Wednesday 9 April 2014

Book Review - Dark Days

Dark Days
Author: Derek Landy
Series: Skulduggery Pleasant #4
Genres: Fantasy | Childrens, Young Adult
Release Date: 1st March 2010
Publishers: Harper Collins
No. Pages: 415
Source: Borrowed
Buy From: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Waterstones
It's the fourth Skulduggery Pleasant adventure! Only, Skulduggery Pleasant himself is lost on the other side of a portal, with only some evil gods for company. Can he possibly survive? (Yes, all right, he's already dead. But still.)

Skulduggery Pleasant is gone, sucked into a parallel dimension overrun by the Faceless Ones. If his bones haven't already been turned to dust, chances are he's insane, driven out of his mind by the horror of the ancient gods. There is no official, Sanctuary-approved rescue mission. There is no official plan to save him. But Valkyrie's never had much time for plans. The problem is, even if she can get Skulduggery back, there might not be much left for him to return to.

There's a gang of villains bent on destroying the Sanctuary, there are some very powerful people who want Valkyrie dead, and as if all that wasn't enough it looks very likely that a sorcerer named Darquesse is going to kill the world and everyone on it. Skulduggery is gone. All our hopes rest with Valkyrie. The world's weight is on her shoulders, and its fate is in her hands.

These are dark days indeed.

The following review may contain spoilers concerning earlier books in the series.
If you have not read the previous installments, please proceed with caution.

As is probably not surprising, Dark Days started off much like the other Skulduggery novels; a scene that brought us right into the action of Landy's Skulduggery world, with characters I've now learnt to love no matter the problems or difficulties they face and he once again didn't let me down. I was drawn in completely, immersed into the story and the excitement, not mention bombarded with numerous questions of characters loyalties, abilities and ulterior motives. While Dark Days wasn't, in my opinion, as good as it's predecessor, The Faceless Ones, it still stood strong and held a good plot of it's own, while developing some of it's other, now larger plot points to come.

I admit, there was quite a reason for this book being rated less than The Faceless Ones and that was because I felt the synopsis was misleading. Speak of Valkyrie having to rescue Skulduggery was something I really looking forward too, I was excited to see how she was going to use her new found Necromancy skills in order to locate and rescue him, and just how she was going to locate Skuls' skull in order to do so, but I felt that although it was raved about in the synopsis, it was figured out and case closed too quickly for my liking. Yes, we got to see Val at her best, with her Elemental and Necromancer skills, working alongside Tanith, Renn, Ghastly and even some surprising colleagues, and that was fantastic; it played out like a film in front of my eyes, but I was disappointed to find that that problem was resolved, possibly eight chapters in. For such a talked about part of the book, that plot point wasn't explored enough for me, personally. What was explored within that part of the plot however was more of Landy's amazing ability to create worlds, that of The Faceless One's new world, where Skul was trapped and tortured; it was beautiful crafted and even though as a reader I only got to experience it in a very small dose, it was enough to highlight just how good Landy is at what he does. When I got over how quickly Skul intergrated himself into a now larger, much better crew, I was back to my happy jolly self.

From a plot point of view, I think this was one of Landy's least strongest so far; not to say it wasn't fantastic, because it was exactly that, but it could have been better. I was missing the huge plot twists I'd come to expect, and how Landy molded numerous enemies into one crew wasn't that pleasing for me; I was used to the spontaneous nature of the enemies as separate entities, making it more difficult for their movements to be predicted, yet there was a nice touch of revenge throughout the ranks of this crew; slowly destroying whatever humanity each of them had left, as well as a nice family reunion. There was too much of a revenge streak in this novel for me, they were out for Val's blood, and it wasn't as exciting as each of them wanting something different from one another and it made the villain's, as characters, weak and easily defeated, which was also a little disappointing, and in the end, it's what made this book a lesser rating then the previous too. Don't be disheartened though, the humour in this book is still rife, if not better, with Skul and Val at an all time high on sarcasm, while their relationship as a whole with one another was much more of a mutual admiration and pride rather than that of saving each others backsides. I was much more impressed by how the characters were developed further; how Skul's personality was damaged in the alternative world, and how Val is experiencing what it's like to be a teenage in this world, with the aspects of romance heightening and friendship levels soaring, I have to admit, I was afraid somebody would die on me, it was all quite vibrant on the connections route.

Yet some of the biggest highlights in this book were Val's development, Fletcher's involvement and in some ways, Tanith's development too, yet her's was a little different. Of course, the largest of developments has to be Val's, yet her's is the most complicated. I once again was over the moon to find out the Landy had ensured that there was no faffing involved when it came to showcasing Val's Necromancy powers; he got right in there and showcase her skills with them, as we'd already seen them before with all the Necromancers in The Faceless One's, but it showed how capable she was, and just how powerful she could be if she really wanted to prove it. She proved herself brave, independent and somebody who should be taken as a serious threat. When it came to Fletcher, his development was a little less noticeable but still just as important, he brought the element of romance and began to take control of himself, especially on the crush front; in The Faceless One's he was annoying, mopey and couldn't get a grip of his emotions or his attitude, yet in Dark Days, he understood the rules involved in this world, he became a part of the team and used his skill to others advantages rather than to play video games in swanky hotels. Tanith's on the other hand was a different type of development, Landy created weak spots in her character throughout The Faceless One's and now with Dark Days, he showed how mundane she is deep down and how she isn't invincible, no matter how much she thinks she is, and having researched the series, I know that this is a sign of things to come, but I think how Landy does it definitely deserves recognition.

While the finale in this book wasn't as spectacular as the previous two, I still found the overall ending to be quite pleasing and in the end, I found the entire book to be really good. I was impressed by how well Landy was directing the story, with Darquesse and Lord Vile, the darkness that is coming and how he intergrated different aspects of magic, paranormalcy and made the action scenes bigger and better than before. I appreciated how much effort Landy took into creating and much more layered and diverse sense of friendship between Val and Skul, he treats her as an equal, letting her be what she wants to be and while he worries about her, he respects her even more now after saving him, and I appreciated how he reiterated the fact that Val is still only a child and everyone involved knows that. I'm relaly excited to continue with the series the darkness is coming, the extra plot arch developed was fantastic, I'm intrigued by the whole idea of what Val is and will be, Skul's past coming to haunt him and China's secrets. Hand me that sequel!

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