I know it may be a little odd to see a review of a children’s novel here on IoM. Still, when said children’s book involves a character slicing off his own arm with a scythe, people being turned inside out in a ball of “pulverized bone and shredded flesh,” and an-all out battle between good and evil sorcerors over the opening of a gateway to let Lovecraftian monsters destroy our planet…well, then you’re not talking about the typical children’s book.
Skulduggery Pleasant: The Faceless Ones doesn’t take time to start slowly and recap for those just joining, nor does it wrap up the threadlines that have been building since the first novel. Instead, The Faceless Ones, despite being the third book in the Skulduggery Pleasant saga, reads more like the Empire Strikes Back of the series, where characters delve into darker, more serious adventures, learn more about themselves, and a bittersweet ending sets our heroes up in a situation worse than the one they started in, and with less numbers than when they started.
Full review after the jump!
As I stated previously, I couldn’t wait for the American edition of Faceless Ones, instead paying the higher shipping and import fees to purchase the one published overseas. After reading the first two novels in their American incarnations, reading the original text of the third was startlingly different. I understand that in the UK (the author, Derek Landy, is Irish) the English language is spoken and written than in America. I had a linguistics professor back in college who used to refer to American English as “other language’s worst hits,” which makes sense, really, given the origins of American English and English in general Still, the language of the UK edition reads loftier than it’s American counterparts – words are spelled differently, there is significantly more profanity for a book that specifically states “for 9 years and up” on its spine, and the language in general feels different. It would be one thing to see that the trunk of a car is called “the boot,” or any of any said differences, but there are too numerous to count. I really enjoyed reading the book this way, and it, I think, enhanced my experience. I look forward to the American edition later this year so I can compare and contrast – I found myself thinking numerous times that there were things that would ultimately change for American readers.
Another thing that passed through my head repeatedly was the word “dammit.” See, I’ve been working on a series of children’s novels myself, called The Siblings Scarington, a blend of adventure, fantasy, and horror that I’ve been super excited to see through to its completion. I’ve quite often that the author, Derek Landy, and I must share the same brain. At one point, I griped on a previous blog about how we unintentionally named our characters similarly (the name Argus, which I thought was pretty damn unique), and he commented on the blog, giving me some ideas on new character names. Seems like a swell guy.
Anyway, on to the book. If you haven’t read any Skulduggery Pleasant book before, this is definitely not the place to start. In fact, if you have read the previous books, I probably don’t have to tell you to read this one, but I wil suggest you re-read what’s come before. There is no time for stop and recap. The story hits the ground running and at no point slows down to let you catch up – this 400 page book took me two days to read. It’s one of those books that doesn’t really have a good “stopping point,” where you can close the book comfortably and call it a night. I really recommend picking it up on a Saturday morning and planning on making it your entire day. Trust me, you’ll have no problems reading through it in one sitting if you’ve got the time.
What’s been released of the book has been intentionally cryptic and unrevealing, so I don’t know how much I should spoil in this review. So, if you’re looking for any major spoilers, I probably won’t be giving them away here.
What I can tell you is that, as the title of the book implies, the book is about the release of the Faceless Ones, the creatures that have the power to destroy everything. A group of baddies, some old, some new, have gathered together to release the ancient creatures, and Skulduggery and Valkyrie Cain have to figure out the how and why. The action doesn’t pause for a second – there are many, many action and fight sequences and most of them are pretty violent.
The book is definitely more serious in tone than the previous books. Landy’s strengths are in his action scenes and his dialogue and, while the extended action sequences play up this strength, the dialogue in this book, given the subject matter, doesn’t lend itself to quite as many memorable moments as the previous two books in the series. It’s definitely missed, as even Skulduggery, who’s usually the most talkative character in these books, ends up much more quiet than typical. There are secrets hinted at that make you desperate to know the facts, but never revealed.
Still, Skulduggery Pleasant is planned as a series of nine books (at least it originally was), so we’re probably only a third of the way into the larger storyline. If we are, it’ll be interesting to see where the story goes from here. There are many storylines left dangling, but most surround the “heroes,” rather than a larger “big bad.” Still, Skulduggery is anything but typical, so I look forward to the next book in the series, hopefully coming out next year (fingers crossed).
If you’re a parent trying to decide if this is right for your child, I will say to start with the first book and read it first. You’ll find you’ll enjoy it just as much as your kid, and it definitely pushed the boundaries of what you would normally expect from a book meant for a nine-year-old and up. Still, it’s great fun and, even though the lead is a girl instead of a boy wizard, I think it’ll appeal to both sexes. If you don’t have any kids, read it anyway. There’s no way you’re going to find this much violence in one of those Harry Potter or Twilight books, and you can tell that the author loves the same stuff we do. Any time you can get kids into Lovecraftian literature is a good thing.
Buy the first two books, the get pissed that you have to wait till August for the third. Still, definitely worth the wait.
Paul’s Awesomeness Score – 8 out of 10!
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