Tuesday 25 March 2014

Book Review - Playing With Fire

Playing With Fire
Author: Derek Landy
Series: Skulduggery Pleasant #2
Genres: Fantasy | Childrens, Young Adult
Release Date: 28th April 2008
Publishers: Harper Collins
No. Pages: 351
Source: Borrowed
Buy From: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Waterstones
Valkyrie Cain - once known to the world as twelve-year-old Stephanie Edgley - has learned a great deal since beginning her apprenticeship to Skulduggery Pleasant, the well-dressed, living-dead wizard-detective. But she hasn't learned nearly enough to defeat the horrors massing against her and her friends: An old foe of Skulduggery's, Baron Vengeous, is bent on bringing back to life the horrible Grotesquery - an unkillable monster assembled from the most fearsome beasts of legend.

It's up to the ingenious, fearless, and quick-witted Valkyrie and Skulduggery to stop the Grotesquery from coming fully to life. Because once the thing is alive, it will call to its masters, the evil Faceless Ones who return will mean the end of the world.

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

The sequel to Skulduggery Pleasant was definitely a strong one, delivering with the same humour, sarcasm and action that first installment did, all the meanwhile including plot twists which I may have seen coming and good preparation for more plot points to come. In total, it probably took me around 4 hours to read this book, and not for a single minute was I bored, fed up or uninterested and Landy should most definitely be proud for accomplishing that.

Other than the few repetitive moments within the first few chapters, the actual world of Skulduggery and Valkyrie was wonderful to be in once more, even if it had only been a few days, and it was so nice to see how they had developed their relationship in the gap between book one and book two, the sense of humour with a much more rough, darker edge to it, and Valkyries bravery and skills much more enhanced. Landy wasted no time getting right into the action from the very first page, engaging in a fight between Valkyrie and an enemy of Skulduggery, someone who needed to be arrested, and boy was the scene it good; it reminded me what I missed, threw me in head first and it felt so natural and easy to get into the story once again. Valkyries training has improved and her skills have grown, instantly making her character much more interesting and intriguing to read about; she's not your typical damsel in distress, and she constantly made sure she wasn't going to become one.

There was something about the plot in this book that really grew in size and dramatics and really increased in the ability to surprise me and enthrall me, something Landy managed in the first book, yet improved upon in the sequel. Playing With Fire was exactly as the title suspected, full of action and excitement, dark and dangerous, with just the right amount of humour to get by, including my wonderful Skully in a pink nightgown with bunnies on, how adorable. However, even with the Baron trying to release The Faceless Ones, and a real big ugly monster roaming the streets, Skulduggery and Valkyrie still managed to adapt and grow their relationship to become something very precious that you just don't see in other books; it's a really good connection where they consider themselves equals and both capable of looking after themselves should they have to, yet they always come to the others rescue. As if that wasn't enough, I really enjoyed how Landy included the theme of family and friendship once again, and made sure it was just as important in this installment as the first; he ensured that as a reader, we never lost track of the real world, and how important it was to never get too lost in a fantasy and remember that you shouldn't forget about your family, however much you may dislike them.

The final third was extremely powerful and important, including some fantastic fight scenes and amazing imagery of the world and the characters. The feeling of being scared and nervous, yet having the same adrenaline that Valkyrie, Tanith and Skulduggery had is so powerful and so overruling that I was completely immersed into the world, fighting alongside those characters in case the world ended. Landy has this talent of making every character their own, and making every minor plot development ring in your ears, reminding you that there's a darkness coming, that there's more to see, and more to happen, and that thing's won't always be as funny as they are now. However, when it comes to humour, I can honestly admit to snorting with laughter and almost howling and crying, tears streaming because there was that light hearted feel to even the most darkest and deepest scenes.

These books seem to follow a similar theme to the Harry Potter series, with each book ending with quite a battle, full of a world I can clearly see and enjoy, an amazing finale, and a nice, none cliff-hanger ending that allows the reader the pleasure of choosing when to read the next sequel, rather than feel pressured. There's a real sense of a darkness looming and things a changing, even in book two, and in a series of nine books, I think it's fair to say this series is going to continue getting darker and more gruesome, although I always think it can't get more disgusting than it already is. I'm looking forward to some of my characters returning, sides of battle being drawn and watching Valkyrie develop into the character she's becoming. With the secrets her reflection is keeping, with the powers she's harnessing and Skulduggery not always being around to save her, I have a feeling that I'm going to become even more obsessed with this series, and I advise anyone, that if they're going to start this series, make sure you have as many books as possible; you're going to want to marathon them all.

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