Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
From the inside flap:
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.
It was much funnier than I thought it would be. I admit that there is something cool about a fire throwing skeleton who walks around in well tailored suits solving crimes and making wise cracks and I was sold before I knew any more than that. But Landy makes Skulduggery more than just a flashy gimmick and develops him into a wonderful character. He is undoubtedly one of the good guys but he isn’t all sunshine, there is a darkness to him and his past is not pretty.
Stephanie Edgley, the 12 year old who helps Skulduggery, is sarcastic and quick witted without becoming obnoxious and the quick back and forth between her and Skulduggery is what brings much of the humor to the book. It was refreshing to see that she is not neglected or unloved by her parents and they notice that she is acting weird and take an interest in her life.
There are interesting ideas about how Skulduggery became what he is and the effect that had on him, about the nature of vampires, and about the magic having consequences, to get something from it you have to give something up. There are a lot of old ideas that are given a new spin and it makes them feel fresh and unique.
The secondary characters had a lot of potential. Stephanie’s extended family is contemptible, her father quirky, The Elders pompous and self important, and the people who help along the way driven and with a past of their own. They all could be very interesting but most of them were not developed very much and I hope some of them come back in future books so they can be rounded out and used more.
The bad guy is truly creepy, in large part due to how much he enjoys what he does, being evil and inflicting pain. I was slightly surprised at how dark it could sometimes get. I know it is about the possible end of the world as we know it and dark magic and betrayal are to be expected but murder, torture and the horrible stories from the past might not make this the best choice for those who are easily scared. But the darkness does add depth to the book. It makes for true danger to the characters and the evil they fight is a true force to be reckoned with which makes the story more suspenseful and interesting.
There are a few twists and turns and you don’t always know what to believe or who to trust and you can’t always tell what is going to happen next but it was a lot of fun finding out. I’ll definitely be reading the others in the Skulduggery series.