The ‘Skulduggery Pleasant’ series boasts sales of over 17 million worldwide, movie talk with Steven Spielberg, hordes of eager fans – but is it all a fuss over a clever concept and nothing else? In a word, no.
This is a series you can rely on. Derek Landy consistently comes up with fresh and intriguing urban fantasy ideas to deliver inventive detective stories and achingly witty writing. With a total of nine books planned, the series is loosely subdivided into trilogies. Kingdom of the Wicked begins the final three, and really tightens the focus on one of its main themes: what if you could do incredible things, but were destined to become evil?
Book six features wise-cracking skeleton detective Skulduggery and his teenage sidekick Valkyrie working out why everyday people are suddenly developing magical powers – and trying to stop them wreaking total havoc, thus exposing a secret world of sorcerers. It’s the first step into smart action, sharp dialogue and diabolical plans which play with subtle themes of power and equality.
It should be noted that these are not standalone books. A wide pantheon of characters and plot threads have been deliciously built up and while this new book provides some recap, it’s best to start at the beginning of the series. In fact, it might frustrate some fans that this book has more of its own story than rather than pushing along the exciting larger story, but there are enough hints to keep things moving, and an epilogue which will have fans baying at Landy’s door for the next instalment.
More so than ever, this latest addition to the series is populated with strong, believable characters with layers of light and darkness. The central Valkyrie Cain, for example, is a strong, shady heroine boys will be more than happy to read about. Full of constant intrigue, thrills and humour, the ‘Skulduggery Pleasant’ books have grown longer and darker, and there are elements of creepy horror and outright gory moments, but nothing inappropriate for the age-group. Any secondary-schooler with an adventurous bone in their body who likes the immense fun you can have with superpowers is missing out if they are not reading this addictive series.