‘Magic. Sorcerers. Freaks and weirdoes’. Just some of the dark delights in the tenth instalment of Derek Landy’s bestselling Skulduggery Pleasant series. In this latest unholy adventure, Mr Skulduggery Pleasant takes on the daunting task of saving the world, a task that entails confronting the most malign forces of sorcery imaginable, along with the occasional impracticalities involved in being a skeleton.
This fantasy detective series has maintained a consistent presence on the teen bestseller lists for the past decade. Fans will know that the books’ human world runs parallel with an alternative community of sorcerers, whose magical capital city is cloaked by an invisibility shield. A contingent of evil-doers have hatched a plan to enslave their hapless mortal neighbours. Can Skulduggery avert doom?
Our bony hero’s sleuthing talents are matched only by his sartorial elegance. Sporting a charcoal three-piece-suit and fedora, he also drives a Bentley, and has acquaintances with such glamorously gothic names as Cadaverous, and Melancholia. Skulduggery never loses his cool, even when unexpectedly detached from his jawbone by an evil maniac. It turns out that without a covering of skin, it can be a real challenge hanging onto your bones.
The plot zips along and Derek Landy has great fun ramping up the villainy, but for me it’s marred by a surplus of characters and backstory, and doesn’t work as a stand-alone book. Potential readers should sign up for the ride with Book One.
There’s also some clumsy political satire to contend with, a boorish and narcissistic American president , who has inveigled his way into the White House with sorcery. It feels like a personal rant that has been pegged onto the plot, and it jars.
However, the dry humour and impressive flights of imagination save the day. Millions of teenagers have grown up with this series, a cool kids alternative to Harry Potter. Try Book One, simply titled Skulduggery Pleasant.
Resurrection (Skulduggery Pleasant) is published Harper Collins Childrens’ Books, 432 pages.