2010: 78 & 79 Skullduggery Pleasant Books

“Gordon Edgely’s sudden death came as a shock to everyone - not least himself.”

First lines of Scepter of the Ancients

Scepter of the Ancients and Playing With Fire, Derek Landy

       I read the first two books in this series, having heard raves reviews about them somewhere (though I can’t remember where, now, which is probably not a good sign).  I was disappointed - these are perfectly diverting kidlit books - but I had heard they had won all these awards, so I was expecting great, not adequate. And I know, I’m not a kid, and they aren’t pitched to me, but I thought the books were pedestrian, and I wonder what exactly the criteria are for the Red House Children’s Book Award  or the Irish Book of the Decade.

      The premise is definitely cool - Stephanie’s favorite Uncle, the horror writer, dies suddenly, leaving her the bulk of his fortune.  At his funeral, she meets his best friend - the living skeleton, Skullduggery Pleasant (great name!) the supernatural detective (great job!).  But the books themselves read like movie scripts - or cartoon scripts (even worse!).  There is lots of action, and banter, and paper thin characters. I’m sure this will make a super cool kids movie series (or realistically, a sort of banal one, since that’s how they usually turn out).  I was disappointed - one thing about Rowling is that even if you don’t like her books, you have to concede that she has created a fleshed out world, such that they seem like fully realized books, not just screenplays.  These are perfectly fine to pass on to children who like supernatural fiction, but there’s nothing additional here to make them interesting to an adult reader, IMHO.

Categories:  Young Adult, Fiction. 

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017