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“I want you all to know,” Skulduggery said, “that we are the first line of defense. In fact, we’re practically the only line of defense. If we fail, there won’t be a whole lot anyone else will be able to do. What I’m trying to say is that failure, at this point, isn’t really the smart move to make. We are not to fail, do I make myself absolutely clear? Failure is bad—it won’t help us in the short term and certainly won’t do us any favors in the long run, and I think I’ve lost track of this speech, and I’m not too sure where it’s headed. But I know where it started, and that’s what you’ve got to keep in mind. Has anyone seen my hat?”

“You put it on the roof of the car when you were taking off your coat,” Valkyrie said.

“Did I? I did; excellent.”

“We will attack in two waves,” Bliss said, steering the briefing back into the realms of relevance. “The first wave will consist of Tanith Low, Valkyrie Cain, Skulduggery Pleasant, and myself. The second wave will be you Cleavers.”

“We’re seizing our chance now,” Skulduggery said, “before Vengeous returns and we have a battle on two fronts. […] Does anyone have any questions? No? No one? No questions? You sure?”

Bliss turned to him. “There do not seem to be any questions.”

Skulduggery nodded. “They’re a fine lot.”

Bliss gestured, and the Cleavers divided into groups, and Valkyrie and Skulduggery strode away.

“I used to be so good at that kind of thing,” Skulduggery said quietly.

“Well, my morale is certainly boosted,” Valkyrie informed him.

“Really?”

“God no. That was terrible.” (342-3)

Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing with Fire (Book2) by Derek Landy

HarperCollins, 2008.

Hardcover, 389 pages.

Juvenile Fiction, 10 & up.

after reading Book One, I had to pick up the sequel.

Not sure if I went on and on and on enough the other day about Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant, but you should know that it is a fantastic read; for my part: there was hugging involved. I was excited to read the next book in line and I tried not to have too high of expectations. Fortunately it was good. I cannot say it was as excellent as the first, but it was sehr enjoyable. For one, Playing with Fire has more action, more bloody messes, and just as many scary creatures; no glittery chested vampires here, and if you’ve a healthy fear of spiders… Landy’s marvelous way with repartee returns as does his ability to keep the Reader on their toes.

It would be of great benefit to read Skulduggery Pleasant first. While Landy does the appropriate nod to the previous book, Playing with Fire does the minimal. This review will do little more. In the first book you learn that there is a world of magic, the kind that allows for a dead man to come back to life as a well-dressed skeleton. Her late Uncle Gordon knew of this world and left a link to it in his estate of which Stephanie Edgley inherited, who, tantalized, falls head-long into a perilous adventure and sharp-witted apprenticeship with the skeleton detective, Skulduggery Pleasant. They solve the mystery of Gordon’s murder and stop an old evil from returning, but not before the villain wreaks a great deal of havoc; of which they are still recovering in the second book.

The realizations made in the first, of Stephanie’s ancestry, of the return of old enemies intent on bringing about the return of the evil Faceless Ones, continue into Playing with Fire. In this second book, Baron Vengeous, one of Mevolent’s Generals, has escaped from an inescapable prison and is intent on resurrecting the Grotesquery, a monster created out of parts of legendary beasts, an unkillable creature who has the ability to call back the Faceless Ones. But is there something more dark and sinister going on? Is Vengeous merely a puppet of a more dangerous organization? Or is this another of Mevolent’s Generals attempts to finish what was started all those years ago? Or both. In Derek Landy’s Skulduggery novels, anything can happen, most everything is probable.

In Playing with Fire, Landy skips a little ahead in time and picks up in the character development of his central character Stephanie Edgley aka Valkyrie Cain. There is a lot that Valkyrie has learned and a lot left to learn; and she is still trying to adjust to all the implications this new part of her life incurs.

[Stephanie] wondered if it would ever get to the point where she would be a stranger in her own home. She shook her head. She didn’t like thinking those thoughts. They came regularly, unwelcome visitors in her mind, and they stayed far too long and they made too much mess. (181).

It is a wonderful part of this series that the child heroine loves her parents and has a good relationship with them.  It is hard on Stephanie’s childhood that she spends so much time away from normalcy (no matter how dull) in this new normal that involves the role of kick-ass apprentice to the bad-ass Skulduggery. What is she missing by sending her Reflection to school in her place, as well as the dinner table? And what about this strange double of hers?

New and exciting things learned in Playing with Fire? –The self-serving, conniving China Sorrows is more than just a pretty face. She has some wicked defense/fighting skills.  –There really are mysteries to be solved amidst all the chases, fights, and explosions.—The author is good with pop culture reference: what is “half the battle?” and “There is no one to watch the watchmen, Valkyrie” (388).

As with the first book? The heroes are not infallible. Valkyrie still rushes in and creates unexpected turns in the plot. The villains are fantastic (and more fully developed here). The imagination of the author is exceeded only by his sense of humor and his ability to write wonderful action sequences. This series continues to be one worth getting excited about. You can be sure I will be picking up the next one very soon.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Kailana says:

    I am looking forward to the new book in this series!

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