Sunday, September 13, 2009

Skullduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

Stephanie Edgely is the niece of a famous Fantasy writer named Gordon Edgely. When her uncle dies, she and her family are called in to the reading of his will, along with her cousins, Carol and Crystal, and their completely unlikeable parents. Also attending the funeral with Stephanie and her parents is a strange man wrapped in bandages and clothed in a fedora, raincoat and sunglasses, named Skullduggery Pleasant.

None of the rest of the family know him, but Stephanie has seen him at her Uncle's funeral, and he is mentioned in the will. as well, surprisingly, is Stephanie herself. But when the will is read, her parents are amazed and the rest of the family in shocked and horrified- that Stephanie inherits Gordon's house and the rest of his royalties from his books.

But Stephanie is strong willed enough to stand fast when he Aunt demands she give the house and royalties to them in exchange for the brooch her aunt recieved from Gorden. And she's brave enough to stay alone in Gordon's house over the weekend. But when a strange man shows up and breaks into the house in an attempt to kill her, who should come to her rescue but Skullduggery Pleasant, the strange man from the reading of the will!

It turns out that the strange books Gordon wrote and were so successful with were actually tales of Skullduggery and the people he knew, people who have a close association with magic. And now someone wants Stephanie dead, and Skullduggery as well, and Stephanie isn't going to sit behind and wait while Skullduggery does his stuff.

Unfortunately for her, Stephanie's real name places her in danger, and she must choose a new one to hide both herself and her family from danger. But when this new case has ties to the one in which Skullduggery died, can Stephanie and Skullduggery bring the villains to justice? Or will the villain kill Skullduggery, and then Stephanie as well?

I loved this book, which is the first in a new series. There are some rather troubling aspects to the book. including Stephanie's horrible relatives, but that her family don't seem to be all that close to her. And yet, Skullduggery (not his real name, of course) is such an interesting character, both in his life before he died, and how he came back, and then his life since... all of it is very interesting.

But it's not a game, and his world isn't harmless. People who want to kill him- or Stephanie, are everywhere, and even the people who seem like allies could betray them at any minute if their loyalties shift, or if they are paid a big enough bribe. What I liked best about this new world is the danger in it. By stepping into this world, Stephanie could be injured or killed at any time, and if she dies, nobody but a very few would miss or mourn her. This brings a very hard, adult edge to the books that teens will like and adults will as well.

Teens will love reading about a world where magic is real, but hidden, and dangerous forces exist just out of sight of the workaday "mundane" world. This book is an amazing place to escape to for a while, but the realness of the world will keep you thinking about it long after you've closed the pages. Well worth the read, and highly recommended.

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