Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
5Q 5P J/M
5Q 5P J/M
I've been reading some really heavy books lately (more on some of those soon), so I was really looking forward to something a little lighter in tone. I was not disappointed. What a thoroughly fun read this book is! And I do believe there'll be more where this one came from, which is truly cause for cheering.
When Stephanie's Uncle Gordon dies, she knows she'll miss spending time with him. Gordon was not, to put it mildly, everyone's cup of tea. The famous author was known for his horror novels, not for his tact or ability to get along with people. He didn't even get along with own brothers. But he and Stephanie clicked. She loved his books, and they enjoyed each other's company. But was that reason enough to put her in his will? Much to everyone's surprise, apparently so.
Stephanie and her parents are summoned to the lawyer's office for the reading of the will, as are her loathsome uncle and aunt. Also present: the strange man Stephanie saw twice after the funeral. This isn't someone you'd overlook or forget. He's tall and thin, with a shock of wild frizzy hair escaping from under his wide-brimmed hat. Even inside, his face is completely hidden by a scarf and huge sunglasses. His coat is fully buttoned. He is wearing gloves. His name is Skulduggery Pleasant, and as Stephanie is soon to discover, he is ...well, let's let that wait for a bit.
The reading of the will does not go well. All Skulduggery gets is a piece of advice, though he seems to accept that with grace. All Stephanie's greedy uncle and aunt inherit is a car, a boat, and a bit of worthless jewelry. They're furious. They get even angrier when Stephanie's parents get Gordon's villa in France. But they get absolutely livid when they learn that Stephanie inherits everything else: all his royalties, all his other property and possessions. What they don't know is that Stephanie also inherits numerous attempts on her life, close encounters with a number of unsavory characters, and the burden of knowing that the fate of the world rests with her ability to solve the puzzle of what else Gordon left for her that these people want so badly.
Of course, Stephanie doesn't know at first that Gordon's bequest is anything other than it seems. But being the intelligent girl that she is, she quickly realizes something is up. Her first clue? By a fluke of circumstance, she winds up spending a night alone in her new home. Also being a very self-sufficient girl, she's fine with that...until she gets a threatening phone call from someone demanding to know her name. When she refuses to give it, he breaks into the house and attacks her. With his hand around her throat, he demands she give him "the key". Enter (dramatically, to say the least) Skulduggery Pleasant, who turns out to be a surprisingly good hand-to-hand fighter. He also turns out (it's hard to stay in disguise in the middle of a brawl) to be a skeleton. In fact, he turns out to be a skeleton who can conjure up flames, among other things. In case you haven't guessed, that's Stephanie's second clue that something odd is going on. What did Uncle Gordon get her mixed up in?
Being the headstrong girl who doesn't take no for an answer that she is, Stephanie decides that it's time for her to learn what's going on. She learns the following:
- Skulduggery Pleasant was her uncle's (only?) friend.
- Skulduggery Pleasant is a detective.
- Skulduggery Pleasant can do magic.
- Skulduggery Pleasant works for
- Names are important. Don't give yours out to just anyone.
- You could be a sorcerer. Yes, I mean you.
- Fiction may not be fiction.
- We're talking fate of the world here.
- Stephanie Edgley is intelligent, self-sufficient, headstrong (but you knew all that already) and determined. Don't get in her way. She's also sarcastic, outspoken, and rebellious. This probably makes her a teacher's nightmare, but it also makes her a reader's dream.
Pick a page, any page. Pick a paragraph, any paragraph. Okay, here are just a few. (I'll try to restrain myself.)
"To be honest with you, it's not even *my* head."
"It's not. They ran away with my skull. I won this one in a poker game. [A few sentences snipped.] You look faintly disgusted."
"I just...doesn't it feel weird? It'd be like wearing someone else's socks."
"You get used to it."
"Stephanie, I'm not altogether sure you're respecting my authority."
"Yes, I'm not."
"I see. Okay then."
"I try not to depend on magic these days; I try to get by on what's up here." [Skulduggery] tapped his head.
"There's empty space up there."
"Well, yes," he said irritably, "but you know what I mean."
Stephanie: "And am I going to be accompanying you?"
Skulduggery: "That depends. Do you need your parents' permission?"
Her parents wanted her to find her own way in life. That's what they'd said countless times in the past. Of course, they'd been referring to school subjects and college applications and job prospects. Presumably, at no stage did they factor living skeletons and magic underworlds into their considerations. If they had, their advice would probably have been very different. Stephanie shrugged. "No, not really."
"Well, that's good enough for me."
"Fashion," said Ghastly with a shrug. "It's life or death."
Ghastly nodded. "That'll teach him to underestimate stupid people."
Stephanie and Skulduggery are discussing the grim realization that it's time to visit the relatives:
Skulduggery: "Being a detective isn't all about torture and murder and monsters. Sometimes it gets truly unpleasant."
A few links:
- Harper Collins's Skulduggery Pleasant web site, (complete with an interview with Skulduggery that shouldn't be missed!)
- Derek Landy interviews: Authortrek and Sarah Webb