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Lord Of Dorkness


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Nov
29th
2016

Skulduggery Pleasant #1 — My Thoughts · 6:20pm Nov 29th, 2016

Meet Skulduggery Pleasant. Sure, he may lose his head now and again (in fact, he won his current skull in a poker match), but he is much more than he appears to be—which is good, considering that he is, basically, a skeleton. Skulduggery may be long dead, but he is also a mage who dodged the grave so that he could save the world from an ancient evil. But to defeat it, he'll need the help of a new partner: a not so innocent twelve-year-old girl named Stephanie. That's right, they're the heroes.

Stephanie and Skulduggery are quickly caught up in a battle to stop evil forces from acquiring her recently deceased uncle's most prized possession—the Sceptre of the Ancients. The Ancients were the good guys, an extinct race of uber-magicians from the early days of the earth, and the scepter is their most dangerous weapon, one capable of killing anyone and destroying anything. Back in the day, they used it to banish the bad guys, the evil Faceless Ones. Unfortunately, in the way of bad guys everywhere, the Faceless Ones are staging a comeback and no one besides our two heroes believes in the Faceless Ones, or even that the Sceptre is real.

So Stephanie and Skulduggery set off to find the Sceptre, fend off the minions of the bad guys, beat down vampires and the undead, prove the existence of the Ancients and the Faceless Ones, all while trading snappy, snippy banter worthy of the best screwball comedies.

(Synopsis shamelessly stolen from Goodreads.)

It was really good.

More, with no spoilers, behind the cut.


Went in totally blind, knowing next to nothing about the story.

And I did not expect a children's book.

...Well, 'young adult,' more like, but still. Do you expect this to be the hero in a book aimed at Little Duke, aged thirteen?

A good 'young adult' book, yes, but still. Expected Dresden level dark and bite, got...

Well, Dresden Light sounds a bit insulting, but the best way I can sum it up. Half the grim, half the dark, half the awesome, but still a passable take on that great, classic 'Buffy' style flavor.

I do have two nitpicks, though: Stephanie the 'lead' character, and the magic system are both in bad need of—pardon the pun, fleshing out, and are the weakest parts of at least the first book. Both being rather bland, blank slates with little backstory or explanation.

(The walking, talking skeleton in a fedora and snazzy suit hurling fire around is clearly the star of the show, and everybody but the narrator oddly fascinated with the thirteen year old girl seems to know this. It's... strange and slightly annoying, but you get used to it.)

That being said, the action and pacing was really, really good. Not sure at all how Derek Landy manages it, but the text is snappy to the point of minimalism, but always manages to get this sense of 'impact' across. Making you feel just how quick and furious the fights are when they happen.

I'd recommend it. It's not Dresden, but for me at least it scratched that same itch just a bit until Peace Talks actually gets released, and I believe I'll gladly check out more of the series going forward. :twilightsmile:

Comments ( 33 )

I remember reading this a good 6-8 years ago, back when I was just getting onto the Dresden Files, and the simplicity of the magic system pissing me off, but I did like how Names where incorporated (even if they can come off as 13 Year Old COOLEST THING EVAR!!!).

4322331

The name system was indeed cool. Hope to see it explored further in the later books.

And I did really like the detail that the 'chosen name' sometimes goes horrible wrong. That 'Radical XXX' or some-such doesn't quite fit the seventy-ish year old stay-at-home mom as it did the twenty-something porn-star.

Seems like a decently logical bit of trouble that should follow when you get one and only one chance at crafting such an alias. Real props to the author for actually addressing it, even in passing.

As someone who hasn't read Dresden Files, who would recommend Dresden Files to?

4322344 There does come up a lot of odd and funny names in the sequels, I seem to remember. Which one would you choose for yourself?

4322499
Are you ok with combat and death occurring in stories?
If yes, then I would recommend trying out Dresdon.:twilightsmile: (At least request a copy of the first book from your library) As it is well written and a very fun read.

The author does many things very well.
* His action scenes are well written.
* Interesting puzzles for the MC to solve.
* Good humor. (If you like the type he uses)
* Good character development for MC, side characters and repeat villains.
* A magic system that has consistent rules that all the characters follow.
* Good consistent lore.
* Respect of various mythologies.

4322499
While you should indeed read the first one like 4322962 suggests, because every story plays into the next, I can't fully recommend Storm Front alone. It is a decent book, but if it was the only thing I had read about the Dresden Files I probably would not have picked up the others.
Butcher was still sussing out Harry's "voice" as well as the world and characters in the first book, so it's a bit rough around the edges. I do fully recommend Fool Moon though, as the pacing and other such matters smooth out, we also get more information about how the magic works in this world. Butcher fully hit his stride in Grave Peril and every book or short story after that is a fun ride.
If you can get though the first book without too much trouble it just gets better from there, but if the first one puts you off a bit give the second a try and see if that one fits better for you.

4322499

As someone who hasn't read Dresden Files, who would recommend Dresden Files to?

4322962 and 4322986 made some really good points, already, but my two cents?

Did you like Buffy/Angel, X-Files or Supernatural? Then you'll probably like Dresden, since it has a similar 'all-myths-are-secretly-true, and-lurk-in-the-dark-corners-of-the-world' type world.

I honestly think that Dresden is superior, though. There's this real sense in the series that the fight between Good and Evil is a real struggle with Good frequently giving as good as it gets, while the other series above has/had this real problem with the world/town always being doomed... but for some reason nobody except the protagonist/s gives a shit.

Dresden on the whole is a very active hero as well, and has changed a lot over 15+ books. Somebody/Something nails him in a weakness? It doesn't happen again, at least not that way. Makes it easy to root for him, since you genuinly feel he's a dork in way over his head, doing his best. (And not Chosen One #122413435.)

>> Lord Of Dorkness There does come up a lot of odd and funny names in the sequels, I seem to remember. Which one would you choose for yourself?

:ajsmug:

4322962 Combat and death where it's appropriate, yes.

Sounds like I should've read it before I started my own story, most of what you listed are things I've gone for.

4322986 Noted. Sounds like a few other series I've read. I don't think early Discworld-books are bad, naturally, but they start picking up some time around Mort.

4323251 Speaking as someone who hasn't seen Firefly, I've never cared much for Whedon (his stuff I mean, I don't know the guy), but I'm always on the lookout for good examples of the types of stories he makes, just performed bit differently. I'd be kind of excited to see a hero who acts and not just reacts, and a hero not being a chosen one is something I've also been going for :pinkiesmile:

:ajsmug:

Go on. Don't be shy. Also, why not extend that question to everyone?

I think mine would be something like... 'Sombrero Surreptitious' or perhaps 'Polyester Ascension' :derpytongue2:

4323559

Go on. Don't be shy. Also, why not extend that question to everyone?

Notice the bit in my reply I hit with the red color tag. :twistnerd:

'Polyester Ascension' is a good one, though.

4323559
yeah, Rincewind was far more "useless dick" than "coward" in the early books.

Oh, and I've also read Skullduggery a while back. My one issue was that the text density felt ridiculously low after reading monsters like the Harry Potter series. Agree with "Dresden-Lite" description Never got past the 3rd book because the local library (or apparently, most of the US) didn't publish them. Heard it gets dark as fuck in the later books.

If I had to make a name, I would choose.... Appletank.
Yeah. I already respond to it if someone calls me that. Not that a lot of people do, but hey. I've stuck with this name for nearly a decade now, and I ain't changing.

4323559
4323746

yeah, Rincewind was far more "useless dick" than "coward" in the early books.

To be fair to The Eternal Coward, he got that way after being used, abused and running from near every creature on the disc with teeth. (And quite a few without.) The thing with potatoes especially was a direct result of that.

And... well, he wasn't exactly a happy camper to begin with, with what that Mega spell did to him, his magic and his carer at Unseen University.

He's fun to read about, but man is he a tragic character if you stop laughing and start thinking about it. :pinkiesad2:

4323745 Oh, I missed that :derpytongue2:

Now I wonder happens when you change your username. Do all links to your profile stop working?

4323746 I pick a new handle every time I make a new user somewhere. It's not really a good habit :twilightsheepish:

Is it a tank like a combat vehicle, or like a distillation-tool?

4323746 4323765 I've read more than half of the Discworld-books, but not all of them. I think my favorite recurring heroes, 'cept Death, of course, were Von Liqwig (despite not finding the name very funny), and probably the Lancre witches. Vimes was good, but kinda started wearing out his welcome by some of the later books, and Susan Sto Helit was too much underused, I think.

I had trouble getting emotionally involved in the Rincewind-stories I read, so he mostly ended up as a source for slapstick, and somewhat lacking in the protagonist-role.

4323836
Funny story, that. My brother and I were making accounts for Battle.net way back then. I liked tanks, he liked the marine sprites, and we both ate apples for dessert (parents cut fruit for school). I became AppleTankXX, he was AppleMarineXX. I dropped the xx, he hasn't.

4323836

Now I wonder happens when you change your username. Do all links to your profile stop working?

Eventually, but the site has a really good automatic re-direction tool. Thinks it's six months or so, after that you're out of luck.

I've grumbled a bit about a few of Knighty's design sensibilities and priorities in the past, but I'll freely admit that s/he's one hell of a solid site designer slash coder.

I've read more than half of the Discworld-books, but not all of them. I think my favorite recurring heroes, 'cept Death, of course, were Von Liqwig (despite not finding the name very funny), and probably the Lancre witches. Vimes was good, but kinda started wearing out his welcome by some of the later books, and Susan Sto Helit was too much underused, I think.

I think my favorite is Vimes, actually, but I'll still admit that he/The Watch probebly got a few too many books.

Found something very compeling about his arc, and how he's arguably one of the worst monsters on the Disc but keeps all that dark chained so deep, that nobody in-universe even suspects it.

I had trouble getting emotionally involved in the Rincewind-stories I read, so he mostly ended up as a source for slapstick, and somewhat lacking in the protagonist-role.

Have a similar problem with Susan, actually. Never been a fan of 'I Just Want To Be Normal! characters.

That, and the whole outright ignoring her grandfather thing. Not a fan of familiar abandonment, either, so near all of the character rubs me the wrong way.

Fun to read about, but grating, if that makes sense. Glad we got small but awesome doses of her, personally.

4324267 I'm still gonna assume that tanks in this case refers to containers for ethanol-production. Both that kind and the one with guns on can be associated with soldiers, after all :raritywink:

4324429 Oh yeah, as an aspiring web-developer, this is one hell of a site to study.

Found something very compeling about his arc, and how he's arguably one of the worst monsters on the Disc but keeps all that dark chained so deep, that nobody in-universe even suspects it.

On that, I think Vimes' best part was probably in Night Watch. Darker book, but it suited him, and he didn't have to share the spotlight with Carrot.

Have a similar problem with Susan, actually. Never been a fan of 'I Just Want To Be Normal! characters.

Well, if anyone would be able to do something interesting with them, it would be Pratchett; and he did, but only to a point :unsuresweetie:

That, and the whole outright ignoring her grandfather thing. Not a fan of familiar abandonment, either, so near all of the character rubs me the wrong way.

Fun to read about, but grating, if that makes sense. Glad we got small but awesome doses of her, personally.

I never got that vibe from her, at least by Thief Of Time. It's a big part of Death's characters to be alone and isolated, and Pratchett might've downplayed the familial isolation element to keep that part of Death static without making Susan come across as a dick. Or something, I'unno.

That sounds interesting enough at a glance that I actually didn't read this blog post and now plan to get the book myself. Thanks for the highlight.

Oh hey, hi Busstop. We really run into each other in the randomest places, eh?

4324496 Here on fimfiction, I hope? Otherwise there's someone posing as me somewhere :pinkiegasp:

By the way, weren't you supposed to be writing a story?

4324549
Haven't reached #100 yet.

4324559 99. I told you i'm watching you from the dumpster.

4324563
Doesn't count, tho. Ze numbers, zey must go up! Recovering MMO addict and all.

4324567 One reliable way to get followers on this site is to write a popular story in 2012.

4324571
At the current rate, I expect that I'll start writing sometime around early January.

4324573 If it's the story about human technology being magic, will ponies be able to get this one?: What is a data-base? The conjugate of a data-acid.

(Gosh, I hope no one is interested in talking about Irish skeletons anymore! :pinkiegasp: )

4324577
:rainbowlaugh:

Depends on what I decide about the specific mechanics of pony magic. Might be that they go "how the pronk did you extinguish one type of fire-aspected water by mixing it with another?!" instead, or something like that.

4324582 Came up with it myself– though no doubt someone came up with it before me and I just hadn't heard it. You're a chemist, though, you must have heard it.

Ooh, I like the idea that ponies' science is alchemy or whatever the ancient Greeks believed or something.

4324586
The pun doesn't really work all that well in German.

I honestly kind of want to use the actual pony elements of harmony for it instead, but I'm really not too sure what I could use to describe acid. Unkindness? "As the individual droplets of the liquid become Disloyal to each other, the fluid loses coherency and evaporates." That kind of thing. It's a pretty big stretch, though, no idea if I can make that work.

4324587 I say try.

Acids donates protons, right? Does this make hydrochloric acid Generous? Add some water and it becomes a bit too altruistic to handle without protection.

So a cheap and greedy noble, who can't stand the dirtiness of the lower rung of society, is obviously a base– the opposite of Generosity, just like his expensive soaps. This all makes sense.

CO is a Dishonest gas. It's colorless, and odorless... your wife won't even know what hit her :trollestia:

This is fun :derpytongue2:

4324592
I'll think about it. I don't really want to remove the story too far from the show as we see it and that kind of thing would take some serious finagling with things as basic as the setting's physics. The fact that I'm removing a whole bunch of them to make them actually be human magic instead is already kind of a big step and I think that might really overreach my worldbuilding abilities.

4324597 Fair enough, though it's fun to play with in your head.

Celestia visits an Apollo-ramp:
Human: "One of the pinacles of human engineering, your majesty—"
Celestia: *Gasp!* "The banishment-magic! Only the Element of Harmony should have this power!"
Human: "???"

OR:

Celestia visits the Kola borehole-ruins:
'So this is where the humans throw their monsters?' *Looks at the sealed up hole* 'They seem to have a streak of cruelty in victory. I would never place my opponents in a cell this small.'

4324605
Now that kind of thing I can easily include - and I thoroughly plan to steal and use as many of these little scenes as I can make fit.

4324609 Feel free. I assume you've read An Academic Visit? Nice details in there about how the magic-oriented people have trouble wrapping their head around technology-oriented people, I think.

Twilight looks through a nerd-oriented bookstore:
Human: "Well, you have fantasy over here, and science fiction over there."
Twilight comes back after a while: "Uuh, I'm having trouble understanding why these are in separate section."

4324617
Apropos books, something I plan to do is to have the unique defining trait of human magic, that is to say the one thing it'll let you do that no other kind can (they'll all have one) be to create magical energy ex nihilo from a physical source - which is to say, use generators, motors and such to power artificer spells.

Consider a simple 1-candela light spell as the basic "unit" of magical power and then compare that to the output of a typical nuclear power plant - the rough plans for which, of course, can be found in any fifth-graders physics textbook.

Imagine a somewhat gobsmacked Twilight rifling through a school kid's bag and going "so, uh, do all human foals carry around bags full of ascension spells with them?"

This might become a fairly central plot point.

4324626 Haha. I want to imagine Twilight, or perhaps some arrogant-prick-professor-stereotype from Celestia's school, first learning about power-generation from solar plants and coal plants. 'Okay, that makes sense. Fire, and the heat of the sun, redirected to create light and heat elsewhere.' Then learns about blowing up rare metals in nuclear plants. 'Wait, how does this work?' Then about wind power and hydroelectric power. '... What the hay?'

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