Monday, September 28, 2015

MMGM: Skullduggery Pleasant, by Derek Landy

For the longest time I kept seeing the Skullduggery Pleasant sequels on my library shelves and thinking, "those sound interesting; if I ever see the first book I might check it out." But the first book was never there. Finally one day I was browsing in the Teen section, and there it was: Skullduggery Pleasant. So I picked it up and did my usual book-handling-to-get-a-sense-of-whether-I-might-like-it.*

Great cover with a great tag line:

Intriguing blurb. "The end of the world? Over his dead body."

My favourite tone is tongue-in-cheek, so the first paragraph was promising:
Gordon Edgley's sudden death came as a shock to everyone - not least himself. One moment he was in his study, seven words into the twenty-fifth sentence of the final chapter of his new book, And the Darkness Rained upon Them, and the next he was dead. A tragic loss, his mind echoed numbly as he slipped away.
I kept reading. (I'm sitting on the floor in the library aisle at this point.) Main character Stephanie Edgley came on stage with an interesting way of looking at the world that right away made me want to stick with her. A few pages in came the paragraph that clinched it for me:
“Do you know anything about engines?” Stephanie asked.
“That’s why I have a husband, so I don’t have to. Engines and shelves, that’s why men were invented."
Stephanie made a mental note to learn about engines before she turned eighteen. She wasn’t too fussed about the shelves.
At that point I took the book home and devoured it.

Walking, talking skeleton detective and defender-of-the-good Skullduggery Pleasant is a fantastic, hilarious character with attitude and banter to spare. Think Harry Dresden if Tim Burton wrote the screenplay. Stephanie keeps right up with him in the attitude and banter departments, and can out-logic and out-stubborn him the way only a 12-year-old can. Their partnership, and friendship, is a joy to watch unfold.

The world is populated with ridiculous monsters that turn out to be quite frightening, an evil guy trying to take over the world (of course), and lots of characters with ambiguous motivations and awesome names like Ghastly Bespoke. (If you don't think Skullduggery Pleasant and Ghastly Bespoke are awesome names, then this book might not be for you.)

The story ended satisfactorily, but there are eight more books in the series (plus a couple of short-story collections), so lots more potential adventures for the saving-the-world-while-insulting-each-other duo. I found Book 1 thoroughly entertaining, and with enough depth of character that I've already got Book 2 out (from the Children's section of the library this time). So, which section does the series belong in? I would say older middle-grade, because there are some violent and scary bits**, and because the humour will appeal to a slightly more sophisticated reader. (Ahem. You know, like me. 'Cause I'm sophisticated.)

My sister made this chocolate caramel peanut butter pie thing that is to die for, and I think it's a good match for this book: dark and chewy and not good for you at all!

For more Marvelous Middle-grade recommendations, run don't walk over to Shannon Messenger's blog every Monday.

* You can't do this with e-books. I find that problematic.
** As violent and scary as the latter Harry Potter books. Nothing approaching Hunger Games. And nothing remotely romantic.


  1. Sounds like a perfect read for this upcoming Halloween season. Love that title, too.

  2. Wow. This one sounds terrific. I will definitely check this out. Thanks for the review. By the way, I just signed up as an email subscriber, so now I will know whenever you post. Thanks for adding that.

  3. I remember when this book first came out! I loved it. But for some reason, I never read any of the sequels.