The Blurb On The Back:
Skulduggery Pleasant is dead.
Valkyrie Cain is cool.
Omen Darkly is neither.
The tenth book in the bestselling SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT series – and the first of a whole new story arc.
Valkyrie Cain has been out of action for years recovering from the war against her alter-ego Darquesse.
But Skulduggery Pleasant is still fighting to save the world.
When an old enemy threatens to return, he persuades Valkyrie to join him for just twenty-four hours. But they need someone else, someone inconspicuous.
Enter Omen Darkly. Not a warrior. Not a detective. And definitely NOT the chosen one …
The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
It’s been 7 years since SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT: THE DYING OF THE LIGHT.
Valkyrie Cain is now 25 years old. Having spent 5 years living in Colorado, she recently returned to Ireland and moved into the house she inherited from her uncle Gordon, where she lives with her German shepherd dog Xena. She’s got PTSD and depression due to the guilt of knowing both what her alter ego did and how she had to kill her younger sister Alice (albeit temporarily) in order to save the world. She’s also still getting to grips with her new powers and is dealing with terrible dreams of the future where Roarhaven has been devastated again.
So Vakyrie isn’t when Skulduggery Pleasant (still a detective but now head of the Arbiter Corps, which consists of just him and operates internationally) says he needs her help for 24 hours. Skulduggery’s friend Temper Fray was undercover trying to find information on a group called the anti-Sanctuary, which wants magic users to take their place as rightful rulers over ordinary mortals, but now he’s disappeared and Skulduggery thinks that the cell he had infiltrated have sussed him out. Before he disappeared, Temper told Skulduggery that there was a possible anti-Sanctuary member at the recently established Corrival Academy, where magical children can be taught about their magic and how to interact with mortals.
14 year-old Omen Darkly is the boy no one notices because all the attention is on his older twin brother Auger. It’s Auger who’s prophesied to battle the King of the Darklands and it’s Auger who goes off on adventures at Corrival Academy and who their parents constantly worry about. Omen isn’t popular (his only friend is Never, a young teleporter who doesn’t always hang out with him because he isn’t cool), he isn’t great at his lessons and he doesn’t even know what magic he’s hoping to specialise in. But he’s delighted to help the great Skulduggery Pleasant and Valkyrie Cain when they ask him to go undercover to try and identify the anti-Sanctuary infiltrator because now, finally, he might get the chance to be someone …. Assuming that the anti-Sanctuary don’t realise what he’s doing and kill him first.
The 10th book in Derek Landy’s YA fantasy SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT series kicks off a new story arc but you do need to have read the previous novels and novellas. Valkyrie is older and more damaged by her experiences in the previous books but her relationship with Skulduggery remains sharp and entertaining with Landy’s trade mark smart and funny dialogue while Omen is a welcome introduction and I enjoyed his relationship with both Never and Auger.
Landy has always packed the SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT SERIES with a lot of plot, backstory and world building so although this book is starting a new story arc, it all ties in with the previous 9 books (including the novellas) so if you haven’t read them, you will be lost. Saying that, it’s been a couple of years since I read my last book in this series and I had forgotten a lot and found myself having to check out a fandom wiki to keep track of who was who, who had done what and some of the history. Certainly the new story arc ties in with the previous one – there’s a cult dedicated to worshipping Darquesse and a new character (the Plague Doctor) who feels a personal connection with her. More interesting is that Valkyrie is also seeing a remnant of Darquesse who only she can speak to and hear – I’m sure Landy has something cunning going on with that storyline.
I really enjoyed where Landy has taken Valkyrie in this book. I completely believed in the PTSD and depression that she’s clearly suffering from and how that is damaging her relationship with her family and with Skulduggery because she can’t be honest with them but also makes her reluctant to include Omen because she knows how much their adventures have damaged her and don’t want it to happen to anyone else. This also impacts her relationship with her magic, which has changed since Darquesse was banished but which she has no control of and no real interest in exploring or practicing. I have to say that I’m not a fan of her prophecy gifts (although there’s a certain amount of fun to be had in trying to work out what’s going to happen and how Valkyrie and Skulduggery can change it).
The fact that Valkyrie is also in her mid-20s now also makes for an interesting read – having a 20-something as a main character isn’t usual in YA fiction and although Omen is closer to the target readership’s age, this very much remains Valkyrie and Skulduggery’s story (at least for the time being) and represents a continuation of her storyline. I think it’s a clever decision given that the fans who have been with the series since it started in 2007 will all be a similar age to Valkyrie now plus it gives the themes a maturity that offers an extra dimension.
Skulduggery is as he has always been – smart (sometimes too smart for his own good), mysterious, secretive and now a little worried about Xena shedding fur in his car. I’ve always loved his dialogue with Valkyrie and Landy has kept to that high standard of wit but also love. Having also thought I’d seen all of Skulduggery’s dark side, Landy manages to wring out new depths with a plot point that shows how cold Skulduggery has been while also offering a spotlight on how his darkest thoughts view the changes in Valkyrie.
Omen is a welcome addition to the book, not least because Landy uses him to throw some tongue in cheek shade on the well worn trope of the Chosen One. I like how vague and directionless he is but also how he wants to find a purpose, plus his her worship of Skulduggery and Valkyrie makes for some funny moments. As always with Landy’s books though, there’s a sadness to Omen given that his parents think of him as useless and focus their attention and affection on his brother Auger who is too busy having his adventures and saving the world to give Omen much more than a perfunctory thought or two. Equally, even his friendship with Never is curiously sad given that Never has other friends and is constantly telling him how uncool he is (to the point where it seems that Never is Omen’s friend partly in the hope of it getting her/him an in with Auger).
Landy has always served up great fight scenes and this book is no exception and the pacing of the book cracks along at a gallop. I also liked how Landy gets political in this book with an over entitled, bullying US president in play who seems to have some knowledge of the magical world.
All in all, I’m very pleased to see Skulduggery and Valkyrie saddle up to ride forth again and am looking forward to seeing what happens next.