Skulduggery Pleasant’s Second Invasion

Kenny Brechner -- May 17th, 2018

I know. The Beatles only had to invade America once, so what does that say about Skulduggery Pleasant making a second incursion? This nine-book middle grade fantasy series by Irish author Derek Landy was published simultaneously in the U.S. and the U.K. in 2007. It was a giant hit in Europe but passed almost unnoticed here in the U.S. where it was ignominiously retired after the third book.

Skuldguggery’s publisher, HarperCollins, is making a second attempt here now, simultaneously re-releasing the first three books in new paperback editions. Is this second invasion merited? The Secret Code* of bookselling demands an answer to that question and so I undertook the process of providing one.

The Secret Code is just that, but I can reveal, in a general way, that we must first establish the singular and then extrapolate that into the universal. Looking at my own records I established the following facts.

1.We had ordered elements of the original series as special orders for school library accounts twice, selling a total of 3 books.
2. We had never actually carried the books in the store.
3. I had not read the books at the time nor had anyone else at DDG.
4. The original covers were pretty good (see above) but the new covers are better (see below)

Applying the secret reasoning in our code I determined that we couldn’t answer our question without reading at least the first book in the series. Having carried out that initial function and then applied the stipulated inductive elements prescribed by the bookselling code  I can now make the following report.

The Skulduggery Pleasant series is absolutely delightful. The two lead characters Skulduggery Pleasant, a once-human magician whose consciousness was trapped in a skeleton during an ancient battle, and his training partner, teenager Stephanie Edgley have the sort of great chemistry one finds now and again in the best sort of literary duos, such as Wodehouse’s Bertie and Jeeves.

Apart from their entertaining dialogue, terrific secondary characters and villains with fun names such as Baron Vengous, China Sorrows, and Eachan Meritorious, the series offers a very comfortable sense of belonging. Stephanie, who soon takes on the name Valkyrie Cain, finds in her apprenticeship to Skulduggery a world where she feels a true sense of belonging. She essentially sheds one family for another, leaving a magical reflection of herself to go to school and navigate family dinners while she is off saving the world from the return of perilous ancient gods and malevolent beings of all sorts.

Fantasy readers of all ages will feel the same; they will experience a sense of belonging in the books, which offer humor, excitement, and a lighthearted but deep-rooted familiarity that is only strengthened by the recurring themes and patterns in the books. I say books because after finishing book one I immediately plunged into book two. This second attempt to bring Skuduggery Pleasant to the U.S. is in fact meritorious in every way. Its success is in our hands now. Follow the code.

*As obliquely described by Robert Burton in The Anatomy of Melancholy.

9 thoughts on “Skulduggery Pleasant’s Second Invasion

  1. Monica

    I am so excited. I read the three published in the US and saw a few more when we were in the UK but was sure they were on their way across the ocean so decided not weight down the luggage and regretted it ever since. Can’t wait to finish reading the series!

  2. Connie Rockman

    The audio edition of the first book, narrated by Rupert Degas, received an Honor Award the very first time the Odyssey Awards were presented at ALA in 2008. The audiobook was brilliant and had terrific spot sound effects. A great way to immerse yourself in the thoroughly imaginative world of Skulduggery and Valkyrie.

  3. JessB

    I read the first 3 books of this series when they were originally published in the US and loved them, but had no idea the series had continued in the UK. Very glad to hear they’re getting another shot at our market, and that I now have more books to hunt down across the pond!

  4. Ellen Richmond

    I read and loved the first book first time ’round and was disappointed that the series never caught on (though I stocked all three). Fingers crossed that they are a hit this time. I already have a couple kiddos in mind for my best hand sell…..

  5. Nell Campbell

    We learned about the series from friends with slightly older trio of teens than our kids. They loved them so much their entire family read them all. Over the last few years we also bought all nine of the original UK series for our (now 16 year old) who devoured them, our 13 year old is currently doing the same. It was worth the international shipping!

  6. Craig Froman

    My son loved the series so much, he asked us to order all the rest from the UK… so I hope it makes it here this time!

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