Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Faceless Ones

My favorite detective is back! Not only is he dashing and witty, brave and daring, but he can summon fire with a snap of his fingers - and he is very distinctive. In fact, he's probably the most distinctive detective ever, because he's a living, breathing (well, he doesn't actually breathe, when it comes down to it), walking, talking skeleton. He first met up with Stephanie Edgley, a.k.a. Valkyrie Cain (then a twelve-year-old) in the first book; she became his assistant, and they had some amazing adventures together in the second book; and in this, the third book, Skulduggery and Valkyrie (now fourteen years old) have their most hair-raising, perilous adventure of all.

The book opens at a murder scene: "The dead man was in the living room, facedown on the floor beside the coffee table." The victim is just one of four murder victims, all of them Teleporters. Someone is killing Teleporters, who are notoriously difficult to harm, given their ability to instantaneously transport themselves from one location to another. Skulduggery and Valkyrie become convinced, as they investigate the murders, that the deaths are part of another plot to bring back the destructive, godlike beings known as the Faceless Ones. But she and Skulduggery are personae non gratae as far as the Sanctuary is concerned. With the Sanctuary impeding their every move, and their foes always a step ahead of them, answers are elusive. But the more they manage to discover, the more they realize how very much is at stake...

This was an excellent installment in the Skulduggery Pleasant series, even better, I think, than the second one, which I enjoyed but wished had more of the humorous interplay between Valkyrie and Skulduggery that I loved so much in the first book. The humor is back, while the story itself becomes darker, the dangers even more intense and frightening than before. The novel has that mix of horror and humor that is so appealing to me, and the characters continue to grow in new and often unexpected ways. I particularly enjoyed the philosophical questions raised by the wonderful Dr. Kenspeckle, who is a curmudgeonly but immensely talented magical doctor who is fond of Stephanie but infuriated by the fact that Skulduggery allows someone so young to endanger herself time and time again. Stephanie can see that he has a point, but she remains devoted to her partner - even though so many characters warn her that he is not what he seems, that there is a darkness and anger inside him that she simply doesn't understand.

After one particularly narrow escape, Skulduggery says to Stephanie:
"Never do anything like that again. You could have been turned to dust, and then I'd have to explain to your parents why they were burying their beloved daughter in a matchbox."
"Kenspeckle would never let you hear the end of it either."
"Skulduggery looked at her as he led the way back to the door. "I've been meaning to ask you, with everything Kenspeckle has been saying: Do you think I should treat you differently?"
"No," she said at once.
"Don't be so quick to answer."
"Nooo..." she said slowly.
"You are amusing to me, but the question remains. Maybe I should leave you in the car on occasion."
"But I never stay in the car," she reminded him.
Another intriguing issue is the reflection that Valkyrie conjures, a magical double of herself that eats breakfast, goes to school, and does homework while she and Skulduggery are off fighting magical crime and trying to save the world. When Valkyrie comes home, she basically uploads the reflection's memories into her own mind, then sends it back into the mirror. They used to be minor memories, classwork, school gossip, things like that. But when she finds out that she's actually missed out on some important, eventful things, milestone events that involve a boy at school she secretly kind of likes, Stephanie is forced once more to take a hard look at the decisions she's made.

Skulduggery Pleasant has become one of my absolute favorite YA series. I highly recommend it to adult readers as well as kids ten and up, and I think it would be a hit with boys and girls, fans of Artemis Fowl, Maximum Ride, Percy Jackson, anyone who loves mysteries, humor, peril and adventure. The audio production of these books is nothing short of extraordinary. The soundtrack, with creepy echoing footsteps, occasional howls and screams sets the scene beautifully, and Rupert Degas is an amazing narrator. His voices bring the story to life, bringing out the humor and the horror so vividly that, even though I received a review copy I still found that I had to purchase the audio version. Which would you rather do, read a screenplay or watch the film? Same thing here. If you only listen to one audiobook this year, give Skulduggery a try. You will not regret it!

Click here to listen to an interview with Skulduggery, and you'll see exactly what I mean. And here is an interview with Derek Landy.

Books in the Skulduggery Pleasant series:
1. Skulduggery Pleasant:Scepter of the Ancients
2. Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing with Fire

3. Skulduggery Pleasant: The Faceless Ones

The Faceless Ones (#3 in the Skulduggery Pleasant series) by Derek Landy; narrated by Rupert Degas (HarperCollins, 2009)

Also reviewed at:
ReadPlus: "Landy has created an assortment of fascinating characters from the strong, manipulative females such as China Sorrows and the Sea Hag to Fletcher Renn, the last Teleporter in existence."
The Writer's Notebook: "It's a great ride that it's impossible not to love. I read them all in a day each. You probably will, too."

12 comments:

  1. I have never heard of this series but it sounds so cute! I am definitely looking into the first one.

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  2. Mandy - it is such a great series. Can't wait to hear what you think of it!

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  3. I really really want to read this, but I am making myself wait until I read a few library books first... I'll be back to read your review in depth when I am not resisting tempatation!

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  4. Kailana - I know just how you feel! No worries...it'll be here waiting for you...

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  5. I realize I sound like a scratched record, but I need to start this series :P

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  6. Nymeth - I know what you mean. Maybe we should write a macro to save us all the typing. :-)

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  7. Wow. This is why I read other blogs. Skullduggery Pleasant was one I hated, Ibbotsen just sits on my shelves, and it's good to be reminded that my opinions are just my opinions. May have to rethink Skeleton Creek at the least.

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  8. Ms. Yingling - Wow, I'm surprised you didn't care for Skulduggery - I just adore him - particularly on audio. Ibbotson doesn't move, eh? I wonder if it goes out more in the upper elementary levels? It baffles me at times to see what goes out and what sits - at times it seems so arbitrary. I'd love to hear your thoughts on Skeleton Creek - have you read it? It has been an incredibly easy "sell" at my public library and I think it's just perfect for middle school students.

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  9. I still think this sounds so neat! Lots of detectives lately but I think the skeleton thing is new :)

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  10. Ladytink -it's certainly new to me. I love the interplay between Stephanie and Skulduggery. They crack me up. :-)

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  11. Do we know for sure if there will be another book in this great series. I'm worried becuase all the Borders and Barnes and Nobles around here didn't carry the last book and had none of the previous books on their shelves when I went in to pick it up. I was totally shocked and had to order it from Amazon. I really hope this there is at least one more so Landy can wrap up some things. Heck I could read a ton more. Anyboy have any info?

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  12. Brian - I am fairly certain that there will be more books in this series - this one ends with a bang that leaves the reader anxious to get to the next part of the story. I can't imagine why the stores near you don't carry #3 - but thank goodness for online book stores. You can sign up for news of Derek Landy's forthcoming books by clicking here. Let's hope we get some good news soon!

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