Friday, 2 April 2010
Review: Skulduggery Pleasant - Dark Days by Derek Landy
It's the fourth Skulduggery Pleasant adventure, only Skulduggery Pleasant himself is lost on the other side of a portal, with only some evil gods for company. Can he possible survive? (Yes, all right, he's already dead. But still.) What can we say, without giving too much away? Not much, is the answer. But what we CAN say is that this book is hilarious, it's tense, and it's packed with all the eye-popping action, crackling one liners and imaginative set pieces you've come to expect. There's a new threat to our plucky heroine, of course. But that's not all. There's also the little fact of the Big Bad, the uber-baddy who's going to come along and really, really destroy the world. (Really.) And what we learn about that villain in this book will literally make your jaw fall off and your hair go white with shock. (Not really.) Will Skulduggery make it out of the Faceless Ones' dimension? Who knows. The problem is, he may not have much to come back to!
Valkyrie Cain is back, but this time she is alone. Skulduggery Pleasant, her mentor and friend, is trapped in the world of the Faceless Ones after being dragged through the portal at the end of Book Three. However, there is hope - if Valkyrie and her team can get their hands on Skulduggery's original skull there just may be a chance to launch a rescue mission by reopening the portal and.............. and perhaps I should end my review there, as I am going to have to tread very carefully from here on so as not to give away too many spoilers.
Thirty minutes later.........
Hmmm.... I have been sitting at my laptop for sometime now and I still have no idea how to write this review without creating those spoilers. You just have to read through the various Twitter feeds and Facebook pages to see how hotly anticipated this book is, espcially after that monumental cliffhanger at the end of the third book. Derek Landy has built up quite a worldwide fanbase since the publication of the first Skulduggery Pleasant series. The Faceless Ones shot into the Top 10 on launch, selling 28,000 copies in its first two months, so the last thing I want to do is upset his legion of fans by giving away the many delicious plot revelations that this book holds.
So.... Skulduggery fans everywhere let me start by telling you that you will not be disappointed. Whilst, in my humble opinion, this is not the best book in the series so far it is still one hell of a read. Despite the huge cliffhanger at its end The Faceless Ones still holds the Number 1 slot for me, and although I really enjoyed Dark Days and read it in almost one sitting, it just didn't quite match up to the thrill I got from reading its predecessor. It contains all of the Derek Landy trademarks that we have come to love so much - great characters, both good and evil; tense action scenes that will have your heart beating so fast you will think it is about to explode; great dialogue laced with the scintillating banter that we have to come love so much; and, of course, many many moments of spine-tingling horror.
The threat facing our heroes this time is not the invasion of earth by a hoarde of ancient demons; this time they are up against a cartel of old enemies, brought together with one thing in mind - vengeance. Springheeled Jack, Remus Crux, Billy-Ray Sanguine, Vaurien Scapegrace, and the vampiric Dusk are all present, each with their own motives. Revenge against the Sanctuary, revenge against Valkyie, revenge against Thurid Guild, revenge against Tanith Low - as the story progresses we gradually discover the lengths each of these characters is willing to go to in order to satisfy their vengeful urges, and with the diabolical and twisted mind of new character Dreylan Scarab driving these urges Mr Landy has us believing that this time they just might be successful. In fact I spent most of the book fearing that we might witness the demise of a key character at some point in the story. Were my fears justified? I will leave that for you to find out.
As I said before, this is not my favourite book of the series so far, and there are several reasons for this. Firstly, there is one key plot thread that is so transparent I saw it coming halfway through the book, so its final revelation was something of a disappointment as I had really hoped that there would be a twist that would prove me wrong. Sadly no twist, well not for me anyway but my wife often tells me that I am too good at spotting these things (usually after I have impaired her enjoyment of The Bill by accurately second-guessing the plot). Secondly, although the villains are really given a chance to shine in this story I felt that some of them, namely Dusk and Spring Heeled Jack, had so much more to offer but were instead relegated to the sidelines for much of the story, only appearing when required and then quickly forgotten again. I would have preferred more time spent developing these characters further instead of the one or two superfluous scenes that seemed shoe-horned in for the sake of it (for example, Valkyrie makes an unnecessary visit to talk to her Uncle Gordon with the Echo Stone).
These minor gripes aside this is still a hugely enjoyable and exciting, fast-paced story riddled with great humour and moments of extreme horror. The story's climax at ######## (location hidden to avoid spoilers) with the Desolation Engine is one of the best scenes that Derek Lundy has produced so far, and is the kind of scene for which the oft used phrases "edge of your seat" and "heart in your mouth" were created.
However, I have saved the best news until last. In the past Skulduggery fans have had to wait approximately a year between episodes but in 2010 we are in for one hell of a treat - Book Five will be released in September 2010 so only just over six months to wait to find out what happens next.
Skulduggery Pleasant - Dark Days is published as a hardback edition by HarperCollins and is in stores now. Thank you to the kind people at HarperCollins for sending me an early copy to read.