December 9, 2008

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

On Goodreads, where you score the books you read with 1-5 stars, I try to be sparing with my 5 stars. My criteria tend to be 1) a book I absolutely loved loved loved, 2) a book I would reread several times and 3) a book I would recommend without hesitation (that last one is what keeps many a book from being a five star).

Anyway, Skulduggery Pleasant got a five star from me for being clever, funny, and for being a CD that Bart took out of the car and listened to on our home CD player. It was that good.

Stephanie is a 12-year-old girl and her uncle, Gordon, has recently died of a heart attack. He was a very successful writer and his books were full of magic and horror (Stephanie's mother forbids her to read them, since they will give her nightmares). Then, when Gordon's will is read, it turns out he's left his entire fortune, his property and the royalties for all his books, to Stephanie (much to the displeasure of Stephanie's horrendous aunt and uncle (the will says "I love you all, even the ones I don't like very much. That's you, Barrel.")).

Also present at the reading of the will is the oddly named Skulduggery Pleasant, a long-time friend of Gordon's who is always dressed in a long coat, hat, scarf, and gloves, despite it being the heat of summer.

Later that night, when Stephanie is alone at Gordon's house (for reasons I won't discuss here), a man starts banging on the door demanding to be let in or he'll kill her. Fortunately, Skulduggery arrives at almost that precise moment, fights the bad guy, and saves Stephanie. Unfortunately, in the fight, his hat comes off and he is revealed to be nothing but a skeleton. Hmm, how odd. And it comes out that Gordon's books were not exactly just made up - magic is real and Gordon, although not magical himself, knew of it and made a fortune writing all about it.

And, horrifyingly, Stephanie begins to realize, Gordon's death was no heart attack - he was murdered in an effort to get something - some magical item - that belonged to him and couldn't be possessed by another while he lived. So Stephanie joins forces with Skulduggery to find out who killed Gordon and what the next step in the obviously diabolical plan is.

The book reminded me of a cross between Harry Potter and the Bartimaeus trilogy. What makes these books so awesome, though, is not the action or the magic, but Skulduggery's snappy humor and Stephanie's equally clever and quick responses to it. Bart and I laughed aloud hundreds of times over the course of six CDs.

It's worth mentioning that we listened to it on CD because the narration is fantastic and there is terrific music between each chapter. In fact, the audio version was an honor winner of Odyssey award which debuted last year to celebrate good audio books. And this is one of the best.

Apparently, there will eventually be nine books in the series (so far there are two) and Warner Brothers may be making a movie of it in 2010.

This is a funny, funny book. I loved every moment of it, including the mock interview with Skulduggery at the end of the CD. Read it, listen to it, love it.

[Edited to Add: After some more thought, I think I'd lower this to a four star review - it is a terrific audio recording, but I don't know if it would be quite as funny on paper. And there were a few parts that dragged a bit.]


  1. Ooh! Another book to add to the list. I too am very sparing when it comes to my 5 stars. Good to know this deserves them all.

  2. Ello lovely Janssen! I'm going private due to a jerkface, so come by and leave your email address if you're interested.
    I still love being able to count on coming to your blog and having something new to read. Seriously love it.

  3. Oh! Have you read the second one yet? Also really good! I totally thought this book was awesome but the middle school kids seem to have mixed reviews about the cover art. It's a hard sell for me, but they usually love it once I force it on them. :)

  4. Oooh, that one sounds good too. I'm reading Angus, Thongs, and... on your rec now. It's CUTE. I'm reading it in my personal chambers (the bathroom, wait til you have kids, its the only quiet room in the house) and it's perfect for it.

    Is that a new picture of you? It seems new to me. Perhaps I am unobservant.

  5. Thanks for the review; I'll have to check this one out. I'll return the favor and recommend one to you called "108th Street" bt T. David Lee. Story about 10 year old kids in NY in the late 1950s. Very funny and good for older kids to read. Might help them understand their parents and grandparents a little better, but a very engaging book that I think you'll like.

  6. Thanks! Another book that sound like so much fun.

  7. Hey! Did you get that CD at the library?

  8. PS -This has nothing to do with this post, but do you remember how I said I was disappointed in Josh Groban's Christmas CD? I might have even said I didn't like it.

    I had played the CD on our "big" stereo, on the computer, and heard it on my daughter's CD player. The songs sort of all sounded the same - kind of mechanical. Well, yesterday, I was in a store and one of the songs from the CD was playing, and it was really pretty. I decided to give it one more chance. I stuck "Josh" in my newer "boom box". What a difference! There are two songs on there that I'm not overly fond of the arrangements (which is often true of any CD), but over all I really enjoyed listening to it. Josh Groban's Christmas CD is a keeper - as long as I remember to use the boom box. :)

  9. Yeah, I liked this one and the sequel both, they were kind of fun.


I try to respond to most comments, so it will make my day if your email address is linked in your profile. If you're not sure if it's linked, you can add it by following these instructions.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...