Derek Landy is that boy at school who would always sneak up behind you and yank your chair away just before your bottom landed on it. So that said bottom would instead meet concrete floor – and there would be much gnashing of teeth and wailing.
There’s good and bad in this.
The good lies in the fact that even though the release of Skullduggery Pleasant: Resurrection makes it the Irish writer’s 10th book in the series – with two companion books, novella The Maleficent Seven and short story collection Armageddon Outta Here – he’s still able to maintain his energy (usually frenetic) and pace (often breakneck).
The mildly bad lies in the sense of trepidation with which I tend to approach his books, because I now expect a freaky twist at every turn. And the occasional nasty emotional wrench (I still harbour a tiny bit of seething resentment at the ending of American Monsters, the last book in his Demon Road series).
Resurrection is both part of the original series, and not.
The ninth book, The Dying Of The Light, had an air of finality about it – but Landy has been quoted as saying that when he was writing Last Stand Of Dead Men (Book #8), he realised that the stories of protagonists Skullduggery, the suave skeleton detective, and his partner Valkyrie Cain, just weren’t over.
So Resurrection continues their stories five years later, as they fight evil in all shapes, sizes and supernatural flavours. But it’s also a slight reboot of the series, introducing a new protagonist to turn the team into a trio.
Omen Darkly is an almost-hero 14-year-old student at Corrival Academy, as endearing in his early acceptance of his fate to blend into the background as he is when he meets Skullduggery and Valkyrie and realises that maybe he doesn’t have to. Maybe, this time, he can be a hero.
When a secret society of sinister sorcerers wants to enact human genocide, they decide that the way to go about it is to resurrect someone even more evil than themselves. Skullduggery can’t handle them alone, so he drags Valkyrie out of her self-imposed, nightmare-drenched retirement for just 24 hours. And Omen gets dragged into the mix, since nefarious secret societies thrive on brainwashed students (a message in there somewhere).
Running parallel: Valkyrie’s invincible-seeming alter ego Darquesse was banished by trickery in the last book, not might or magic. So is she really gone?
This book has a slightly more sober tone than the previous instalments, and while the sparky banter between characters – especially Skullduggery and Valkyrie – is intact, it also shows a bit of wear and tear in places. There’s quite a bit of exposition – because the reboot does need to be set up – which can feel a bit draggy. And the book also splits itself into multiple POV chapters, which lends a disjointed air.
But the writing remains pretty sharp and enjoyable, the pace draws you in, and there’s a very current feel to things – no prizes for guessing which president Landy makes reference to. Above all, though, I think fans read this series for its characters – they’re easy to get attached to.
Readers have seen Valkyrie grow from a mouthy tween, thrilled to discover a world of magic, to a battle-hardened 24-year-old, suffering from what looks like post-traumatic stress disorder after Darquesse massacred hundreds in the Battle of Roarhaven.
Valkyrie’s state of mind – and her powers, which seem to be in flux – have a lot to do with setting that darker tone. Skullduggery remains quite unchanged, an advantage of being an undying skeleton. Omen is a likeable addition, and fan favourites like China Sorrows and Fletcher Renn make welcome appearances too.
Skullduggery’s second wind series will also allow Landy to explore some of the open plot points from the previous series, such as the secret in Valkyrie’s blood and the subject of Ghastly’s fate. Because really, the vision of Ghastly and Tanith was alluded to so often in previous books that it was a subject of real irritation when The Dying Of The Light closed without any resolution to it.
Landy obviously doesn’t believe in coddling readers, so get stuck into Resurrection only after reading the previous books. Otherwise, though you would be in for an enjoyable ride you may find yourself wondering about histories, powers and relationships – because, after all, Landy loves pulling the rug out, so the twists and turns have been plentiful.
Resurrection (Skulduggery Pleasant #10)
Author: Derek Landy
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’sBooks, young adult fantasy