The Blurb On The Back:
Skulduggery Pleasant is dead.
Valkyrie Cain is cool.
Omen Darkly is neither.
The eleventh book in the bestselling SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT series.
For years, Valkyrie Cain has struggled to keep her loved ones safe from harm, plunging into battle – time and time again – by Skulduggery Pleasant’s side, and always emerging triumphant.
But now the very thing that Valkyrie fights for is in danger as a ruthless killer snatches her little sister.
With Skulduggery racing to catch up and young sorcerer Omen scrambling along behind, Valkyrie only has six hours to find Alice before it’s too late.
The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
It’s 6 months after SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT – RESURRECTION.
14-year-old Omen Darkly thought that his association with Skulduggery Pleasant and Valkyrie Cain would lead to further adventure and had been eagerly waiting their call until he reluctantly realised that it wasn’t going to come. Instead he stays on the sidelines, watching his brother Auger go on adventures as he prepares for his battle with the King of the Darklands and works up the courage to ask out Axelia Lukt. When a portal opens to another dimension, sending through a flood of mortal refugees, he sees it as a chance to develop an outside interest that will make a difference and volunteers to join Miss Gnosis’s effort to provide them with blankets and food.
Skulduggery and Valkyrie are looking for leads on where the recently resurrected Abyssinia has gone and discover that she’s looking for her son, Caisson, who’s been subjected to medical experiments for at least 60 years. Valkyrie is also trying to reconnect with her family as she works to get past the guilt and emotional trauma she’s been dealing with for 7 years and her parents persuade her to babysit her sister Alice for the night so that they can go out. Unfortunately, the investigation intrudes on her plans for the night, which means she needs a babysitter to look after Alice for a few hours and she knows just the person to call …
But Abyssinia’s search has alienated some of her most faithful followers and one sees a chance to get revenge on both her and Valkyrie. When Alice is kidnapped, Valkyrie (tagging along a mortified Omen) is set a number of challenges that she has to complete by midnight if she’s to get her sister back …
The 11th in Derek Landy’s SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT SERIES is another fast-paced, funny YA fantasy novel that sees Valkyrie trying to recover from her emotional and mental trauma and reconnect with her sister. However Omen has little to do other than advance backstory while the plot doesn’t do much to advance the over-arching storyline so although there’s a resolution for one of Cain and Pleasant’s enemies, the book does have a filler feel to it.
There is a lot to enjoy in this book. Landy’s one of the wittiest YA authors out there and there’s a lot of funny dialogue in this book – especially between Valkyrie and Skulduggery whose chemistry is as good as ever. I really like what Landy’s doing with Valkyrie in this series – a recurrent theme is how being magical and going on adventures can damage your mental and physical health and I enjoy how he echoes this through Omen’s relationship with Auger and how it affects how he views Valkyrie and Skulduggery.
I have to say that I’m less fond of the relationship between Omen and Never, mainly because Never’s dialogue always seems a bit self-consciously forced for me but also because I read Never as using Omen so she can get involved in Auger’s adventures. To be fair, this does get addressed within the book but it all reinforces how Omen can be a bit of a doormat and that’s not helped here by the fact that he’s largely used as a plot point for Alice’s kidnap and to help introduce some new backstory (namely the opening of the portal and accompanying mortal refugee crisis), which I can see threatening to build up tensions within Roarhaven.
Other backstory developments such as China’s deal with Damocles Creed, Sebastian Tao’s quest to bring back Darquesse and President Flanery’s knowledge of the magical world are all interesting (and I did cheer an old character’s appearance) but little more than scenes and with Landy playing his cards close to his chest and no revelations about Abyssinia’s ultimate plan beyond getting her son back, it’s difficult to get any sense of how they’re going to play out, which is frustrating.
Because of all this, the main plot of the book come down to Cadaverous Gant and while I’ve always liked him as an antagonist due to his history with Valkyrie (which goes back to the first series) and his growing disillusionment with Abyssinia, the actual storyline here is pretty thin (as emphasised by how Landy shows Skulduggery getting to the same place as Valkyrie without having to do a load of tasks first). That said, there’s a lot of action and fun had on the journey (especially the Wild Hunt, which I’m hoping will crop up again) and Landy provides more background on Gant’s background and psychology but the ending here, let’s face it, is never in doubt so there isn’t that sense of danger that it needs.
This leads me to one of my big worries about this series: there are so many plot lines that I’m concerned they won’t all be closed out satisfactorily. I have a lot of faith in Landy as a writer – for me, he is one of the best in the YA field – but there’s a huge cast of characters in this book to the extent that I lost track of who some of them were and what had happened to them and needed to consult a wikipedia to refresh my memory.
If this sounds like I didn’t rate the book, then rest assured that this is definitely not the case. While I didn’t think this was as strong as SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT – RESURRECTION it’s still a very entertaining read and I definitely want to check out the next one.