by Derek Landy
Cover Artist: Brandon Dorman
Review by Paul Haggerty
HarperTrophy Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061231179
Date: 01 April 2008 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Stephanie Edgley is a fairly normal 12-year-old girl living a fairly normal life. Until her uncle Gordon dies. Gordon was not a normal man, he was an author. Specifically, an author of scary supernatural mysteries. He lived by himself and died alone, seven words into the last chapter of his new novel. And now the family has to come to grips with his passing, especially Stephanie who, for reasons unknown, has been named as a beneficiary in her uncle's will. And it's at the reading of said will where Stephanie meets the man named Skullduggery Pleasant. Her life will never be normal again.
Stephanie quickly comes to understand (being attacked by a supernatural creature tends to open one's eyes) that the world her uncle wrote about is very real. And despite (or perhaps because of) the danger, she's hellbent on learning as much about it as she can. There are good guys like Skullduggery and bad guys like ancient, evil sorcerers. There are wizards and vampires, and magic galore. And certain bad guys are dedicated to the destruction of life as we know it; presumably they'll get a promotion under the new management.
Skullduggery reluctantly takes Stephanie under his wing in order to teach her the ropes. He'd much rather she stayed out of it, but believes that you have to let people do what they're determined to do. Perhaps he's read the Harry Potter books and learned that trying to protect children just forces them to do the dangerous things behind your back.
He introduces her to friends and colleagues, and tries to keep her alive while solving the mystery of the end of the world. Dead center in the conspiracy is an old enemy of his. Skullduggery is apparently still a bit miffed about having been killed ... it's a long story ... and everyone thinks he's just out for revenge and crying wolf. But just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that people aren't out to get you. Stephanie needs all the help she can get, but in the end the fate of the world could depend on anyone, even a 12-year-old girl with nothing more than a sharp wit and a sharper tongue.
Skullduggery Pleasant is an innovative approach to the magical-world genre, and Stephanie Edgley has a fresh perspective. This is obviously set up to be the first in a series, and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how Stephanie's powers and abilities grow and change along with her.
Recommended -- for all age groups. And if you're very fast you may be able to read it before any children get their hands on it.