Because all of life is stories.
“Cheer up everyone,” he said, a new brightness to his voice. “Since we’re all going to die horribly anyway, what’s there to be worried about?”
– Skulduggery Pleasant
I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that.
I’ve had these books recommended to me a few times over the years. I’ve always put off reading them, I have no idea why. It’s apparently got quite a cult following in the US, despite not having taken off in the same way Harry Potter and Percy Jackson have. The Skulduggery Pleasant series runs over the course of nine books and is without a doubt one my new favorite series of books. Ever. Of all time.
The series follows the lives of our two protagonists Stephanie Edgley, also known as Valkyrie Cain in the magical world, and the titular Skulduggery Pleasant. Dapper, a snappy dresser, with a smart mouth and a sharp wit. Also he’s a fire-throwing skeleton detective. That isn’t a euphemism. He’s literally a skeleton in a pin striped suit that throws fireballs and solves crimes.
Valkyrie and Skulduggery meet at the reading of Valkyrie’s uncle’s will. It isn’t until later on when Skulduggery saves her from magical robbers that she discovers that not only is magic, and apparently talking skeletons, real, but her Uncle Gordon was a part of their community, and many of his best-selling books were based on real life events.
Valkyrie joins Skulduggery on an adventure that takes her through the magical underground community that has existed in Ireland and the world over for thousands of years. Because it turns out Uncle Gordon knew something about the Ancients and The Faceless Ones (Powerful wizards/witches and evil gods respectively) that could bring the entire world falling down upon itself.
This series is wonderful for many reasons. And it’s really easy to see why this book intended for young readers has gained a cult following amongst teens and adults. The writing is simply superb. It isn’t the most in depth novel, after all it’s written for kids aged 7-12, not trying to be Moby Dick. That said, it has some of the best back and forth dialogue and some of the snarkiest most sharp-witted writing I’ve ever read. In a book for any age.
One of my personal favorite reasons is the names. Skulduggery Pleasant. Valkyrie Cain. Billy-Ray Sanguine and Ghastly Bespoke. China Sorrows. The villain’s name is Nefarian Serpine for the love of God. Landy has a gift for ridiculous and entertaining names. They continue for the rest of the series too. These are the taken names. Names that they give themselves to hide the names they were given so that they can’t be used against them. This is one of many books that gives power to things like true names. But really, NEFARIAN SERPINE ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
So much love. So much.
The characters are all phenomenal as well. Valkyrie is a strong-willed twelve year old who is looking for a more exciting life. Skulduggery uses wit to hide a legendary fury and dark past. Mr. Bliss is the tall, dark, and badass strongest man in the world. Nefarian is every bad villain trope worked into a weird sort of perfect character. He has very little reason to be bad other than being evil and wanting power, but Landy does a splendid job making him a fun character to root against. China Sorrows is the “neutral by only the slimmest definition” information and power-broker. Tanith Low is the wall and ceiling walking, sword swinging sorceress that becomes a close friend of and role model to Valkyrie. They all have a wonderful life to them, and the good balance between male and female characters, both in the hero and villain department, is yet another reason this book is well worth your time.
If you like rogues, magic, mystery, action, and a sharp enough wit to cut off fingers then this is absolutely the book for you. Eat your heart out Percy. Skulduggery is the hero you never knew you always wanted.
Find it here: