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Best Children's Mystery Series to Sink Your Teeth in? Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

Updated on September 14, 2014
Nightcat profile image

Nightcat is an avid reader who loves writing reviews to spread her addictions with the masses.

Skulduggery Pleasant and Valkyrie Cain

Every so often a superior book series comes along for young readers, one adults find just as addictive, if not more so. The Skulduggery Pleasant series isn't one of those. It is better. It picks up pop culture and smacks it a good one. It drop kicks sniveling emo vampires to the curb, and oh yeah, it has two of the coolest central characters ever.

Skulduggery Pleasant, skeleton detective who graces every cover, and his partner Valkyrie Cain. Both whom the writer would call witty but you'll call something else entirely. My fellow Americans once had to import these books, but the sacrifice was worth it. Because Irish writers rule, that's why. If your fairly sick of goody two-shoes boy wizards, vampires who cry, or nice main characters, this series is the cure.

Keep in mind this isn't fluff. Children's book is often a misnomer. I strongly recommend you surf the web and read excerpts before trying to pin an age range on any book. There are six year olds who could walk this series, and there are adults it would give nightmares. I figure if you are old enough to read the book, well there you go.

All scans are mine, and all other art is credited to the source. If you own the copyright and want link and a credit, or want something removed please contact me.

Book Trailers

All You Need to Know

There are currently eight Skulduggery Pleasant novels, with book seven being the start of a three part end to the series. So there should be nine in all. I say should, but author Derek Landy has already fit in one novella on the two detectives, with another on Tanith Low as well.

The series revolves around the meeting, friendship, and partnership of detectives Pleasant and Cain. Pleasant saved Cain from death shortly after her uncle's funeral, she stole his hat, and the rest is history.

These detectives are tough, the world they inhabit is brutal, and most characters are bitter and jaded. Younger readers may need to be restricted to the first few lighter novels, but older ones can enjoy the entire series.

UPDATE: A short stories collection and the ninth and last novel are due out later this year (2014.)

Skulduggery Pleasant logo courtesy of the Skulduggery Pleasant website.

Oh, you can also read three short stories for free:

'The Lost Art of World Domination'

'Gold, Babies And The Brothers Muldoon'

'The End of the World'

Will you go see the movie?

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Skulduggery Pleasant - Book 1 : aka Scepter of the Ancients

The world's most beloved detectives meet, but their first case isn't going to be easy. After the murder of her uncle even Skulduggery doesn't want her involved. But with a little extortion and a lot of moxie Stephanie manages to hang on to the case and her reluctant partner.

But is he her partner or even her friend? She's warned there is only one thing Skulduggery seeks, something he would be willing to sacrifice her for. The partners have to learn implicit trust, and a new name that will set one partner free.

Skulduggery Pleasant

Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing With Fire - Book 2

Skulduggery and Valkyrie have been partners for about a year, and in that time Valkyrie still isn't getting any respect from their opponents. Skulduggery's training can be harsh and it begins the novel, almost resulting in her death. Exactly what has she gotten herself into?

This time the detectives will face off against a legendary beast, and the key to the mystery may be closer to home than Valkyrie likes. With only two days to stop the end of the world (again) can the partners stick together? Or will Skulduggery end the partnership with deadly force?

Skulduggery Pleasant: The Faceless Ones - Book 3

Things have never been easy for Valkyrie as Skulduggery's partner. Despite her training and obvious dedication to a job she loves Kenspeckle and Ghastly both want her gone. Ghastly reveals a disturbing vision, hoping to save her.

Even Skulduggery has been trying to push her to the sidelines, and Valkyrie has had just about enough, thank you kindly. So when a new case arrives for the detectives she is full in, despite being wanted by the Sanctuary. But sometimes victory comes at a terrible price, and sometimes the one person we love most must pay it.

Skulduggery Pleasant: Dark Days - Book Four

Skulduggery has been pulled through the portal and is trapped with the Faceless Ones for almost a year. Valkyrie tries to mount a rescue, but keeps meeting obstacles. When she does make it to his side, will her old friend even know it is her? No giggling from fans who have read the book please, thanks.

This novel is one of the strongest in the series as far as the relationship between Valkyrie and Skulduggery goes. Landy deftly dances in as if to reveal all, then the characters act oblivious to what needs to be said. Who else would give anything to read Skulduggery's thoughts on this one? I know I would.

Skulduggery Pleasant: Mortal Coil - Book 5

Secrets can tear a friendship apart. Valkyrie is hiding terrible secrets from Skulduggery, ones, that as her friend, he has a right to know. When she goes on a private mission, she may never come back the same. But there are even more problems on the horizon for the troubled partnership.

There are Remnants on the loose, and they all want one thing: to have Darquesse as their queen. Can these spirits succeed even after Valkyrie makes the ultimate sacrifice? Also, can any true fan of the series read this novel without repeatedly going to the dock scene and Skulduggery's infamous words to Valkyrie? Now you have to read the book to find out what he said. Sneaky of me, ain't it?

Skulduggery Pleasant: Death Bringer - Book 6

Skulduggery and Valkyrie have the luxury of an entire week to save the world this go round. When the Death Bringer arises, so does Lord Vile, intent on murder. But the detectives are in the business of making arrests, even when it is the Death Bringer.

Meanwhile poor Valkyrie has increasing problems in her relationship with Skulduggery, who seems a bit looped at the start of the novel. Exactly what secrets is her partner hiding? Are they enough to end the partnership and friendship forever?

Skulduggery Pleasant: The End of the World - Novella

This novella was placed right after the events of book six, Skulduggery Pleasant: Death Bringer. It is a stand alone book, featuring every fans dream, sort of. Ryan is a normal everyday boy. In fact he's the kind of boy you'd never expect Detectives Pleasant and Cain to befriend.

But when he unlocks a magical secret, the detectives have no choice but to drag Ryan into their world of magic and murder. The novella was meant to be a lure for new fans, and is a tiny bit lighter in mood than book six.

Since it is stand alone, don't expect to find out any answers to the questions book six left readers with. But it is the book I started with, so I'll treasure it forever. So there.

Skulduggery Pleasant: Kingdom of the Wicked - Book 7

The seventh installment in the series finds the detectives facing mortals with magic. As they pair race to find out the reason for the mayhem, a dangerous gang of teens driven insane by their newly found power seeks to destroy those around them.

A new enemy arises, only to raise a major dilemma; can the Skeleton Detective and Valkyrie fight these dangerous new adversaries without the help of Lord Vile or Darquesse? Even if the do win, can the relationship stand the strain of what Skulduggery may one day have to do to save the world?

Skulduggery is a lot more present in this novel, but with both his light and darkness increasing. Landy is hinting about violent rampages if anything should ever happen to Valkyrie, and readers must face that hero or not, he is still a ruthless killer. But we need men like him when the world is in danger and we should never forget that.

Tanith Low In The Maleficent Seven - Novella

Skulduggery and Valkyrie actually sit this one out, thanks to (spoiler alert) a possessed Tanith Low being the star. But as she has gone over to the bad guys is she preparing to do something that may well end life as we know it? This was a great novella and filled in the gaps between books seven and eight for readers.

Skulduggery Pleasant: Last Stand of the Dead Men - Book 8

Skulduggery Pleasant

This novel left me and a lot of other fans of all ages stunned and saddened. Will this be the test that ruins their partnership forever? I won't say much more, you just have to read the novel to see what I mean.

The Main Attractions

Skulduggery Pleasant Being the hero, he gets his name and picture on every novel. There's no detective that loves himself quite as much as Skulduggery, something Valkyrie can attest to. Still he is her hero (having saved her life), her mentor, her best friend, and a million other things as well. Skulduggery is fiercely protective of Valkyrie, and harming her is a great way to earn his magical wrath.

As the series unfolds readers learn more about his past, his abilities, and his rather strange attachment to Valkyrie. Strange because he loves himself so much it is astounding the lengths he goes to for her.

But he isn't the perfect hero. He has flaws, some of which test their partnership, and at times can endanger his young friend. He is willing to die to protect her, and considering his centuries upon the earth, that is saying something.

Valkyrie Cain We can't give you her real name, but know that this young woman becomes full partners (in her mind at any rate) with the Skeleton Detective at age 12. After all he did save her life, and she did steal his hat since being with a magical skeleton sounded a lot safer then being alone.

As she grows through the series she develops other friendships and relationships, but always shows her loyalty to Skulduggery. In fact that loyalty costs her, well, you'll have to read the books to see. She is fiercely loyal to her friends, but also independent. She will not be told what to do, not even by Skulduggery.

She also has her faults, a bad temper, the weakness having a family and double life can cause her, and so on. Although she loves both worlds, there seems to be a bleakness in her life at times, as if you know the partnership is fated to end.

Skulduggery Pleasant art courtesy of the Skulduggery Pleasant website.

How does it compare to other Children's Series?

This is not a cuddly series, I can tell you that just up front. There are going to be no silly hats or jelly beans or plush toys sold. I rather doubt there will be posters of the hero in your local library, at least not in the US any time soon.

Both characters as time goes on have less redeeming values start to show. Skulduggery is not some brooding hero who swoons at the sight of his Valkyrie (ala the Twilight series) nor is Valkyrie the luckiest boy wizard in the world (ala Potter). Of course she isn't, she's a girl for one thing.

Both are what some folks apparently call witty but is known around here as being a smart aleck, to be polite. The both like to feel they are rather wonderful, though Pleasant is admittedly better at it, but they indulge in self-loathing as well.

The series is part hard-boiled detective novel, but is more often magical and involving of course, saving the world. It isn't going to be for everyone, by book six there is plenty of blood and gore, and the only thing separating this from an adult series is the youth of Detective Cain.

OK there isn't a lot of other adult activities besides violence, so I suppose there is that. But then not all adult novels are soaked in gin and sex either. I'd say it is better than Potter (I own the entire Potter series, mind you) due to the fact that Valkyrie must live constantly in both worlds.

She can get away for a tiny bit from her family, but the magic happens in the real world. There is no safe Hogwarts here, no gentle friends. Most of the adults teaching her practical things like battling with magic and combat maneuvers.

It is sort of telling that her friendships with her magical elders last while people her age have trouble holding on to her. With one novel to go (as of this writing) fans have to wonder where the detectives will end.

Will they still be partners? Will only one be left alive? What exactly is the real relationship between the two? Landy manages to confuse his readers fairly well with all sorts of hints. Hence the growth of Valduggery, although every tidbit that inspired it could well be innocent.

Skulduggery Pleasant art courtesy of the Skulduggery Pleasant website.

What the heck is Valduggery? Is it bad for kids?

Valduggery is slash fiction, pairing Valkyrie and Skulduggery. Some is platonic, some isn't. Mostly it is romantic fluff, also called drabble. Ages can range for Val, but most keep it decent, aging her to 18 to 20 before she, omg, KISSES her partner!!!! Wow, we waited nine novels for a kiss? But it is fun, provided you are of an age for such things, and some writers do a crack job of imitating Landy.

A lot of Valduggery takes moments from the novels, making them more the way Valduggery shippers would like. I mean it does make sense in a way they do end up together, seeing as how no one else can stand Skulduggery and Valkyrie at least sometimes listens to him. Yes they are starting out from him knowing her as a child, but nobody complained much when Elvis married a 14 year old.

Valduggery tends to be a lot softer and sweeter than the novels, with Valkyrie and Skulduggery acting in a manner both would be rather ashamed of if they could read it. If you know the novels neither is what you would call nice.

Some fans point out this fan fiction is more realistic, as many novels for the age range are filled with adult encounters. Some fans point out Valduggery is super creepy and there is a reason that a lot of it ends up on a site with the word Deviant in the title.

But there is fan fiction like this for any two characters on the planet you can dream of. There is also fiction where fans pair themselves with either Val or Skul, so be warned. Obviously I don't want any readers who qualify as children reading it. You've got your entire life to grow up, trust me, it is overrated.

As for it warping kids? Eh, there are a lot worse things on the web. I think they will survive seeing two characters fall in love and get all romantical. If your first response was "Ewww!" Then you are too young to worry about such things. Or decent.

Given Landy's blog, I think he WROTE some of it.

Do you like Fan Fiction?

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Interview with Derek Landy - author of Skulduggery Pleasant

One of Many Epic Quotes

"Doors are for people with no imagination." --Skulduggery Pleasant

Wait!!! My short stories are missing!

If you were lucky enough to get the new cover paperbacks there was almost always a short story at the end. As the books have been reprinted, the stories have been dropped in order to be grouped into a collection due in 2014.

I know my copy of book six has no such goody at the end (and never did), and I've no idea if the others I ordered will contain them. It might help to figure out the old cover art from the new and go from there if you want the original books, short stories included.

To make things more confusing, the Tanith Low novella may be included here. Which is odd as the lauch date would have to be this year (2013) then a rewrite into another book?

Update: My copies of the first books came in. They have the covers featuring Skulduggery, and a nice large splash across the back cover: "New Short Story Inside', so there you go.

Skulduggery Pleasant art courtesy of the Skulduggery Pleasant website.

Is Skulduggery Pleasant a good influence on children?

I think he is a wonderful influence on children. Just look how well Valkyrie is turning out. Seriously? Yes! Skul is a wonderful and complex character who has been through a lot of devastating losses, yet he manages to still embrace the present.

I hate to say too much and give away everything, but here is a rough character bio: Skulduggery Pleasant was born a long time ago in Ireland. He had I suppose a normal childhood, making friends that remain to this day.

As an adult he lost his family while he watched, and that act both killed and created him. Revenge was his motivation to literally piece his own skeleton together and return to help win the magical war. He is fiercely devoted to Valkyrie, often doting on her to the extreme.

He covers up any such gestures, calling them practical, but it is clear he adores his battle accessory as he fondly calls her. Skulduggery is very vocal, almost never shutting up. He has a mammoth ego, and is sure the entire world must adore him.

But a lot of that is a front to cover up his devastation over his past losses and past crimes. Still he adores himself, dressing in the very best suits, and often telling people just how very wonderful a detective as he is.

There's something very endearing about him though, so you will like it when he preens. I've been told by visitors to another lens he acts exactly like one of my dearest friends, which of course led me to the books.

Skulduggery Pleasant logo courtesy of the Skulduggery Pleasant website.

Rare Sighting of Detective Pleasant from the Offical Site

Skulduggery Pleasant Audio Books


Derek Landy on writing the 8th novel...

"So now I go back and make sure that no matter how grim things get (and they DO get grim) or how dire the situation becomes (and it DOES become dire), we have enough jokes and laughing-in-the-face-of-death to see us through the darkness and out the other side."--Derek Landy

Skulduggery Pleasant Book Haul - Or: Proof I'm working!

My second order from the UK, so I'll be hard at work and get you updates as soon as possible. Somehow got a second copy of Death Bringer instead of Dark Days, but as soon as that is all sorted out all will be well.

Loved the Series?

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    • Nightcat profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      @LluviaDeArte: Thanks so much, LluviaDeArte! Not too many series capture my interest and passion as this one did. Of course have a skeleton in it helped greatly, but Skul has this magnetic personality. I'm glad you enjoyed the lens! :)

    • LluviaDeArte profile image


      4 years ago

      This is really neat and the series definitely sounds intriguing. I really like this. Had never heard of it, but then that the beauty of writing. Thank you, I will be looking out for more.

    • Nightcat profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @anonymous: Thank you so very much, Tipi! There's just something about a well-writen series that grabs me. Clearly the level of violence jumps up a tad as Valkyrie gets older, but that is realistic. As we get older we get to face more adult challenges too. I can't wait for book eight to come out, I'm so excited to see if the buzz online has been right. Thanks so much for your kind words and visit, hugs!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      You certainly are giving Skulduggery Pleasant fans what they're looking for here with your compelling reviews that are sure to attract more to reading this series. I remember back when Harry Potter was so criticized, but that got kids reading up a storm....I do like that you point out that the earlier books may be more appropriate for younger readers. I can feel your excitement here! I'm not at all surprised that your already at the 5 blessing limit here....all the more reason to check back in at another time.

    • Nightcat profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @aquarian_insight: Awww, thank you so much, aquarian_insight. T'is my current obsession. Thanks for the visit, hugs! :)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I was not aware of the Skulduggery Pleasant series, so thank you for the introduction. I really enjoyed reading your lens and it is beautifully presented.

    • Nightcat profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @Jennifer Lawyer: Awww, thanks, jennifer-lawyer! I adore the series. I had to read out of order but I'm on Dark Days right now. Each novel just gets better and better. Can't wait for eight and nine! And the movie. Thanks for the visit, hugs! :)

    • Jennifer Lawyer profile image

      Jennifer Lawyer 

      5 years ago

      I started reading this series aloud to Advanced Placement seniors as part of our daily class routine. They. Fell. In. Love. As did I...We only made it through the first novel, so thank you for the reminder that I need to return to this series! Kudos!

    • Nightcat profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @Tennyhawk: Isn't that terrible, Tennyhawk? I think maybe two or so were published in the US. Mine are coming from somewhere in the UK, not even Ireland. Would adore having one come in from there. They were saying as early as this year for book eight, but he's still working on it according to his blog. The moment that man announces completion, I am pouncing! Thanks for the visit, hugs! :)

    • Nightcat profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @lesliesinclair: I suppose it is a matter of degrees, Papier. I was reading Dracula and Steven King novels at 10. The people the books will do good will be the ones to read them, regardless of age. Landy does a wonderfully touching video about his books I shall add as soon as the contest is over.

      He explains he isn't out to frighten children or give people nightmares. The people who need and understand his work will find it and enjoy it. Thanks so very much for the comment and visit, hugs!

    • ManfromModesto LM profile image

      ManfromModesto LM 

      5 years ago

      I think this is one I'm going to skip. Great article layout, though!

    • Tennyhawk profile image


      5 years ago

      It's one of my favorites. I have a hard time waiting for the latest installments to arrive in the U.S., so I wind up just paying the extra to ship it from Ireland. When - oh, when! - will they all be available on Kindle and then I can just get the newest novel with the push of a button?

    • lesliesinclair profile image


      5 years ago

      Wow, super presentation, rich with content. Not sure this is a series I would choose for kids, but it's obvious it is full of intrigue and strong characters.

    • Nightcat profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @ManfromModesto LM: Thank you so much, ManfromModesto! I had great fun putting it together. Thanks for the visit, hugs! )

    • Nightcat profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @bushaex: Thank you so much, bushaex! His name amused me to no end as well. He is certainly the most unique detective I've run across in fiction in a long time. Thanks for the visit, hugs! :)

    • bushaex profile image

      Stephen Bush 

      5 years ago from Ohio

      Who knew that Skulduggery would be part of a popular series of books? SquidAngel Blessings!

    • Nightcat profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi Uma! Yes. fan fiction is wonderful while you are waiting for the rest of the books to come out. If you mean the lingual in the sighting vid, well, he should sound Irish and have a deeper voice. There are cheaper versions of the books since people buy them, read them, move on.

      I'm already prowling through mine to reread favorite parts, and reading Valduggery whilst I await my other books. I may likely write some too after I get a few more books under my belt. Maybe. But even if it does get expensive, isn't he glorious to look at? Thanks for the visit, hugs! :)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I didn't even know about "fan fiction" period. This is a very seductive add and the music on the sighting sequence is frightening. I felt myself not liking the lingual input, finding it jarring and slightly intimidating, and I can give this no higher compliment. I truly hope you haven't enticed me into an expensive addiction.


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