Saturday, 29 January 2011

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

"There's no such thing as winning or losing. There is won and there is lost; there is victory and defeat. There are absolutes. Everything in between is still left to fight for."

Hmm, a quote to start off, I like it.

Since I last read and reviewed a book I've read quite a few more but been thoroughly displeased with any efforts to review them so I'm going for something I first read quite some time ago, have now read several times and so should be able to remember enough to write a half-decent review. This was pretty much an impulse buy, the book had just come out and I must've been lured by the pretty display material. In essence it's a book aimed at the early teen market but it seemed cool enough to me so I went for it and really didn't regret it. I'm not 100% sure what it is that makes it readable by 'adults' but I wasn't regularly reading parts with an arched eyebrow thinking "Really? That's where we're going?" before reminding myself that it's aimed at a younger audience than myself. I've had that problem with other books but no such issues here, you're not constantly being reminded that it's not technically being aimed at you. This is good. I'm repeating myself. I'll move on.

Here's some blurb: "Stephanie's uncle Gordon wrote horror fiction. At least that's what Stephanie thought - until he died and left her his estate. The she discovered that though his books may have horror, they wern't exactly...fiction.

Plunged into a terrifying world of vampires, evil villains and Hollow Men, Stephanie finds help from an unusual source: Skulduggery Pleasant, the wise-cracking skeleton of a dead magician. When all hell breaks loose it's lucky for Stephanie that she's not your average twelve-year-old girl - and it's lucky for Skulduggery that he's already dead.

Will evil win the day? Will Stephanie and Skulduggery stop bickering long enough to save the world? One thing's for sure: the bad guys won't know what's hit them."

To try and stop myself from repeating what I'm saying a lot I'll go right into my scoring thing:

The Story

It was probably more the way it looked that drew me in. Skeleton summoning a fireball? How cool is that?! AND he drives a Bentley. I don't think the blurb does the story justice but I guess one thing kind of flows from another so it's difficult to go into detail from the outset without giving things away. It's an interesting story, not as straightforward as it might seem at first with a few little twists and turns here and there and there's a lot of action along the way. Really, these people get into a serious amount of fights. I don't think it's the strongest aspect of the book but it far from drags it down. Story gains 7/10.

The Characters

Stephanie and Skulduggery make this book what it is. Their interaction I think is what makes it fun to read, not the only thing to do so, but the main thing. Warner Bros until recently had the rights to the film and if/when it does get made they have to get the casting of these two spot on. The supporting cast are good too, Landy immediately has you either liking or disliking his characters with the exception of China Sorrows probably but she's supposed to be like that. I'm terrible sometimes when it comes to skimming descriptions of people so I can struggle to picture characters well but these guys all have images in my head of how they look and act so Mr Landy must be doing something right. Although I do kind of picture China Sorrows as the old WWF wrestler China which probably isn't fitting. 8.5/10.

Other Stuff

I've actually got a fair bit here. I like the two schools of magic idea and the power of names, it's an interesting concept and it all adds to the world Derek Landy has built. It's a fast-paced read, there's a lot of things that happen and it rarely slows down. It doesn't feel rushed at all it's just non-stop action which makes for an enjoyable read. Finally and possibly most importantly, Skulduggery Pleasant (both the character and the book in general) brings the funny. There's a lot of humourous little exchanges between characters and plenty of little quips from Skulduggery from start to finish which for me make the book fun and easy to read. 9.5/10!

And my stupidly complex scoring system gives us an overall score of...8.1/10.

I've read the book 3 or 4 times now, recommended it to a couple of people who have gone on to read the rest of the series too and I even wrote a little review that was on the shelf at a bookshop and ended how I shall also end this: What could be cooler than a skeleton detective who can conjure fireballs and drives a Bentley?

Derek Landy can be found having his blog posts horrifically spammed in the comments section here.


  1. Really good review, I agree with you on basically everything apart form I would say the characters deserve a 9. That's just me though.

  2. Thanks, I'm amazed anyone picked my comment out and came to look at all! I think I probably should have re-read the book beforehand to have a better idea in my head of exactly who had done what etc so there's a chance if I had done I'd be inclined to agree with you on that. I promise I'll read Playing With Fire again before reviewing that.