Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy – Review [Lord of the Night]

If he's the good guy, who or what the hell are the bad guys?!

Lord of the Night reviews the gripping first book of the magical detective series Skulduggery Pleasant, titled Skulduggery Pleasant, by Derek Landy.

“Magic, action and humour are blended seemlessly together in a series that is filled with brilliant and unique ideas, and possibly the only series in the world where the undead talking skeleton is actually the good guy!” – The Founding Fields

I decided to buy the Skulduggery Pleasant series after reading some reviews, listening to the first three chapter on audio and seeing a fantastic deal that offered the first five books of the series for £8.99. Normally I wouldn’t go for something like that since I can’t be sure i’ll enjoy the series, and if I don’t then i’m stuck with not one but five books that I do not want. Skulduggery Pleasant quickly earned its place in my collection and then some with its engaging story, witty banter and kick-ass action scenes.

When her uncle Gordon dies Stephanie Edgley is set to inherit his entire estate, a sprawling mansion and millions of pounds of royalties. But there was a lot more to her uncle than just horror novels, as she learns when the mysterious Mr Skulduggery Pleasant enters her life and saves it simultaneously. Joining the suave, tough and dead detective in his investigation Stephanie quickly finds herself in a world of magic, vampires, evil sorcerers and ancient faceless gods. Stephanie and Skulduggery are against the clock as the evil Nefarian Serpine plots to unleash an unspeakable horror upon the world, and with little time and fewer allies, can the girl with no magic and a talking skeleton stop one of the most powerful sorcerers in the world?

The story of the first Skulduggery Pleasant novel was very good to read. The rules of the world and magic are explained fairly quickly, the backstory revealing itself slowly across the novel until by the end you not only understand what happened in the story, you know what caused it all many years ago. The plot of the story unfolds nicely as Skulduggery and Stephanie delve further into the mystery and events begin to overtake until setting the stage for a final climatic battle. The chapters are of a nice length, and the few chapters from the perspective of the villains are clearly marked in italics so that you get an instant feel of things being different.

If he's the good guy, who or what the hell are the bad guys?!

The characters of the novel are delightful. The eponymous Skulduggery Pleasant is suave with a voice you could listen to for hours with a dashing sense of dress and can fight with the best of them, oh and he’s also dead. Skulduggery manages to be a bit of an egotist, show off and yet is still immediately likeable for his wit and willingness to allow Stephanie to join him, rather than pushing her away as other heroes in different series would. Stephanie Edgley is the second protagonist and serves as the POV character for most of the novel. Her inquisitive attitude towards magic and stubborn nature make her a good partner for Skulduggery and the perfect POV character for the series, as since like the reader she knows nothing about the world of magic we learn it as she does. Plenty of other characters feature in the novel like the stubborn yet reliable tailor Ghastly Bespoke, the beautiful librarian and arcane collector China Sorrows, mysterious Sanctuary agent Mr Bliss, and the nefarious Nefarian Serpine, the villain of the novel.

The action in the series is great. Plenty of fireballs, wind-fuelled punches and the unique talents of the Adepts fill the book but the physical side is not neglected. Skulduggery quickly shows that he doesn’t need to rely on magic to kick the bad guy’s ass, being very strong and knowledgable about fighting. The action scenes are very easy to follow, the book clearly describes what moves Skulduggery is using and how he moves during the fights, getting into position for punches and locks. And he’s a good shot, though he doesn’t use his gun often as it tends to never really do anything.

The pacing of the book is quite good. It moves at a good speed and keeps the reader interested with twists and the interesting world that the novels are set in. The environment of the novel is good as well, the series is set in Ireland rather than America like most novel series so its a refreshing change in scenery. The book gives the reader the story on its world and rules nice and easy, no info-dumps or boring explanations, Skulduggery himself explains the differences of magic, the types of mages called Adepts and Elementals, of which he is the latter, and keeps it interesting throughout.

The ending of the novel is nicely written. Ending the story yet with the promise of more to come the first novel closes with much of the story finished, yet with some strands left unanswered or outstanding, to be resolved in the future. There’ll be plenty more Skulduggery Pleasant where that came from.

For a good story, very enjoyable characters and a fascinating world of magic I give Skulduggery Pleasant an 8.1/10. A very good score and one that I hope will be increased with the future novels. I enjoyed this novel so much i’m already onto the second one, titled Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing with Fire.

Should you buy this book? I would recommend this series to fans of series like The Dresden Files, Felix Castor and other magic-based series. Skulduggery Pleasant isn’t as adult as those series buts its just as, and sometimes more, enjoyable and is often more humourous. If you dislike urban fantasy and magic based series than this isn’t the series for you.

Well that’s it for this review. I’ll write one up for Playing with Fire once I finish it. Hopefully the next BL releases will arrive soon and I can get some advance reader reviews out for Void Stalker and Dead Winter. Until the next review.


Lord of the Night

Lord of the Night is one of TFF’s original reviewers. He’s done quite a few for TFF and that number keeps expanding. You’ll enjoy his diverse mix of book reviews. Always a treat.