Daniel O’Malley burst onto the fantasy scene with his debut The Rook back in 2012. That book, a cross between the X-Men and a classic British spy thriller, introduced the world of the Checquy (pronounced “she-kay”), a secret part of the UK Government run by and staffed by people with eldritch powers and mutations. The Rook was followed up by Stiletto in 2016. O’Malley returns to the world of the Checquy for the third time in Blitz. Although, handily, no deep knowledge is needed of either of the first two books in this series to engage with this volume.
Blitz opens, as the title implies, during World War 2, three fairly junior Checquy agents are hovering above London during a German bombing run when one breaks a cardinal rule and interferes, bringing down a German bomber. Only the three now have a problem, one of the occupants of the plane not only survived the crash but seems to have powers or his own. They realise that they need to find him before the Checquy does and he reveals their role in the crash. Meanwhile, in the modern day Lyn discovers she has powers of her own and is whisked away by the Checquy. Despite being in her 30s, Lyn is sent to the organisation’s secret island school to be trained. Lyn is soon on the run from the organisation though, suspected of using her powers illegally, and needs to find a way to clear her name. These two seemingly disparate stories will eventually come together.
At almost 700 pages, Blitz is another hefty tome. Despite being the third volume in the series, it could stand alone and as an introduction to the world as it contains the origin stories of not only the main characters but most of the side characters aswell. This is useful for newbies but tiring even for those who have not engaged with the series since 2016. And much like Stilletto, is packed with B-stories, exposition, back stories and digressions that rob the narrative of much of its tension or drive. O’Malley seems intent, any time there is any tension built up, in cutting away. Rather than increasing the tension, which may be the intent, it robs the book of any urgency.
O’Malley has fierce imagination and a great line in strange. The powers he gives to his characters are weird and diverse (including a ‘far taster’ – a girl who can taste things far away – or someone who turns into a peat monster, or even one of the main characters whose hands can coat surfaces in an indelible pearl). So that when the confrontations finally happen, his monsters and monster battles are visceral, enjoyable and more than a little mind blowing. But it is a long long wait for those major confrontations.
Blitz will work for fans of the Checquy and its lengthy and storied history. And it has enough to intrigue those for whom this is the first encounter with this world. But in the end the excessive digressions and side stories work make this less than the page turning thriller it should be.