Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Review: Skulduggery Pleasant

Okay, adventure junkies, have I the book for you. Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant brings the adventure, the magic, and the page-turning thrills every child over the age of ten desires.

Twelve-year-old Stephanie Edgley had a normal life in Haggard, Ireland, until her uncle passed away:

"Gordon Edgley's sudden death came as a shock to everyone--not least himself. One moment he was in his study, seven words into the twenty-fifth sentence of the final chapter of his new book, And the Darkness Rained upon Them, and the next he was dead. A tragic loss, his mind echoed numbly as he slipped away."

Frankly, I was hooked from this paragraph alone.

At the reading of Gordon's will, Stephanie learns she is her Uncle's heir and she meets a curious thin man named Skulduggery Pleasant. Turns out there's a good reason Skulduggery is thin--he's a skeleton. A skeleton who can also do magic. When Stephanie is attacked on her first night in her Uncle's home, Skulduggery comes to her rescue and they're thrown together in a fight for The Scepter of the Ancients--a magical object Gordon Edgley owned and one that can destroy anything in its path.

Reading this basic plot description might lead you to think that Skulduggery Pleasant is like many a fantasy tale you've read before. But Landy has brought some new touches to the genre. First of all, the warring magicians are not evenly divided into camps of good and evil. There are a fair number of diplomats in the mix as well--magicians who don't see their role as taking either side. This, Stephanie must learn, doesn't mean they are evil, just that you can't call on them for support in a crisis. Secondly, Stephanie and Skulduggery make a great team. Stephanie is an intelligent, snarky girl, and Skulduggery is more amused, than annoyed by her. Take this piece of banter as an example:

"'Is this the same as the way into the Sanctuary?' she asked 'Are you looking for a secret passageway?'

'You watch too many haunted-house movies,' he said.

'But are you looking for a secret passageway?'

'Yes,' he admitted. 'But that's just a coincidence.'"

Landy's talent as a screen writer shows--Skulduggery Pleasant features one great action scene after another. Despite the danger and darkness of Stephanie's new magical world, Skulduggery Pleasant remains a bright Gothic read due to Skulduggery's winsome personality and Stephanie's sense of humor and bravery. Highly, highly recommended for readers ages ten and up.
I'd like to tell you more about Skulduggery Pleasant, but my 11-year-old child is threatening to leave home unless I hand it over now. You can check out Skulduggery's website and weirdly awesome video here.