Review: ‘Skulduggery Pleasant’ (Books 1 and 2) by Derek Landy

SP1Image from here

*WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS*

Blurb (from Amazon)

Skulduggery Pleasant: Book 1:

Meet the great Skulduggery Pleasant: wise-cracking detective, powerful magician, master of dirty tricks and burglary (in the name of the greater good, of course).
Oh yeah. And dead.
Then there’s his sidekick, Stephanie. She’s… well, she’s a twelve-year-old girl. With a pair like this on the case, evil had better watch out…

“So you won’t keep anything from me again?”
He put his hand to his chest. “Cross my heart and hope to die.”
“Okay then. Though you don’t actually have a heart,” she said.
“I know.”
“And technically, you’ve already died.”
“I know that too.”
“Just so we’re clear.”

Stephanie’s uncle Gordon is a writer of horror fiction. But when he dies and leaves her his estate, Stephanie learns that while he may have written horror, it certainly wasn’t fiction.
Pursued by evil forces intent on recovering a mysterious key, Stephanie finds help from an unusual source – the wisecracking skeleton of a dead wizard.
When all hell breaks loose, it’s lucky for Skulduggery that he’s already dead. Though he’s about to discover that being a skeleton doesn’t stop you from being tortured, if the torturer is determined enough. And if there’s anything Skulduggery hates, it’s torture… Will evil win the day? Will Stephanie and Skulduggery stop bickering long enough to stop it? One thing’s for sure: evil won’t know what’s hit it.

Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing with Fire: Book 2:

Vengeous. Dusk. Sanguine. Three of the deadliest killers alive are in town to resurrect an unstoppable creature of horrifying power… and only Skulduggery and Valkyrie stand in their way.

I picked up this double edition of ‘Skulduggery Pleasant’ and ‘Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing with Fire’ from my local library on a whim. I thought the cover was cool, and the title even cooler. Actually reading the mammoth novel (nearly 800 pages) was a thoroughly pleasant surprise. I’m glad I didn’t buy it, as I ended up finishing the WHOLE THING in just four days. As the cover says, it’s ‘one volume, twice the awesome’- and for once, that’s actually true.  It’s a rollicking, rambunctious roller coaster* of a ride, filled with action, magic, suspense, twists, and… oh yeah, it’s hilarious. As in, ‘laughing out LOUD on the TRAIN’ HILARIOUS. The character of SP himself is like a metaphorical pistol of witty one-liners, forever firing off another joke that left me almost in stitches. Ka-Pow. Stephanie (or Valkyrie, as she’s otherwise known) is also more than a match for him in terms of fighting back, physically and figuratively, one joke at a time. She’s tough, edgy, gutsy, and smart, whilst SP is light, humorous and deadly in a fight, armed with both fighting prowess and serious magical skills. (He IS a sorcerer, after all.)

Yet  we soon learn that SP’s jokes mask a terrible personal tragedy, and that Stephanie is also far more than what she first seems. (Although, to be honest, I quite liked the idea of her as a normal young girl, faced with extraordinary circumstances.) The two strike up a touching bond, and actually become quite close. A few points I felt a bit bored by- for instance, a mystical sceptre, mention of black crystals, magic connected to the elements, ancient mysterious gods, an Epic Battle Between Good and Evil (yep, ANOTHER one of those) etc. etc.- all felt just a teeny bit cliche. The villains were also a bit…well, a bit blah, with names that felt as though they’d come from the ‘A-Z Of How to Name A Villain’ (Baron Vengeous, any one?) Vaurien Scapgrace, the wannabe baddie and real-life coward is exempt from this list, as his hopeless antics are laugh-out-loud funny.  Plus,  the hulking monstrosity of the ‘Grotesquery’- a mis-matched monster that is a cross-stitch of other monsters, and part of a god, more than made up for that in terms of originality. I was hooked, and am now about to happily devour the third volume.

Overall rating: 10 out of 10.

* Me likey alliteration

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