat force. Trained to fight and protect, Felicity won’t flinch from doing what needs to be done either, making her the perfect bodyguard to assign to Odette. Myfanway Thomas knows she can count on the Pawn to lay down her life for her charge, but given the order, Felicity also won’t hesitate to put a bullet in Odette’s head if it turns out the young Grafter woman can’t be trusted.

This makes the relationship between Felicity and Odette very interesting. For almost the entirety of the first book, we got to hear all about how the Grafters were evil, insane, and brutal enemies of the Checquy. But in this one we get Odette, a mild-mannered and well-balanced young woman who is completely overwhelmed by her visit to London and just wants to make it through the day without starting a war. I loved seeing the Grafter perspective through her eyes. She and Felicity come from two very different worlds, making the early friction between them no surprise, but as the story progresses, a precarious link begins to form between them, making this part one of the more rewarding aspects of Stiletto. Whereas in The Rook we got to read about Myfanwy Thomas having a relationship with her own pre-amnesiac self, here we actually get to see an incredible example of true female friendship. O’Malley did a great job developing Felicity and Odette’s connection.

The fresh focus on the two women also means that technically, Stiletto can be read on its own without having to read The Rook first, but I wouldn’t recommend it. For one thing, although the author does a great job recapping and explaining the important details you need to know (which also helps to refresh memories after four years, I imagine), there are various references and other ties to the first book which will feel a lot more rewarding if you can spot and recognize them. More importantly, the first book was so much fun, you definitely won’t want to rob yourself of the experience.

My one and only complaint is that the novel is weighed down here and there by some bloat, but this could simply be a stylistic choice by O’Malley. Huge chunks of history and background information are sometimes injected into the narrative, which was also the case in The Rook. Over time, this has evolved to become a part of the series’ unique charm, but every now and then it still gets very distracting, taking attention away from the characters and main conflict.

When all is said and done though, I had a great time with Stiletto. I don’t love it any less than I love The Rook—I just love it differently. While the protagonists may have changed, all the ingredients that made the first book great are still there: laugh-out-loud humor, compelling characters, a wonderfully twisty plot, detailed world-building, and amazing super-powers! The Grafter perspective is a welcome addition to this series, and I’m surprised how much I enjoyed reading about the Checquy’s former enemies. I’m certainly curious to see how these two organizations will continue moving forward, and I await the next book in the series with much excitement.


Mogsy 2

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Rook (Book 1)

21 Comments on “Book Review: Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley”

  1. I was wondering if the reviews would be as good but it’s great to see you had a wonderful time again there! I’ll have book 1 soon and I’m so impatient to start it!


  2. We always need more female friendships in SFF! Admittedly I haven’t been very interested in this series before now (amnesiac protagonists tend to annoy me) but I love the sound of this sequel, so I think I’ll look into an audio copy of Rook! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It took me forever to get to The Rook…I guess I wasn’t so interested in the series either, but wow, now I wish I had gotten to it sooner. If you do the audio for book one, you won’t regret it – I loved the narrator.


  3. So glad you loved this! I ADORED The Rook and I was excited when Stiletto was announced. And yay for female friendships, this sounds like a good one:-)


  4. I still need to read The Rook but it’s on my tbr shelf! I just had to see how you made out with the follow up and now I’m even more excited to get into the sequel. Female friendships FTW 😀


    • The Rook was so good! For the longest time it was on my TBR shelf too, but the impending release of this one made me decide to catch up real quick. I am so glad I did!


  5. I love this series! I love how the most important relationships are friendships between women and how original and funny it is. I was worried I wouldn’t like Stiletto as much because of the change in protagonists, but that happily was not the case.


  6. I must get on board with this series. I’ve had the Rook sat on my wishlist for ever – need to just go and pick up a copy and set things in motion.
    This sounds great.
    Lynn 😀


  7. Part of me is disappointed this isn’t a traditional sequel focused on the same character but the truly novel and interesting part of Myfanwy story has been told – I mean how do you top her experience in The Rook – so it probably made sense to move to other characters. Plus I like the idea of seeing the life of a pawn AND getting a Grafter perspective. Interesting that this male author has continued to focus on female protagonists – good on ya Daniel O’Malley! Thanks for the great review! I’d read a couple of lukewarm reviews and was feeling concerned.


    • Myfanwy is great, so I can definitely see where you’re coming from. For the story he wanted to tell here though, I don’t think there would have been a way to make her the protag, so I guess I concede too that O’Malley made the best choice in the POV switch 🙂


  8. Last month’s backlist burdown was most definitely a win! Back-to-back 4.5 Stars! I was wondering if it could be read as a stand-alone, when you said new lead protagonists… I wonder why Daniel did that and who will be around in book 3?

    And I sill read it as “My-fanny” XD


    • Yes, this series is seriously kicking some ass! And haha, in the book there was actually a scene where someone calls her My-fanny – a winking joke on the name for sure 🙂


  9. Pingback: Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

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