Skulduggery Pleasant: Last Stand Of The Dead Men
No One Is Safe
Have you ever gotten so into a series that you started to care about the characters? That you formed opinions about them and picked out ones you liked the best? That was pretty dang awesome wasn't it? And it was for me too until the latest novel in the "Skulduggery Pleasant" series, changed everything. For SP fans I give fair warning, there will be MASSIVE spoilers in this lens.
Only once or twice in my life have I had this strong a reaction to a book, and trust me, I couldn't sleep until I finished it, hoping that what I'd seen would somehow fix itself. A book and fictional characters aren't worth losing sleep over, you say? Maybe so, but maybe because I wrote fan fiction (don't you dare boo me) I had a more intense reaction.
I've written hundreds of thousands of words about these characters, reams of work that study ever facets of the character, exploring strengths and weaknesses and expanding on what is already known. For SP fans still with me Landy's teasing titles of 'fans are gonna cry now' and 'people gonna die now' may not be so cute once you finish this rather dark and disturbing (if you loved the Dead Men) book.
All pictures are from a scan of my own copy. If you own the copyright to anything used herein and want credit and a link or something removed, please contact me.
WARNING: I'm well aware I'm going to sound like I'm ready for a straight jacket to most readers, but the challenge was a book that changed your life, and this certainly changed mine, though I suppose writing reams of fanfiction and having a meltdown isn't quite what Squidoo meant. But yes, it is a wonderful well-written book so read it already.
Skulduggery Pleasant: Last Stand of the Dead Men
The Irish Sanctuary is in a verbal scuffling match with every Sanctuary on the planet except one from Australia and one from Africa wanting to have a military takeover. War breaks out through a series of events and the Dead Men are called on, seven men with an extraordinary level of magical and fighting skills. They are joined by Valkyrie Cain, now an adult of eighteen and the partner of Skulduggery Pleasant, elected leader of the Dead Men.
With every mission she grows closer to her comrades in arms as a dangerous subplot is unfolding. It isn't just war they must fear. It is attacks by Warlocks, a group of magic users that regenerate mostly by sucking out the souls of their dead victims. And there is a piece of magical equipment that if it should overload would drive most of the world's population instantly insane with an influx of magical power.
Add to this that Valkyrie's reflection wants her life and needs her dead and you think she'd have enough problems, but she doesn't. She will get to experience personal loss and the heartbreaking realization that even as one of the the most powerful mages who ever lived she can't bring her beloved friends back or instantly fix things.
This is a dark novel indeed and clearly was meant to be appropriate for readers who grew up with the series. Readers and parents be warned.
Valkyrie looses pretty much everything in this novel. Her family thanks to the reflection, her friends thanks to her dark secret, and her humanity thanks to said secret. By the end she isn't even Valkyrie anymore. She is Darquesse. Who if you've read the previous novels will now be hunted down and killed by her friends to supposedly save the world.
Skulduggery doesn't take long to find her replacement or to agree to her death and you have to wonder what is going on here. Has he at last reverted to the heartless man he once was, the man who would have killed her the instant he found out her secret, or is he lying to buy Valkyrie more time?
I am honestly hoping this is just Landy messing with fans, but I don't think it is. He warned that there would be more darkness as the series progressed and I don't see him bringing these characters back by any sleight of hand. Of course with China as the new Grand Mage (she also tried to kill Darquesse right in front of Skulduggery and he didn't do a thing to stop her) I'd set off to destroy the world as Darquesse too.
Derek Landy speaks about the novel
Get Caught up in the Magic!
I got books one through five in a bundle and loved them. It is a great way to get caught up with the series and they make great presents. Major fans may want two sets, one to read and one for pretties.
My Reaction - WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS!
The rather ominous title alone should have warned me, but being American I am chockful of optimism and a positive attitude. Besides all my friends from countries that got it earlier said it was wonderful. So what could be so bad? Sure no one is safe, but there's a war going on. Front the released front cover I got via e-mail I figured there might be a Valkyrie cliffhanger, nothing major.
But then Landy started killing people off. Still, no worries. You knew it was coming, I told myself. Then it happened. The part where I did cry, and I'm not ashamed to admit it, because everything started to go very wrong indeed. My two favorite Dead Men, gone forever. I'd had an idea one of them might get it because the nice guy everyone loves always dies in action films. I think it is a rule or something.
Ghastly Bespoke was the type of guy you'd have a beer with, well, a cup of tea with in this case. The kind of guy you cheer for because you want to see him get the girl (he never did) and get the rewards he deserved. But the other, Anton Shudder? The one we finally got to see so much of at long last? I was sure he'd make it through. There deaths were brutal, sad, shameful. Men who were warriors were killed like common street thugs. It was as terrible as seeing the death of Superman. These men are mages, almost gods to fans. How could the possibly die? But they did.
I think I went rather numb after that, and then the creeping sickness set in. Utter revulsion to see Erskine had betrayed the Dead Men and to see all the messed up things that happened to Valkyrie. To see China of all people come back like some freaking hero and justify killing Skulduggery's family? To see an evil reflection that wanted to kill Valkyrie whine on for chapters about what a special snowflake she was because she secretly wants Valkyrie dead? I felt sick and cheated. Sure I knew it would be darker than the books before with a war going on, but really? I do protest.
Don't get me wrong, it is a wonderful book and the characters I loved had a final bow worthy of them. They at least got to spend time together once more as the Dead Men, though it was still rather depressing to see them die in such an undignified manner. Can we hope that they were really, really awesome reflections? Is Erskine under some kind of mind control? Or has the series really gotten that bleak?
I suppose we have to wait until the next book to find out and now that my meltdown is mostly over and my brain is slowly coming back online, I can't wait.
Characters Currently on my Short List
MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT!
People who have no idea about the series need a handy explanation and list so here it is:
China Sorrows: She killed Skulduggery's family. She's taken power over Valkyrie before and now tried to kill her as Darquesse and trust me it wasn't to save the world. It was to eliminate an obstacle between her and Skulduggery. She'd the kind of woman who would stab her best friend in the back and laugh while she did it. But then she cries for chapters about how lonely she is. Because you're a freaking psycho, China, that's why!
Skulduggery Pleasant: Landy has already told us he likes to let a former bad character fight and struggle for redemption and then kill them just when things are going well, but first he takes everything away. He's lost the Dead Men, he's lost Valkyrie. He's even lost his humanity if he just stood there and watched China try to kill Darquesse. Now he's found Valkyrie's replacement. Her reflection. Wow, really, Skulduggery? How could you? Until the end indeed.
Erskine Ravel: Firstly I think the man we all loved is a stupid pretty boy and couldn't have pulled off a massive betrayal by himself, but he did. He had two of his own comrades in arms killed, has started a war that spun out of his control, and oh yeah, he thinks mortals (nonmagical people) should be the slaves of magic users. Be glad this is a g-rated lens Erskine or I'd say what I really think of you.
Valkyrie's Reflection: Although purely homicidal and willing to kill Valkyrie, Skulduggery and anyone else who gets in her way, she is acting like the victim. Whining and crying that Valkyrie is the bad guy as Darquesse and should be hunted down and killed. She's also trying to date Fletcher. Yeah, creepy. Honey? You're a pathetic loser and I hope Darquesse comes back and rips you into itty bitty shreds.
A stand alone novel set after book seven that ties into book eight, so yes you have to read it.
Derek Landy reads parts of the novel
This novel was a little intro novel to draw fans in and yes it was linked in release to the end of the old Mayan calendar But it is a fun stand alone novel and a perfect intro to the series for new readers.