I cannot believe that it has taken me so long to listen to this book. I started it with such excitement, but then when I discovered that the audiobook narrator wasn't Rupert Degas, who read books one through five and is an absolutely phenomenal reader, I ended up setting it aside. In fact, the reason I discovered the audio series was because the first book, Skulduggery Pleasant: The Scepter of the Ancients was an Odyssey Award nominee. (The Odyssey Award is given by the American Library Association to the producer of the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults available in English in the United States.)
I related my initial disappointment about the narrator change here, but I remain baffled by the decision HarperCollins made to change narrators. It seems, judging by the deterioration in quality of the last two books, that they have simply decided not to invest as much money or time in the audio books, which is such a shame. The first four books included spooky, yet jazzy music that set the perfect tone, and there were also sound effects, like echoing footsteps, that made the book that much more fun. And then there's Degas's narration, the voices he uses for the characters that really make the books spring to life, full of humor and horror and over-the-top creepiness.
While the audio production was disappointing, the story itself most certainly was not. Valkyrie Cain has come a long way since the early books - she is now an experienced, skilled fighter, and she has prevailed against all kinds of horrific creatures intent on destroying her world. Once again she is trying to save the world from utter destruction, and - if the psychics are correct - this time the destruction will be caused by Valkyrie herself. Frightened and, for the first time ever, unwilling to confide in her skeleton detective partner, Valkyrie searches for a way to make sure the predicted destruction does not come to pass.
Nothing is as it seems in this book, for when Remnants escape and are able to possess the bodies of the living, it is impossible to know whom to trust. Valkyrie and her friends try to stick together, but the situation is dire, and terrible things happen. Assassins, necromancers, Remnants, vampires, dire predictions, diabolical doctors - Valkyrie has her hands full. This is the darkest of the novels so far, but it still retains the humorous dialogue that makes me laugh. Young fans of the series may find some upsetting turns of events in this installment - each book is definitely more violent and disturbing than the last. My own girls (ten and twelve years old) adore the books, though, and have listened to every one of them many times - and it's good that we are enjoying them together so we can talk about them. They enjoyed Mortal Coil very much - they think it's the best one yet - but they, too, missed Rupert Degas's narration. We all laughed at the current reader's depiction of Texan Billy-Ray Sanguine. Degas makes him sound like a genial, incredibly creepy serial killer (which he is); Bowles makes him sound like Donkey from Shrek.
While the protagonist is a girl, which can be off-putting to young male readers, I can usually sell them on trying out the series because Skulduggery is such an appealing character. And once they start, they invariably come back for more! This is my 12-year-old's hands-down favorite series (and it runs a close second to Harry Potter for my 10-year-old). It's equally appealing to adults and kids, to anyone who loves mysteries, supernatural action and adventure, humor, and characters that stay in the mind long after the book is over. I am very much looking forward to the next book in this wonderful series.
Books in the Skulduggery Pleasant series:
1. Skulduggery Pleasant
2. Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing with Fire
3. Skulduggery Pleasant: The Faceless Ones
4. Skulduggery Pleasant: Dark Days
5. Skulduggery Pleasant: Mortal Coil
Skulduggery Pleasant: Mortal Coil (#5 in the Skulduggery Pleasant series) by Derek Landy; narrated by Brian Bowles (HarperCollins Publishers, 2010)
Also reviewed at:
Book Reviews Blog for Caroline Hooton: " Landy’s finally starting to pull together some of the outstanding storylines from the earlier books, which is good, and there’s also some character death and gut-wrenching scenes that promise much for book 6. However, there is also a certain amount of padding in this book and some of the storylines didn’t gel as well as in the earlier stories..."
The Book Zone (for Boys): "...Derek Landy treats us to more nail biting scene after nail biting scene, some of which had me completely stumped as to how our heroes would escape death, or something worse, and as for the final climactic scene....... you will just have to read it for yourself, but I have a very strong feeling it will shock you."
The Fringe Magazine: "The atmosphere itself was terrifying and some of the events borderline disturbing and I felt chills creeping up my spine just imagining what would happen if this actually happened in reality."