TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:
"Skulduggery Pleasant" features on its cover a jauntily dressed skeleton clapping a ball of fire between his hands. Sold!
Regular blog readers know that I'm no fan of fantasy. But here's another crack in that facade — what have you started Harry Potter? — because I thoroughly enjoyed "Skulduggery Pleasant." Maybe I've really been a closet fantasy lover all along? Who knew!
The story here is pretty simple. Well, strike that. There's some complicated mythology about, among other things, elemental magic, the power of names, Elder Mages who maintain a longstanding truce with the followers of the evil Serpine, and a potentially devastating weapon called the Scepter of the Ancients. I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't always able to keep it all straight. But that's okay, because the plot (mostly) makes sense in the end. Even better, along the way, we're treated to a delightful mix of biting, sarcastic humor (which I love!), puzzle-like mysteries, loads of whiz-bang action scenes, and the development of a grudging friendship between our young heroine, Stephanie, and Skulduggery, the skeleton detective who assists her in uncovering the truth behind her Uncle Gordon's death.
I loved that Stephanie is such a spunky yet believably tough character. She insists on accompanying Skulduggery on visits to the Sanctuary of the Mages, and she even breaks into a museum (guarded by vampires!) with him. Although Stephanie has no magical powers — unlike Skulduggery, who has the very cool ability to manipulate fire and water — she still manages to outsmart villains and hold her own in a series of rough encounters. She's clever, resourceful, and quietly brave, which is a fantastic combination in any character. Throw in her ability to trade barbs and sarcastic comments with Skulduggery, and we have all the makings of a great heroine.
"Skulduggery Pleasant" is a lively, rollicking, action-packed read. It's a great choice for middle school readers, boys and girls alike, who enjoy either action or fantasy. Truly, I think there's enough here for fans of either genre to sink their teeth into. Also, if you're like me and kind of on the fence about fantasy in general, this book is an accessible, sharp entry into the fantasy realm. Give it a try and see what you think. If you do find yourself loving "Skulduggery Pleasant," the sequel, "Playing with Fire," is out now.