Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Why You Should Be Reading Skulduggery Pleasant (Really)

None of us have enough books to read, right? Our TBRs vanish before our eyes. We sit around asking, with desperation in our voices, “what shall I read next?!"

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OK, yes, I know that in reality your TBR is so tall it overtops Kilimanjaro and when you climb to the top you need to take an oxygen pack for the thin air up there.

But that's no reason not to start a new series!

And that series should really be Skulduggery Pleasant.

 

“But why?" you ask. Here it is, folks: nine books, nine reasons.

1. Skulduggery and Valkyrie (Or “My Best Friends" As I Prefer to Call Them)
Stairs," Valkyrie said, disappointed. 
Not just ordinary stairs," Skulduggery told her as he led the way down. "Magic stairs." 
Really?" 
Oh, yes." 
She followed him into the darkness. How are they magic?" 
They just are." 
In what way?" 
In a magicky way." 
She glared at the back of his head. They aren't magic at all, are they?" 
Not really.”
Skulduggery and Valkyrie's friendship is one of the best friendships I have ever read. And it's unique. How many other 400y/o skeleton / teenage girl dynamics have you read, hmm? He's not her mentor, but he kind of is. He sees her through her teenage years and is with her every step of the way. They teach each other about themselves. And the banter is off the charts.

Funny Pictures Of The Day – 50 Pics
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2. The Humour // That Flavour of Satire

You know what's amazing? Landy's masterful blend of fall-over-laughing comedy and sweeping epic. These books have deep, dark, fascinating themes -- they really wrestle with the darkness within us all -- and yet ... the title character is a skeleton? Called Skulduggery Pleasant? There's a scarred tailor called Ghastly Bespoke? Doesn't that seem almost farcical? Yes. Yes it does. And that's why the books can be so serious, yet so funny. Landy's own weird brand of hilarity allows him to go deep into the human heart, without being pretentious or heavy-handed. (I love all the names, by the way. Vex. Rue. Sanguine. Wrong. Sorrows. Frightening. All people you'll meet and love.) 

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“That's beautiful," Valkyrie said, looking at it. 
“Isn't it?" China said. “This necklace has cost two very fine men their lives. At times, I wear it in tribute to their sacrifice. Other times, I wear it because it goes with this skirt.”
3. All the Characters 

Every. Single. One of them. Mostly the books are told from Valkyrie's POV, but we have a heap of other POV charries and they're all precious. Personal favourites include Ghastly, Scapegrace, Fletcher Finbar, Saracen, and the Monster Hunters.
“You're not used to early mornings, are you?" 
Finbar shook his head. Early mornings were invented by the system to keep the people occupied. But not me. I'm on to them. They're not gonna catch me napping. Metaphorically, like. Obviously, they can catch me physically napping like, four or five times a day, but, metaphorically, I am so far beyond their reach.”
(I love Finbar.)

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[source] // This makes me think of Scapegrace and Thrasher, AKA my only loves.
(Seriously, the Monster Hunters, though. They're these two nerds who wear fandom T-shirts and hunt monsters and write books about them. Their books are called Monster Hunting for Beginners, Monster Hunting for Beginners is Probably Inadvisable and Seriously, Dude, Stop Monster Hunting. I'm in love.)

4. The Parents

Yeah, maybe they should go under Characters with all the other characters, but DESMOND AND MELISSA ARE SO FAB THEY DESERVE THEIR OWN BIT. Because where are the loving, supportive, great parents in YA? Dead, that's usually where.
[Valkyrie going on a date]

Her dad frowned at what she was wearing. 
“It's a little black dress," she told him. 
“It's a little too little," he frowned back. “And where's the rest of it? I can see your knees." 
“Don't be a prude," his wife said ... “You look lovely. Tell her she looks lovely, Des." 
“You look lovely. I do the think the knees are a bit much though." 
“Dad." 
“Des." 
“I'm just expressing an opinion, that's all. Personally, I think knees should be kept for the eight or ninth date, or the wedding day. As a nice surprise, you know? Oh, my darling, you have knees! I never would have thought!'"
5. The World // I Love Parallel Dimensions

OK SO THE WORLD IS UNIQUE AND INCREDIBLE. The magical community exists hidden in our world.

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And as the series continue, dimension shunting gets introduced, and MAN OH MAN is all I'm going to say.

Also. Sorcerers live a lot longer than mortals, so most of the MCs are centuries old. There was this war centuries ago which most of them fought in. Over the series, we slowly hear more of the war's history and see how it casts its shadow over the present. And I love that sense of history. The world is so rich and well-developed. And the magic. Asdhkglkj. I'm coming onto that.


6. The Epic-ness // Rotating POV

I love the third person rotating POV -- it lets Landy build up this wonderful sense of a sweeping epic. Sometimes we dip into the heads of tiny minor characters, just there for a scene to make a point before vanishing forever (normally getting brutally murdered, that is). In other books it's irksome to get passed around so many people's heads, but Landy treats every voice with his matchless trademark humour. There's never the moment you get when you're reading A Song of Ice and Fire and realise you're stuck with another chapter about Davos Seaworth, making you consider throwing yourself off the Iron Islands because you're so bored. Or when you're reading Heir of Fire or Queen of Shadows and your heart beats faster at every glyph, pleading with the powers that be that you're not about to be dragged into the world of Manon I'm-Turning-To-Lead-With-Boredom-I-Just-Don't-Care Ironteeth. That never happens with Skulduggery! Each and every character is fabulous.

Also, I find it fascinating that we never get Skulduggery's own POV. He's the title character, but we only see him through other's eyes. I'm so in love, guys. How do you fall this hard for a fictional skeleton?

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7. This Bit of Life Advice from Ghastly
“How do you deal with that [a broken heart]?" 
“I drink a lot of tea. I've been around for a long time. I've been in love too many times to count. I'd like to say it gets easier, but it doesn't. The pain you're feeling now is the pain you're going to feel again and again. The advantage of having lived through is that I do know I'll come out the other side. The pain lessons.You manage to distract yourself until the distractions become more important than the thing you're distracting yourself from."
I love him with my whole heart. 

what can I say?: a novel idea : advice time
[source] // it's so true though
8. The Themes

The Skulduggery books take your classic theme of Good vs Evil, pick it up, turn it around, give it a good shake, and leave us quivering in the wake of the rawest, realest characters with the biggest choices to make. It really wrestles with the human condition, with the darkness within.
Mankind is not an animal."
Oh, it is, Greta. It's a scared, dangerous animal. ... He thinks we're going to live in a kingdom of the righteous, of the noble. But we're not like that."
Landy doesn't shy away from the reality that humanity is basically evil, and I commend him for that. There is nothing wishy-washy or sentimental about these books. Skulduggery and Valkyrie are detectives, but it's not all glamour and clever one-liners. “We do the jobs no one else wants to do," Skulduggery tells her (I'm paraphrasing but this does happen)“so that they don't have to."

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9. The Magic

Last but not least. The sorcerers of Skulduggery's intoxicating world throw fire and bend air. There are Sensitives, peeking into the terrifying future; some of them can rewrite your mind. Everyone's gifts are different: Anton Shudder, the man whose dark side takes physical form and roars out of his chest to destroy his enemies; Billy-Ray Sanguine, tunnelling through floors and walls at lightning speed; Tanith Low, walking up walls as she brandishes her sword.

One of my favourite bits is reflection magic. If you're a teenage sorcerer who can't tell her parents that she's out saving the world, what do you do? You cast a spell on your mirror and let out your reflection, a simulation who pretends to be you. Reflections are its, not human, but they do the job now and then. And when you put them back in the mirror, you absorb their memories, allowing you to continue your double life. But don't let the reflection out for too long -- the more it acts being human, the more human it becomes ...

Names have a powerful magic in this series. Every sorcerer has a true name. If someone else learns it, they can control you utterly; if you learn it yourself and seal it, you become virtually invincible. Identity is a key theme of the series, which ties in beautifully with the coming-of-age feel of the novels, tracking Valkyrie from the age twelve to eighteen. The magic is unique and stunning, and so is her journey of discovering who she is.

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~***~

Well, are you sold? I'm just in love with these books, folks. Piece of advice: read them in a short space of time. Back in the Stone Age when they were coming out and I was reading them as they were published, I forgot the plot every year, so, don't do that, yeah? Just commit! Forget the size! Plough ahead! (Oh, and as with most good series, they start out kinda cute and it's only really Book 3, or maybe even Book 5, that stuff seriously Amps Up, so PERSIST, OK?)

Right, I'm done. What's the one series you would like to shove down my throat just as much as I would like to shove Skulduggery down yours? And what's the key element of making a good series for you?

9 comments:

  1. I'm sold! I've had the first one on my pile for awhile. You have convinced me I must read it now! *Runs off to find it*

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  2. I've already read book one and I just found copies of two and three! :)

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  3. It sounds so unique and humorous, and I'm curious as to how Landy manages to be deep at the same time! My brother just checked out library last week, though--no Skulduggery. It's tragic. We shall have to request a copy.

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  4. NO NO NO NO I JUST WROTE THE LONGEST COMMENT AND ACCIDENTLalY SWIPED LEFT ON MY PHONE AND IT WENT TO A DIFFERENT POST AND I LOST EVERYTHING. I am honestly so gutted its unreal. The basics was that I'm currently at an audition and your post is going to be used to calm myself down,and that the satire in this book makes me feel like I will already love the cocky jokes. And I love the idea of reflection magic and all the magic that seems to be in these books, honestly I'm sold. If I don't end up reading these books soon I will be so mad at myself (and probably you will be too).

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    1. OH MATE IT'S HAPPENED TO US ALL! So annoying! But I feel honoured I was useful in calming you down!! (Was I?) What was the audition for??? And yes, humour + magic = these books are perfect!

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  5. So I need to read these. But we all know this. It's the elephant in the room. Ashley has yet to read Skulduggery. What even.

    *ahem* Yeah.

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Thanks for commenting! :)