Thursday, 20 March 2014

Book Review - Skulduggery Pleasant

Skulduggery Pleasant
Author: Derek Landy
Series: Skulduggery Pleasant #1
Genres: Fantasy | Childrens, Young Adult
Release Date: 30th September 2007
Publishers: Harper Collins
No. Pages: 368
Source: Borrowed
Buy From: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Waterstones
Meet Skulduggery Pleasant. Sure, he may lose his head now and again (in fact, he won his current skull in a poker match), but he is much more than he appears to be - which is good, considering that he is, basically, a skeleton. Skulduggery may be long dead, but he is also a mage who dodged the grave so that he could save the world from an ancient evil. But to defeat it, he'll need the help of a new partner: a not so innocent twelve-year-old girl named Stephanie. That's right, they're the heroes.

Stephanie and Skulduggery are quickly caught up in a battle to stop evil forces from acquiring her recently deceased uncle's most prized possession -the Sceptre of the Ancients. The Ancients were the good guys, an extinct race of uber-magicians from the early days of the earth, and the scepter is their most dangerous weapon, one capable of killing anyone and destroying anything. Back in the day, they used it to banish the bad guys, the evil Faceless Ones. Unfortunately, in the way of bad guys everywhere, the Faceless Ones are staging a comeback and no one besides our two heroes believes in the Faceless Ones, or even that the Sceptre is real.

So Stephanie and Skulduggery set off to find the Sceptre, fend off the minions of the bad guys, beat down vampires and the undead, prove the existence of the Ancients and the Faceless Ones, all while trading snappy, snippy banter worthy of the best screwball comedies.

A while ago, I thought I'd gone off childrens fiction; I truly believed that I was destined to get back into young adult, with their cliche romances, suddenly beating up the bad guy and going off and getting married, or close enough, but I was pleasantly (get it), surprised to find out I was wrong. I hadn't gone off childrens fiction, I was merely looking in the wrong place. The right place it turns out, was my library. I had heard nothing about this series, and had always seen it on Amazon for pretty cheep and just ignored it, but when I saw it sitting pretty in my local library, screaming out to me, I had no choice, I had to pick it up. Fast forward 2 days and I saw a review on Bookish by Evie from back in 2011 and she loved it, so I knew I'd chosen well, so Mr Pleasant shot his way up my to-be-read pile and I picked him up as soon as I could. It's fair to say I fell in love, both with the story and Skulduggery..

Unlike some childrens fiction I had been reading lately, Derek Landy had this way with words that entranced me into reading for longer than I had intended; he gave me this feeling that I had to appreciate every sentence he wrote, every paragraph and had to ensure I understood everything that was happening, and it had been a while since an author had had that kind of effect on me. From the first page, I was in the perfect little bubble of joy and I never wanted to stop reading this book; oh how I wish I had the whole series. The plot was full of action and excitement, and I recall moments my eyes widening, mouths shaping into O's and just being generally shell shocked, because I felt it was that good, the power and speed of Landy's action scenes were fantastic, and I was never lost or confused throughout them, I generally cannot fault that aspect of the book.

Other features I cannot fault Landy on were his style of explanation and his history within the story. While in some young adult books you'll find Mr Confident Character with Powers show off, throwing water here and there and lowing gusts of wind to show how immense he is, but not Skulduggery, he calmly showed his talents, delicately and slowly, allowing Stephine to come to terms with everything in her own terms, even going as far as giving Stephine the chance to leave him and lead a normal life once more, instead of leading her on a merry race to death. The history Landy gave behind Skulduggery and his life and world was also absolutely amazing; he managed to describe everything I needed to know perfectly clearly and it was all very interesting and almost realistic. I genuinely enjoyed almost everything about this book.

The last aspect Landy was absolutely superb in was his characters. Some authors will introduce lots of characters who just happen to know Mr Leading Laddie or Missy Moany and that's it, but not Landy; he created relationships, memories, and experience between all of his characters, especially Ghastly and Skulduggery. There relationship with one another was like that of two brothers, arguing, yet fighting side by side one another when the time comes. Stephine and Skulduggery's relationship was also wonderful; it wasn't that of a Father/Daughter relationship, and nor was it one of equal measure, Stephine knew that Skulduggery was the decision maker, but she knew she was has involved as him, and she had the perfect amount of input. All of Landy's characters were fantastic, but the award for most charismatic dead man walking goes to Skulduggery. Is it normal to be highly attracted to a skeleton? A dead guy? A dead detective? I don't think it is, but Skulduggery's intelligence, humour, attitude, personality and dark side really made him quite exciting to read about. He has this very well layered quality to him were I wonder whether to trust him or not, yet I always find myself feeling all sorts of emotions for him, guilt, sympathy, empathy, happiness, excitement, and I just can't get enough of him.

The plot and story in this book was wonderfully refreshing. It covers aspects of the paranormal nature, finding a family you never had, finding out who you are inside and what it is you want to do with your life. It's about looking past the exterior of someone and finding out who they are, and how much they mean to you. The world building was fantastic, and characters, amazing, I was never lost or alone in Skulduggery's world. Yes, it wasn't the best book in the world, and yes, it could have done with a little more here and there, but I have to say, for a book I had dismissed for no other reason that stupidity, it was fantastic.


  1. I see this everyday at work and get more and more tempted to pick it up. Like you, I thought I'd gone off children's fiction but maybe I just need the write book. This review has definitely got my interest piqued and when I have time I may have to borrow the first few books in this series and get stuck in! Thanks for the great review Amanda :)

    1. You really should, I'm so ashamed I didn't pick it up early because the series is just continuously brilliant, always hits and lands the same fantastic level, so you should definitely give it a shot :) Thank you!

  2. I just read this book and your review captures everything that's great about this book! Awesome!

    1. Thank you Tamara, that means a lot to me! :)


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