Hey, readers! I’m really excited so many of you were Relic fans. Let’s see if we can continue the streak with this week’s pick. Let me offer a quick disclaimer before we start: This book is actually a children’s book, but it doesn’t read like one (aside from the enormous font) so I hope you’ll give it a chance regardless.
The Choice: Skulduggery Pleasant (2007) by Derek Landy.
You’ll like this if: You’re a fan of Harry Potter or Grimm.
What it’s about: 12-year-old Stephanie Edgeley’s Uncle Gordon dies in the middle of writing his latest novel. While attending his funeral, Stephanie meets a mysterious stranger clad in an overcoat, scarf and sunglasses. The stranger turns out to be Skulduggery Pleasant, a skeleton detective investigating the Gordon’s untimely death. Stephanie learns that magic is real and that Gordon — whose fantastical stories were based in fact — stumbled upon an important secret that cost him his life. She teams up with Skulduggery to discover the truth behind Gordon’s death and together they uncover a plot that threatens the entire world.
Why you should read it: To be honest, I picked up this book solely on the basis of the cover. Confession: I’m obsessed with skulls, so you can probably imagine why it drew my eye. The cover art in the picture you see here comes from the UK edition; unfortunately the cover of the American edition, which you can see at the link I’ve supplied above, doesn’t compare. What’s really distinctive about this book, though, is that it’s funny. Side-clenching, bone-aching, back-breaking-ly funny. It’s supposed to be for kids ages 8 and up, but I honestly think teens and adults will enjoy it more — it’s just that kind of humor. But why should you take my word for it? Let me give you the opening lines as an example: “Gordon Edgeley’s sudden death came as a shock to everyone — not least himself. One moment he was in his study, seven words into the twenty-fifth sentence of the final chapter of his new book And the Darkness Rained upon Them, and the next he was dead. A tragic loss, his mind echoed numbly as he slipped away.” That second sentence is so absurdly specific, it gets me every time. The actual plot of Skullduggery Pleasant is great as well — it’s the perfect hybrid of a twisty murder mystery and an action-adventure. I didn’t do it justice above, but the secondary characters really flesh it out. And every time you think something cliché is going to happen, Landy takes in the complete opposite direction.
Thus far, Landy has published seven Skullduggery Pleasant novels. Some are better than others, but all of them have that quirky humor that I loved about the first one. They’re really quick reads, so if you don’t like them, I’ll only have robbed you of a few hours of your life. Also, I’d be sure to read Landy’s dedications. Those are almost as funny as the books themselves.
BONUS FUN FACT: Johnny Depp was rumored for the role of Skulduggery, though Landy later denied it.