Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley. ★★★★
Stiletto is the sequel to The Rook, and I’m happy to say that it’s just as much fun as its predecessor. The Checquy files feel like a breath of fresh air in urban fantasy. They’re funny and inventive, and I love how friendships between women are at the forefront. Unfortunately, it’s hard for me to talk about the plot of Stiletto at all without mentioning some spoilers for The Rook. So be forewarned.
After years of enmity, the the Checquy (an organization of people with supernatural abilities working for the British government) is merging with the Grafters (a Belgian based group who use science and surgery to give themselves remarkable abilities). But these two groups have hated each other for hundreds of years and such hatred and distrust doesn’t dispel overnight, and a series of mysterious attacks are threatening the merger. Stuck in the middle are two women from each side: Odette, a young grafter surgeon, and Felicity, the Checquy pawn assigned as her bodyguard. Can the two work together? Could they even become friends?
I was worried that the change in protagonists would make me like Stiletto less than The Rook, but thankfully that wasn’t the case. I can actually see why O’Malley made that decision. Myfawny has already had most of her character arc, and since she’s an amnesiac, she doesn’t have the memories of growing up hating the Grafters like Felicity does. Felicity and Odette are able to give a much more comprehensive view of the merger, plus the focus on Odette allows us to see things from the Grafters perspective. Plus, I came to really love both Felicity and Odette. They both have some awesome moments, and I cannot emphasize enough how happy I am to read a fantasy book focusing on the relationship between two women.
I also adore Stiletto‘s humor. There were many points in the novel where I’d chuckle out loud at some particular off hand line. I think it’s helped a lot by how new the premise feels for urban fantasy. The plot structure and world building are nothing like the norm, and the supernatural powers feel more like X-Men than your usual werewolves and vampires. Oh, and for some reason a five hundred year old man playing games on his smartphone cracks me up.
Stiletto does have a few flaws. It has several sections where it goes into history lessons, which dragged at the pacing some. The beginning was also rocky, and I felt like Felicity’s introduction was stereotypical and lazy. She’s doing surveillance in an alley. Two guys come along and start making rape threats. She and another female Checquy agent use their powers to beat them up. While I may have groaned some, I am glad I kept reading.
Stiletto has solidified The Checquy Files as one of my favorite urban fantasy series. If you’re looking for a story that’s fun, humorous, original, and has great female characters, these are some books that I would highly recommend.