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The International Writers Magazine: Young Fiction Review

Skulduggery Pleasant: Dark Days by Derek Landy
HarperCollins Children's Books (1 April 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-0007325948
Review by Robert Sills
Dark days indeed as we enter the fourth book of the Skulduggery Pleasant series and the continuing adventures of the title skeleton, wizard detective and heroine Valkyrie Cane.

They must fight vampires, zombies, magical murderers and evil sorcerers in order to prevent the return of dark gods; the Faceless Ones.

As with the previous books, ‘Dark Days’ maintains a happy balance of action, adventure, imagination, humour and horror which gives it an edge against its competition. Indeed, at risk of over using the word, the series has always been dark for a children’s novel, with gruesome and bloody deaths around every corner, and this entry is no exception. One of the many strengths of the books is the feeling that no one is safe, that a main character might be brutally killed at any moment, suspending the belief that everyone will live happily ever after. Of course, another strong point is the relationship between Skulduggery and Valkyrie, which has over time evolved from a teacher/student set-up to now where Valkyrie is quite capable of looking after herself. The novel is at its best when we have the humorous, wit laden conversations between the two.

Readers who have been following the pair’s escapades in a world of magic and monsters will be pleased with the latest addition, though those who are new to the series might be left confused due to characters or objects appearing or being mentioned that are not re-established in the book.

Unfortunately, ‘Dark Days’ suffers from being the middle child of the series. On the one hand, it must wrap up the events of the previous book, ‘The Faceless Ones’ which left Skulduggery trapped in an alternate dimension as well as establish the plot for the coming books as they must prepare to face a new evil. There is also the little matter of a group of villains who wish to see take their revenge on the world, with the intent of killing Valkyrie in the process. While each of these plotlines slot into place relatively smoothly, that moment where all of these plotlines click into place never arises so everything feels disjointed.

However, as I said, the primary focus of this book was to conclude the third book and set the series up for the new big bad to appear. While the former could have done with an entire book and is done rather too quickly for my liking, the latter will guarantee readers to keep going with the series, especially a revelation that appears on the very last page.

‘Skulduggery Pleasant: Dark Days’ is an enjoyable read for any child who wishes their stories to have a bit more bite to them, with the horrific monsters and intense fight scenes practically begging a studio to pick it up for a summer blockbuster.

© Robert Sills April 2010

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