REVIEW: Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy


Hey everyone! Today is the first of what is going to be a pretty lengthy series: my reread of the Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy. I like to review every book I read anyway, but I’d like to draw particular attention to this series as it is my all-time favourite (yes, it beats Harry Potter) and I don’t see it widely discussed across bookish circles. It has a hugely dedicated fanbase, but I would love to see the readership of the series grow. Whilst this is a chance for me to gush about my favourite series, if anyone picks it up and loves it due to these posts that would be amazing.

I reread book 1, entitled Skulduggery Pleasant, in one sitting on the day that I’m writing this. It is lengthy for a children’s novel, but the pages fly by, and once you pick up the rules and circumstances of the magical world, you’re good to go. On its most basic level, this series follows 12-year-old Stephanie Edgeley, who is introduced to a world of magic that she never knew existed after the death of her uncle, Gordon. She comes into contact with skeleton detective Skulduggery Pleasant several times after Gordon’s death, and once his true identity is revealed she becomes swept up in Ireland’s dangerous yet fascinating magical culture. The rest it is best you discover for yourselves, but I cannot emphasise enough, that although this is marketed as a children’s story, and will most likely be sat in the 9 – 12 section of Waterstones, it can be read by anyone, and has drawn emotions out of me that no other book series has ever managed.

Landy’s writing is excellent, and what makes the book is his witty and creative dialogue. I’m pretty sure he wrote scripts before he moved onto novel writing, and this definitely shines through in his work. It constantly has me smiling and laugh out loud, and its fast pacing perfectly matches my sense of humour. The dialogue also cements all the relationships in the story, every word that is not speech pushes the story forward or adds to a character in some way, and the dialogue is really where personality shines through.

I love Stephanie’s relationship with her parents, and it is refreshing to see a protagonist worry about her parents each time she rushes into danger, compared to the attitudes of many young heroines of acting as though their parents don’t exist and they are entirely free from responsibility. Skulduggery and Stephanie’s relationship captures the heart of everyone who reads about them, and I am no exception. The student-mentor bond they gradually build up is fascinating, but their care for one another as partners melts my heart, and their confidence and banter in times of danger keeps me always smiling when reading. Another favourite of mine is Tanith, who is a great strong female character, and confident in herself in ways that I am entirely jealous of.

Another thing that Landy nails is his portrayal of messages about morality and perseverance; he uses his characters to demonstrate that whilst everyone is flawed, the intention in your actions goes far. I think this is a great message to send to younger readers, but the messages he displays still inspire me at 19. I often hear that people like Game of Thrones because they feel as though there are consequences to the characters actions, and that every important character isn’t unrealistically immune from harm. (This is a huge issue I have with Doctor Who, but that’s another story!) This same risk resides in Landy’s book, the fear that characters you love will be harmed, and that there are very real reactions to their actions and decisions. This creates an unpredictability that keeps the pages turning.

Of course, one of the best things about fantasy stories is the actual magic, yet another area where Landy satisfies and delivers. We are introduced to the magic of Elementals and Adepts in this book, and whilst elemental magic has always appealed to me in literature, the individual and unique powers of the Adept magicians are fascinating. Another thing I consider super important in fantasy is setting. As soon as Gordon’s house is described to the reader it conjures up dreams of adventure and danger, and we see this same excitement attached to various locations throughout the novel. The magical caves can only be described as fun, providing some classic fighting and problem solving before the finale of the novel.

I think even this first review makes it pretty clear that I have only good things to say about this novel – when writing reviews usually my criticisms come to mind first, and the reasons why I knocked stars off the book, but I can’t fault this first novel, I am utterly besotted and in love with it. One of the most exciting things about having my own blog is having full power over the content I publish, and this has been one of my most fun reviews to write to date, and I can’t wait to move on to the rest of the series.

To track where I’m up to in the series and what I’m currently reading, check out my Goodreads, and check out my other social media to keep in touch between posts. If you’re reading this as someone who’s read the series, or even just the first book, please please comment! I’m always looking for new people to discuss this series with :)

– hatterell

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