Well. That was a sequel. Published 4 years after The Rook, we have a weird combination of following the events of the first book (Stiletto takes place perhaps a few months later as the Checquy and Grafters are coming together for peace meetings) but with two completely new main characters (a Pawn Felicity and a teenager Grafter Odette, descendant of one of the leaders).
Plotwise, it’s an interesting enough story, with two organizations that have been taught from early ages to hate one another for centuries having to come together and at least pretend to play nicely. Throw in a third (ish) party trying to throw a wrench into the situation? You have a pretty solid core for a plot.
Characterwise, I did actually eventually really like new main characters, Felicity and Odette both. It felt more organic and natural to see people at a lower level in their organizations have to deal with the fallout of the world going crazy around them. And watching them discover that perhaps the otherside isn’t as evil as you’d always though–they just have a very different way of looking at the world–that was pretty well done. I do miss Myfanwy though. She was a lot of what made the Rook what it was and we barely get any time with her, let alone as a point-of-view. So it goes I guess.
The worldbuilding remains neat, with the Checquy having all manner of weird and bizarre powers (and often humerous) in a sort of supernatural MI-6. Contrasting that with the Grafters, whose powers are all based entirely on science, if a super advanced and somewhat … squishy sort of science is fascinating. You get into the head of someone who think it’s perfectly normal to turn people to gas at a touch… only to turn around and see how weird that is from the point of view of someone who stores naturally produced bone scalpels in skin pockets in their legs.
Unfortunately, Stiletto has a lot of the same problems that The Rook did, in particular with pacing. Just when things begin to happen, you’ll have a chapter or three of backstory. While interesting, they pull you out of where you were. Then another build up, only to have some seemingly unrelated scene with Myfanwy’s family–who, despite feeling like they should be important only really figure into that one scene. And then a final ramp up a chapter or two from the end into… nope, it’s done now.
Overall, there is the seed of something really special in these books, but I feel like they could use a little shuffling around of chapters plus cutting some of the backstory / side plots. They’re all good, it’s just uneven. Perhaps it was just the way I read it (aiming for one chapter a day, more often a few every few days)? Not sure.
I’ll probably read the next sequel whenever if ever it’s out–the world building is worth it and I really am curious what happens next–but it’s not at the top of my to-read list.