Book review by Allie Jones and Jenni Harrison – Young Writers editors
Argh! What a ride!
Argh! What an ending!
Once again, I’ve just exited the Skulduggery Pleasant roller-coaster, heart pounding, head spinning and feeling a little nauseous... that I have to wait almost a year for the next book!
Full disclosure – we were already fans of Derek Landy’s books before we started reading Dead or Alive so we may be a little biased. (JH – I even dressed up as Skulduggery for World Book Day last year!) Although, if you’ve already got this far in the series, then you’re likely a fan too!
Dead or Alive is book 14 in the Skulduggery Pleasant series, which follows a skeleton detective and a young woman, Valkyrie Cain, on their adventures. If you haven’t read any of them before, we would strongly recommend you stop reading this (there may be spoilers for previous books!) and go and start Skulduggery Pleasant book 1. It’s a fantastic series and you won’t regret it, and we’re also a little jealous of you being able to experience it all for the first time! Go!
I picked up ‘Dead Or Alive’ with the usual sense of excitement, but this time also a feeling of sadness that it was the penultimate book in my all-time favourite series. I’ve known the end was near for a while, but this kind of hammered it home.
Starting a Skulduggery book is like meeting up with an old friend. Ah yes, I recognise this. Here lies good writing and exciting plots. It immediately sucks you into the story, and even 14 books in that story isn’t dull or repetitive. Somehow Mr Landy continues to find new plots that feel fresh, and offers up new problems and new characters to keep our heroes occupied and that also allows them to grow. And in this story, we certainly get a glimpse of sides to Skulduggery and Valkyrie that we’ve never seen before!
Dead or Alive finds the coolest world-saving duo with a moral quandary to wrestle with: is committing a murder but for the right reasons still wrong? They’re trying to stop the return of the Faceless Ones, but how far are they willing to go?
We also catch up with Auger and Omen Darkly to find out how their lives have changed after finally having the showdown with the King of the Darklands in the previous book. I know some fans have not really taken to the ‘new breed’ so to speak that have been introduced in the second phase of the series (from book 10 onwards), but I can’t help myself, I sit and grin like a fool during Omen’s scenes. I do feel like for all his misgivings about himself and his abilities, Omen will end up being the biggest hero of them all. (Though please don’t make that a sacrifice himself kind of hero, I don’t think I could take that!) The partnership between Omen and Crepuscular makes for interesting reading how it’s developing. I’m both excited and a little nervous to find out what Crep’s end game is, he’s gotta have one for sure.
Thanks to Valkyrie and Skulduggery being together through pretty much the whole book, we were treated to some top-notch banter, along with those moments of genuine tenderness that really highlight the ‘parent/child’ bond they share, as well as being kick-ass, wise-cracking partners and heroes!
If I could say I was disappointed with anything, it would be Serpine. Where was he? I was so hoping to see more of him in this book after totally loving him in ‘Seasons of War’. Surely we haven’t seen the last of him though? Some more Fletcher/Val scenes would have been good too, always loved how those two bounce off each other. Also I do sometimes struggle to remember who all the minor characters are and what they’ve done previously, but at least now I’ll have the Grimoire to help my memory!
Overall, this is another fast-paced and furious plot, and the last few chapters in particular were like an onslaught of events, they just kept hitting you with cliffhangers and surprises! Bam, bam, bam!
So much happened and it feels like there is still so much yet to happen. So many questions need answering Mr Landy, there can surely only be one answer – you’re just going to have to write lots more books!
We can’t wait for the next (and last – sob!) book to come out, but in the meantime, we’ll be devouring the Skulduggery Pleasant Grimoire and Derek's exclusive interview with us here at Young Writers to keep us going!