Book Review: Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
There is a snappily dressed skeleton on the cover of this book, complete with pinstripe suit and wide brim hat. Did I mention the skeleton? Because there is a skeleton. Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy is about a dead man who refuses to stay that way. It’s a fantasy story turned on its side and shaken until its bones rattle. Hold on to your bones, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Skulduggery Pleasant counts toward my 1st in a series book challenge.
After her Uncle Gordon’s death, twelve year old Stephanie Edgley inherits his money and property and meets one of her uncle’s oldest and strangest friends. But there is more than meets the eye to our world and Stephanie is tossed into a world of magic and danger as the evil sorcerer Serpine searches for an ancient legend, one that he believes her uncle had in his possession. Now Stephanie must race to stop him from unleashing the terrible gods of old and prevent another war from breaking out. As more and more family secrets come to light, Stephanie is overwhelmed and fights to keep her feet in her ever changing world.
Skulduggery Pleasant is a common fantasy story told with uncommon characters. For one thing, the main male character is dead. He’s also a walking ,talking skeleton that can do magic. The plot is standard fantasy fare; evil-doer, object of terrible power that can destroy the world, group of rag-tag heroes of dubious origin. (Oh look, it’s the plot from every fantasy book ever! How’d that happen?) What makes this book stand out are the characters. Stephanie is a preteen girl suddenly thrust into a world of wonder and danger after the death of her uncle, her whole world turned upside down. She is the foil, the empty shell that allows readers to easily step into her shoes and be part of the story. The real interest is the dead guy. Skulduggery is sarcastic and can throw a one-liner with deadly accuracy. The banter between Stephanie and Skulduggery is the most amusing part of the book.
My biggest disappointment with Skulduggery Pleasant is that it has no sense of place. When we are told early in the book that we are in Ireland, I was excited. I love stories set in the British Isles. But except for naming a few Dublin locations, Landy doesn’t expand on the setting. He doesn’t make me feel like I’m in Ireland. I know that Dublin is a modern city but the story is so devoid of location detail that the setting could be in any city in America. I feel a little cheated without that exotic flavor of Ireland being expressed. I’m also hoping that the sequel will give us more about the secondary characters. I want to know why and how Tanith Low became such a badass. The teenage warrior was my favorite character.
There are already six proper sequels to Skulduggery Pleasant and several in-between books. Stephanie is under developed and I’m hoping her story will evolve in the next book. (At least past being the annoying little kid.) After all, we need to see what she saw in the Book of Names at the end. Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy was a good read, funny but lacking in important detail. The fantasy elements are pretty standard but the characters make up for any slacking on plot. It was a very pleasant read. (Pun intended.)