Title: Skulduggery Pleasant
Author: Derek Landy
Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books (an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers)
The plot is simple. Take one smart-ass girl, throw in a gun-wielding, slightly unbalanced skeleton and you get a team up against the clock to stop a madman from brining about the end of the world.
Sounds a lot like my Saturday nights!
Not strictly a YA book but the writing is very, very, very, very (did I say VERY?) sharp. And any book that makes me LOL on a bus has my seal of approval. I just wish people didn’t stare so much…
Narration: The narrative style is third-person, omniscient, but we zoom in on certain characters, both villains and heroes (and the inbetweeners). It could have went so wrong if Landy wasn’t such an expert in tying together all the relationships and tangents. Some might say that there are too many characters, too many side intentions and side plots and while this could be debated, I think it’s fantastic. It allows us to get a broader scope of the world and the characters. It focuses on Stephanie but we get to see all aspects of Skulduggery’s world through the insights into some of the different characters in the novel. It also works as a tool to ratchet up the excitement, to turn the tension up a notch. Landy often leaves us on a cliff-hanger and switches to a different character so we’re left wondering about Stephanie’s fate. There’s a lot going on and a lot to follow but really, the narration in this story is at such a high, consistent standard that I don’t have a problem with the decision to focus in on a number of different characters.
Character: More than the sense of humour that many of Landy’s characters display, I love the way the characters are presented. None of the characters are black-and-white, simply good or evil (except maybe the antagonist. He is pretty evil what with wanting to summon a bunch of primitive Gods and basically destroy humanity). Landy captures that essence of what it is to be human. Take China Sorrows, for example. She does what she does for her own gain. She’s selfish. Skullduggery was a violent man in the past and now, he brings criminals to justice although sometimes, his methods are questionable. The Toxic Twins are cruel where Stephanie is concerned but they aren’t categorically evil. They’re kids. They’re human. One of my favourite elements of this series is the characters and the way that they evolve and grow across the course of each book, particularly Stephanie and Skulduggery. Landy also manages to link up the sorcerers’ powers (and even their names in some cases) to their personalities. China Sorrows makes people fall in love with her and she revels in that attention, using it as a means to get what she wants. Shrewd businesswoman that she is. I do find it a little worrying that we don’t get to see more grief on Stephanie’s part. As the story progresses, we see how close she was to her uncle and yet, we don’t see that as she becomes engrossed in the world of sorcery.
I do not own the content taken from this novel. All rights belong to Derek Landy and Harper Collins Children’s Books.
Excerpt from Page 60:
“Wow look at the time. I’ve got to go Stephanie.”
“Go? Go where?”
“Things to do, I’m afraid. Number one is finding out why the nice gentleman was sent here, and number two is finding out who sent him.”
“You can’t leave me alone,” she said, following him into the living room.
“Yes,” he corrected, “I can. You’ll be perfectly safe.”
“The front door’s off!”
“Well yes. You’ll be perfectly safe as long as they don’t come through the front door.”
He pulled on his coat but she snatched his hat away.
“Are you taking my hat hostage?” he asked doubtfully.
Skulduggery and Stephanie’s back-and-forth humour (or as I call it, banter) seems genuine. Their dialogue gives a real sense of character and helps in allowing us to understand what has happened, what is happening and what is going to happen.
Plot: The story is simple but effective. We get to see different facets of the narrative and different parts of the journeys that the characters (Stephanie, Skulduggery, Mr. Bliss, Nefarian Serpine, the Elders etc.) take to get to the endgame. It’s a plot that dates back to biblical times: the story of good versus evil and more particularly, the journey of the hero (or in the case of Skulduggery, it could be argued, the anti-hero). There’s deception and lies. There are parts of Landy’s worlds and secrets that are not revealed deliberately but they are explained further down the line like the White Cleaver (without giving any spoilers) and China Sorrows’ past. There are loose ends and these are deliberate. Read on to the next book if you want the answers!
Setting: The story is set in Ireland, mostly in my hometown, Dublin. Landy paints a vivid picture of Dublin life, his descriptions allow us to piece together the environment and visualise the scene. He blends perfectly, the real and the should-be-real to create a fictional world beneath something that already exists. Haggard doesn’t actually exist but Landy’s description of the town is so telling that I feel as though it could be.
It’s not the most original story but when you’ve gone through thousands of years of literature, it’s doubtful that you’ll find a completely authentic, original story. Landy’s take on sorcery is interesting though. He brings a number of different facets of magic together to help the reader understand what sorcerers are capable of. For example, Stephanie’s reflection, the power in names (though this has been covered before across other literature) and the division of magic into the Elemental and Adept disciplines. It’s not that this hasn’t been done before but rather, Landy does it so well that it feels fresh and new. He creates not only a story but a world that is both consistent and dangerous and leaves the reader with questions that will be covered in future books.
Summary: Twenty-thrills-a-minute kind of reading. If you’re not laughing (or at least smiling), then you’re reading it wrong!
Books You May Also Like:
The Skulduggery Pleasant series (there are a further seven books with the final book due out September 2014!!!)
The Maleficent Seven by Derek Landy
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
There are also a number of short stories and a novella (The End of the World) available in addition to the main series.