Tuesday 15 April 2008

A Wee Review - Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

So, my good mate Mike Stone is back with another review. Take it away, Mike.

I hadn’t heard of Skulduggery Pleasant until the proprieter of CSNI suggested I give it a whirl. And let’s face it, who can resist a book called Skulduggery Pleasant? Not I. But, never one to rush into these things, I checked out the official website first – www.skulduggerypleasant.co.uk -- and found one of the most entertaining and informative author/book sites I’ve come across. That’s when I reached for my wife’s purse. I didn’t get where I am today by spending my own money.

Now here’s the difficult bit for any reviewer, summarising the novel without giving away too much … I know, I’ll quote the cover blurb. Genius.

(Lazy bastard, more like. Ed)

Stephanie’s uncle Gordon wrote horror fiction. At least that’s what Stephanie thought – until he died and left her his estate. Then she discovered that though his books may have been horror, they weren’t exactly ... well, fiction.

Plunged into a terrifying world of vampires, evil villains and Hollow Men, Stephanie finds help from an unusual source: Skulduggery Pleasant, the wise-cracking skeleton of a dead magician. When all hell breaks loose it’s lucky for Stephanie that she’s not your average twelve-year-old girl – and it’s lucky for Skulduggery that he’s already dead.

Will evil win the day? Will Stephanie and Skulduggery stop bickering long enough to save the world? One thing’s for sure: the bad guy’s won’t know what’s hit them.

See what I mean? Irresistible.

And for the most part it is. The smart-assery, especially in the exchanges between Stephanie and Skulduggery, is nothing short of excellent -- you’ll grow to love these pair -- and there’s a fine supporting cast in the shape of Ghastly Bespoke and Tanith Low.

The action fair rattles along.


There’s no fancy wordplay here. There were times when this reader begged for more descriptive prose. A drop of colour, a rasp of texture. This is a book where a troll lives under Westminster Bridge and there’s a council of mages under Madam Tussaud’s, but frankly the locations are window dressing. They lacked the required descriptions, the necessary atmosphere to make them real. No one could accuse Skulduggery Pleasant of style over substance.

Marks out of ten? I’d give it seven, although the child in me says I’m a curmudgeon and insists its worth at least eight and a half. I suppose the acid test is whether I’d buy the sequel – Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing with Fire – out now in hardback. Hmm … well, I have a seven-year-old daughter who loves reading, and I just know she’s going to be breezing through books like this in a couple of years’ time, so yeah, I’ll buy the book as an investment for her. Of course, as a responsible parent, I’ll be reading it beforehand. Just to make sure it’s suitable, like.

Michael Stone

Michael Stone was born in 1966 in Stoke-on-Trent, England. Since losing most of his eyesight to Usher Syndrome, he has retreated from your world to travel the dark corners of inner space. To put it more prosaically, he daydreams a lot.

Read more about Michael and his fiction here.

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