Friday, September 19, 2014

Heather Reviews: Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

Oh, ho ho!  Two reviews in one month?  I am spoiling you!

Title:  Skulduggery Pleasant (Skulduggery Pleasant, #1)
Author:  Derek Landy
Released:  2007
Publisher:  HarperCollins Children's Books
Meet Skulduggery Pleasant
Ace Detective 
Snappy Dresser 
Razor–tongued Wit 
Crackerjack Sorcerer 
and Walking, Talking, Fire-throwing Skeleton 

—as well as ally, protector, and mentor of Stephanie Edgley, a very unusual and darkly talented twelve-year-old. 

These two alone must defeat an all-consuming ancient evil. 

The end of the world? 

Over his dead body.

I (feel like I want to) talk about this a lot, but I love series where the first book in the series doesn't FEEL like a first book in a series. Where everything is neatly contained and wrapped up, but the story has every possibility of carrying on. Gladly, Skulduggery Pleasant is a book exactly like that.

There's A LOT I liked about this book! I don't honestly know how much I was expecting to enjoy it. I mention on here I like reading reviews beforehand and quotes and sometimes I'll get SUPER excited about a book / series based on reviews and quotes and then I'll read it and ... not like it. I was worried that would happen here, but luckily nope, and I cannot wait to get to the next books.

The story kicks off with Stephanie Edgley's uncle, Gordon, dying and Stephanie, who is 12, inheriting his mansion. At the reading of the will, Stephanie and her family meet a man, the eponymous Skulduggery Pleasant, who worked with Gordon and who is wrapped up head to toe in clothing [but spoiler alert if you looked at the cover] and who briefly speaks with Stephanie before leaving. Later in the evening, Stephanie and her parents go to check out the house that Stephanie was left and due to the weather and her mother's car breaking down, Stephanie spends the evening there alone where she is nearly killed by a strange man demanding that she hand over a key, however Pleasant comes rushing to Stephanie's aid.

I mentioned above that I love books in series that are "self-contained" but can hint at other adventures waiting to happen, and I felt like a lot of this was accomplished through the world building in Skulduggery Pleasant. The book didn't feel that long to me, maybe because I flew through it or maybe because it was a middle grade book, but nothing in its pages went to waste. The world building was as tight as the story telling.

There were so many good concepts, but I particularly liked the knowing your true name = having power over you, which I've seen done in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and The Lies of Locke Lamora, so it's not a new concept, but every time it pops up I'm excited to see where the author goes with it and I found myself very intrigued with the Book of True Names that is in this book.

Speaking of the magic system in this book, I found it intriguing as well. Sorcerers are split into two classes, Elementals and Adept. Elemental magic is, obviously, the four elements and what Skulduggery practices. Skulduggery explains what this class of magic entails and we see it in action. I was most intrigued by the earth aspect, which was used in at a crucial moment in a fight, and which left the fate of a certain character up in the air.  Adept magic wasn't discussed much, which left it open to exploration in later books!  I'm excited to see where Landy goes with it.

I feel like I can't praise the writing highly enough because while the book had some honest to God incredibly serious moments, it was laugh out loud funny in several parts too. It's always tricky to balance this out because if your characters are joking too much, you stop feeling like their mission is important because they aren't taking it seriously; and I myself find it a wee bit boring if characters are serious business an entire novel. Everything blended perfectly in this, all the wise cracking moments and all the "oh, crap, they are in serious trouble here!"

It's very action-y, so be prepared for that if it's not your thing. It reminded me a lot of Steelheart in that regard. There are a lot of good fight sequences, the final fight itself was quite amazing. I can remember three (but I just finished the book and am scrambling to fangirl about it) but they were executed wonderfully. I'm definitely looking forward to reading more about Stephanie training to fight because, at one point in the novel, she took down a bad guy.

The characters were an absolute treat. Skulduggery has that kind of humor and brazenness that I relate to Buffy: he goes in prepared to kick all kinds of tail, but he's hilarious and cheeky. There was an extra, I guess you could call it, novelette at the end of my copy where Skulduggery gets captured by another sorcerer. The entire time he's shooting the breeze while the guy is completely flustered Pleasant isn't taking this encounter seriously. But for all Skulduggery's goofy ways, he was also serious about stopping the plot at hand. I don't know if I can emphasize enough what a great hero I think he is.

Stephanie Edgley is a character I wish I had growing up. I love characters like her who are unafraid to be themselves, don't take crap, and are eager to not stand around and be a reactionary character. She made decisions, she wanted to learn how to fight, and she wanted to help now that she was a part of this new world. She didn't shy away from it and fought to take her place in it, and, oh God, that's something I want to see more of. She went toe-to-toe banter-wise with Skulduggery and it was never overdone or ridiculous, it showed that Stephanie had a lot of wit and made a great partner for Skulduggery.

If I had a tiny, tiny, tiny complaint about her, it's that she didn't feel 12. I honestly completely forgot she was 12 until it was mentioned again around the end of the novel, she just felt 15 or 16. But I also don't necessarily think that's a bad thing because I don't think the age group these books are aimed at should be talked down to; kids are smart and capable of being just like Stephanie.

(I would like to say that I love the fact that the series has a female lead like Stephanie because I think girls would definitely be interested in a book like this. It's action-y, but girls can kick butt too, and Stephanie represents that to me. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with not kicking butt either, but I feel like a lot of books aimed at young girls have them standing back. Stephanie goes forward and makes decisions and I just wanna see more of this in literature aimed at young readers, regardless of gender. I don't care of the other heroines don't kick as much tail as Stephanie, just show that they can!)

There were a multitude of secondary characters that I enjoyed as well, but I'm a little afraid to say anymore because I feel like I might spoil the book. I'm especially interested in seeing more of Tanith Low, since she was another strong female character and her banter with Stephanie and willingness to not only help her but teach her really endeared her to me.

If you haven't checked out this series, absolutely do it now! It's wonderful, it's fun, it's action-y, it has world saving, and you definitely won't regret it!

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