Another fantasy series geared for the 9-12 crowd (and suitable for adults!) arrived on the shelves last year. I bought Skulduggery Pleasant last year and misplaced it in the jumble of books I constantly cycle through. It wasn’t until I saw (and purchased) the second novel, Playing With Fire, that I remembered the first book in the series.
Derek Landy, the author, obviously has a love of fantasy and detective stories. For his first novel, he combined them, creating the character of Skulduggery Pleasant, a wizard reduced to skeletal remains who wears an old suit and carries a big gun. Of course, Skulduggery also knows several magical spells. His trademark seems to be throwing fireballs.
His partner-in-peril is Stephanie Edgely, a precocious twelve-year old who soon negotiates her way into Skulduggery’s investigation of her uncle’s death. I loved the way she stands up to him and threatens him with different things to get in on the action. Once she even promises to stand on his hat if he doesn’t allow her to accompany him. You have to understand that Skulduggery prides himself on his appearance and he’s quite taken with his hat.
Since Skulduggery has been involved in the fantasy private eye business for hundreds of years, he’s got a ton of backstory and friends/enemies in the biz to reveal to Stephanie and the readers. One of the best facts that surface in Stephanie and Skulduggery’s dialogue is that the skull Skulduggery wears isn’t his own. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happened to his original skull. And China (one of the deadly female characters in the book) is equal parts mystery and danger. I’m hoping Skulduggery and Stephanie find it impossible to stay away from her.
From the first time Skulduggery crosses paths with Stephanie, he’s dead-set on not acquiring a partner. Stephanie is dead-set on finding out who killed her favorite uncle – plus she’s never quite fit into the “normal” world anyway. That’s one of the reasons she enjoyed her uncle’s horrific tales. Now that’s she’s been exposed to a world filled with magic and menace, she’s drawn like a moth to a flame.
My son and I enjoyed the cast of characters Landy casually drops into the mix. Either the author spent a lot of time building this world or it sprang full-blown into his mind. There are a lot of intricate details and everything seems to have rules that Landy plays fairly by.
The story progresses quickly and aggressively. Landy doesn’t mess around much with hand-wringing. It isn’t long before he and Stephanie are invading a museum guarded by vampires and discover that Skulduggery’s old foe (and the man that killed him!) is back from the dead and trying to grab power. Maybe no one else is willing to entertain the possibility that Serpine is back, but Skulduggery’s been looking for his old enemy for hundreds of years.
The cover on this book drew my eye at once. As soon as I saw it, the book was in my hands. But it’s Landy’s writing and the great hours of fun that I spent with my son that make me glad I bought it. Skulduggery Pleasant is a terrific read-aloud that can be shared.Powered by Sidelines