I promised recently to review Skulduggery Pleasant – The Faceless Ones. Well, time has moved in and I was lucky enough to receive MORE book tokens (thank you, thank you, thank you!) and so I returned to Waterstones to see the best bookshop assistant in the world and get the next book in the series – Dark Days.
For anyone not familiar with the Skulduggery Pleasant series, each book is a separate adventure but also a continuation of the relationship between the deadpan skeleton detective and Stephanie aka Valkyrie Cain, the teenager who just loves kicking the hell out of zombies, vampires and even more undesirable beings. In this, the fourth book, Valkyrie spends just a few short pages at home, despite the news that her parents are expecting another child. She is determined to save the world from present and prophesied evil, and is more than adequate for the task with the help of Skulduggery, Tanith the buxom swordswoman, Ghastly Bespoke the disfigured tailor, China Sorrows the irresistible magical librarian, and various other brilliantly imagined and deftly named characters. Valkyrie discovers the pains of first love, but also a hint of her possible future destiny – it’s not nice, of course. Landy doesn’t do nice. He does action, horror and dark humour – but never nice. Even when Skulduggery is rescued from eternal torment as the plaything of the Faceless Ones, it takes until almost the end of the book for him to hug Stephanie and say thank you.
Landy takes a risk with this book, as the first ninety pages do not feature Skulduggery at all, and it does feel a little flat until Skulduggery and Stephanie are reunited. However, after this the magic seems to return and the tension builds as the baddies unite to form a Revenger’s Club and… well, get revenge. On Stephanie, on the Sanctuary (the seat of power in the magic underworld) and on 80,00 spectators at Ireland’s Croke Park stadium, just to make a point. As usual there’s some great fight scenes including a chase through a basement of vampires. There is also a deeper threat running through the story; a being called Darquesse is coming and if you thought things were bad for Stephanie now they are going to get worse – much worse.
Even though it still delivers a punch, the formula has become a little familiar and I imagine that as the fourth book it will only attract readers who have enjoyed the other three. I admire Landy’s reluctance to include backstory from the previous books but it can sometimes be confusing to remember which villain is which and what their powers are. And I would have liked Stephanie’s homelife to feature more so I could see how she still manages to juggle life in her two worlds. Despite these reservations I still thoroughly enjoyed the read, and the stunning discovery Stephanie makes at the end took me completely by surprise, so I’ll definitely be continuing on Valkyrie’s journey. My 12 year old son has started the first book so it will be interesting to see if he keeps up with the series too.