Skulduggery Pleasant – Derek Landy
“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 fire-throwing skeleton and a snarky teenager against the living dead. What could possibly go wrong?
Skulduggery Pleasant is Derek Landy’s first-ever novel, and also the first in the Skulduggery Pleasant series. Published in Ireland in 2007, it would be another two years before it was released in the US.
It’s won numerous awards, including the Red House Children’s Book Award, the Portsmouth Book Awards, and the Bolton Children’s Book Award. In 2010, it was even listed as the Irish Book of the Decade, having won against popular bestsellers such as PS I Love You and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.
The story follows Stephanie Edgley, a twelve-year-old Irish girl whose Uncle Gordon has just died. That’s as peaceful as things get. When she’s attacked by a threatening figure, none other than Skulduggery Pleasant comes to her rescue. He’s an ace detective with razor-sharp wit and snappy suits and, oh yeah, he’s also a skeleton. A real-life walking talking skeleton held together by nothing but spite. Stephanie’s thrown headfirst into a world of magic and mystery where nobody uses their real names and everybody’s out to get her. It’s just Stephanie and Skulduggery against the world. Or, you know, an evil sorcerer who dabbles in necromancy.
Skulduggery Pleasant is comedy, mystery, and fantasy all wrapped up in one and enjoyable for all ages.
- Landy has peaked at sarcasm. The entire novel is full of witty lines and amusing dialogue. It flows perfectly and makes the book not only easier to read but also a lot more enjoyable. Even at their worst moments, Stephanie and Skulduggery have something funny to say.
- It’s a fantasy novel. And the protagonist is female. Let me say that again. This is a FANTASY novel and the main character is a GIRL. I have yet to read a single book that ticks both these criteria’s. It passes the Bechdel test with flying colours and thankfully avoids the majority of the numerous clichés that the fantasy genre is built on.
- It’s entertaining. There’s no other way to describe it. This book is just an enjoyable read. The characters are great, the plot is interesting, the pace is perfect. It’s incredibly easy to just absorb yourself in the story and not reemerge until you hit the back page, which is something that every book should have.
- Stephanie is a great character. She’s intelligent, she’s funny, she’s brave… but she’s also only twelve-years-old. I’m all for teenage protagonists, but this takes that just a little bit too far. Even with magical abilities, there’s no way in hell that an everyday twelve-year-old could do some of the things she does.
- Landy started as a screenwriter as opposed to an author, and it shows. The book is mostly dialogue, chapters blend into one another, and there’s no definite sense of time or place given.
- It’s predictable. As a children’s book, I can’t imagine this matters much, but for older readers, it can make things a bit dull. Ancient elders created a super-powerful-weapon that the villain-with-the-punny-name wants to use to destroy the world, and now it’s up to our young-but-weirdly-unafraid-hero to stop him. Sound familiar?
Overall, I’d give Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant a four out of five. It’s an entertaining if simple story about friendship, bravery, and morality.
Want to read it for yourself?
Perfer to listen instead?