Harper (HarperCollins), 2009.
Hardcover, 422 pages.
If you’ve read the other Skulduggery books by Derek Landy (and you really should have read them by now), you’ve seen it all before: Some bad guy wants to bring about the end of the world, and Skulduggery and Valkyrie fight valiantly to stop it from happening. A few people get hurt, sure, but everything’s all right in the end.
Well, not this time. –jacket copy.
You really should read Skulduggery Pleasant and Playing with Fire before this The Faceless Ones. Sure Landy does a little catch-up, but most of the references are to remind readers of books one and two as to where everyone is in by this third installment. Primary reason for reading the first two is because they are really good. Landy has a marvelous sense of humor, timing, and plot-twisting. The tagline on the cover: Do panic. They’re coming. and the warning in the jacket: “Well, not this time” are more than clever lures. It is killing us that the only copy of Book Four at the Library is in Spanish and my bilingual daughter refuses to translate it for us. I mean seriously, why else did we make her go to Bilingual Immersion schools for so long?! Do have Dark Days on hand because it does not turn out all right in the end. Derek Landy is capable of just about anything. He prepares our young people to be able to anticipate George R.R. Martin or Joss Whedon.
“Detective, have you ever considered the fact that violence is the recourse of the uncivilized man?”
Skulduggery looked back. “I’m sophisticated, charming, suave, and debonair, Professor. But I have never claimed to be civilized.” (95)
Kenspeckle is not the only one to worry after now-14-year-old Valkyrie Cain (aka Stephanie Edgley). Valkyrie continues to take some serious beatings while out with Skulduggery. And it doesn’t really get all that easier as the story continues. There are some dread-filled moments for the Reader as we are left to rely on the confidence only Valkyrie and Skulduggery seem to share. True, she has made it through some amazing scrapes before, but between the increasingly sinister presence of the reflection and the dangerous tasks at hand… Then there is the worry about Skulduggery, whose influence (and past) are something we should probably question; especially seeing how others are.
The witty exchanges between Valkyrie and Skulduggery are fewer in this volume, but the beloved characterizations of our protagonists are still there; as are support cast members, and some wonderful new additions—yes, even at their most annoying they are appreciated for their roles in providing proper conflict. I would love to have spent more time with Valkyrie’s life as “Stephanie” in the balance, but Landy is going to draw out his greater arc a bit more. He is littering his stories with enough kindling to create a proper cataclysmic event. Yet, even while important characters like Valkyrie/Stephanie’s family members are kept in passing, Landy keeps them also in memory in reference and amusing interactions.
“Desmond, I found your passport. Time to go.” […] Her dad came down the stairs, picked up the passport, and opened it. “This isn’t mine,” he said. “This belongs to an ugly man wearing a stupid expression.”
Valkyrie’s mother sighed. “Get in the car.”
“This is my anniversary gift to you,” he protested. “And that means I’m in charge.”
“Get in the car.”
“Yes, dear,” he mumbled, picking up his bag and shuffling out the door. He stopped to give Valkyrie a hug and winked at her. “You behave, okay? And be nice to your cousins. God knows someone has to be.” (289-90)
Great characters, wit, action, sheer imagination, surprises, and a willingness to take a turn improbable to most of juvenile fiction make Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant a must read series. I am terrified of what is going to happen in Dark Days…deliciously so.
—Derek Landy is brilliant and I am embarrassed that I am only just out of the 3rd book in this series. I will remedy it, and if you are behind as well, I hope you will make the time as well. The age recommendation on these books are 8 & up, but as to the younger end, know the sensitivity of your child, these are actually quite violent and certainly perilous (gorgeously so). For girls and boys, those who like well-imagined villains, magic/fantasy, action, and sarcasm.
my review of Skulduggery Pleasant (bk1) (HarperCollins, 2008);
and of Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing with Fire (bk2) (HarperCollins, 2008).