Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Honourable Mentions – Skulduggery Pleasant

This is a children’s novel by Derek Landy with an intriguing blurb:

“Stephanie’s Uncle Gordon wrote horror fiction. At least that’s what Stephanie thought – until he died and left her his estate. Then she discovered that though his books may have been horror, they weren’t exactly… well, fiction

“Plunged into a terrifying world of vampires, evil villains and Hollow Men, Stephanie finds help from an unusual source: Skulduggery Pleasant, the wise-cracking skeleton of a dead magician. When all Hell breaks loose it’s lucky for Stephanie that she’s not your average twelve-year-old girl – and it’s lucky for Skulduggery that he’s already dead.

“Will evil win the day? Will Stephanie and Skulduggery stop bickering long enough to save the world? One thing’s for sure: the bad guys won’t know what’s hit them.”

The vampiric elements are in one small section of the book and they form the guards of The Vault, a repository of knowledge concerning the Ancients located beneath the Dublin Municipal Art Gallery. They seem like normal men during the day, with their powers held in check by the sun, but at night their vampiric nature takes over.

They are fierce hunters, more animal than anything else and all the normal anti-vampire devices are useless – though a brace of bullets might help. There is a nice description of the change between man and vampire when the sun sets:

“In one fluid movement he had pulled it all off – hair, skin, clothes – and he was pale underneath, and bald, and his eyes were big and black. He moved like a cat… …She didn’t have to be closer to see his fangs, they were big and jagged and hideous…”

Not your typical vampires but great stuff to chill the kids. The book itself is very much a children’s book. There is a distinct level of darkness through it but there aren’t the nuances that would necessarily make it accessible to an older audience.

However, if your kids like books with tenacious twelve-year-olds, dark goings on and a lead character who is a noir like detective who also happens to be a skeleton and a wizard, plus vampires of course, you could do a lot worse.

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