Skulduggery Pleasant: Bedlam (and all the others) Review

Skulduggery Pleasant: Bedlam by Derek Landy Review. Also a vague review of the second series overall, which assumes you have knowledge of the first series as well. If you don’t, this is going to be quite confusing. For example, Skulduggery is a skeleton and this is a world with magic. If you haven’t read the first series, they are excellent and I highly recommend you go and read them then come back!

I LOVE the Skulduggery Pleasant series. I read the first series and was completely obsessed with them, seeing Valkyrie grow up and realise her destiny with Skulduggery Pleasant always by her side with an army of suits and sassy comebacks. The books had a colourful cast of characters who you couldn’t help but like, hate, or both! They were always so easy to read and slip into, full of plot twists and unexpected events that never felt forced while still paying attention to the normal like Valkyrie was neglecting due to her wild adventures and how she tried to balance them. If you haven’t read them, do it. You don’t need to be a kid or a teenager to enjoy the ride.

When I saw Derek Landy was bringing back the Skulduggery Pleasant series I was excited, especially since they would continue to follow Valkyrie and Skulduggery as well as introducing some new characters. Bedlam is the third book in the resurrection of the series, and for me the best thing is Valkyrie. Yes, she is still a badass main character who travels around solving (and causing) problems with Skulduggery, but she has grown. She is in her early twenties and behaves accordingly, and Landy includes Valkyrie trying to cope with the massive trauma of the events of the previous series and the effect it has had on her adult life. Her dynamic with Skulduggery has evolved with the series and I’m so glad, because it shows the reality of relationships changing as you get older. SPOILER ALERT FOR BEDLAM ALTHOUGH IT IS FOUND OUT IN THE FIRST CHAPTER: Valkyrie has a girlfriend! It made me very, very happy. And leads to a funny scene with Fletcher.

Because this series is introducing new plots, where Valkyrie is not the main recipient of the prophecies, there are more characters and plot lines to follow. It can feel a little chaotic at times, flicking between perspectives. One of the main ones is Omen Darkly, the younger brother of the chosen one. I like Omen, he is quite obviously meant to be the useless younger brother but he’s great and quite relatable at times. Both Fletcher and Tanith make appearances in Bedlam, characters I am thrilled to see again because nostalgia. Derek Landy continues to write 3-dimensional villains and characters who aren’t good or bad, just living their life and I like the lack of distinction, the blurring of the line which separates good from evil.

The world we are plunged into is a world familiar but changed, since as with Valkyrie, Landy shows the aftereffects of the previous wars and the way this would be reflected in the world. For me, this made the book really interesting as it deepened my understanding of the world while continuing to throw in delightful details. With his characteristic humour, Landy kept me grinning throughout the whole book while getting me emotionally invested in a plot with far too much happening at once, although there are a few moments of normality amongst the chaos which provide a welcome break.

In conclusion: Valkyrie is hot, Omen is hilarious and Skulduggery is Skulduggery. Not much more I could ask for really, and I will definitely be reading the next one. Since the first series both Valkyrie and I have realised we like girls, a lovely parallel which randomly occurred to me while I was writing this. If you’ve got this far and haven’t read the series yet, do it. A well-built world with plenty happening and buckets of fun. Some books you read and a month later have forgotten what happened. I can still remember loads of the first Skulduggery Pleasant series and I read them years ago. Just go for it.

I hope you’re all well, and enjoying your summer! I’m now on my summer holidays, although I have quite a bit of revision to do for my exams in September. It’s strange because holidays don’t feel that different to school anymore; it’s all at home. Anyone else experiencing this, or does your life have more distinct lines between work and home? Let me know.

June 2020 Roundup

Here we are again, another monthly roundup! I have literally just written the May 2020 Roundup, so it feels a little strange to be writing June’s directly after. However, I’m on a blog post writing roll and have a scheduled post for the first time in a couple of months so I’m just going for it. I didn’t have many choices for favourites in June, mainly because I haven’t read much. I’ve only read 9 books, although in my defence I did a lot of writing so I could get my current project finished before the July camp NaNoWriMo began.

Book 1: Islander by Patrick Barkham

Genre: nonfiction, travel writing

What I liked: the islands chosen, the unique mixture of personal experience on the islands and history/ culture of the islands, the nature and setting descriptions

What I didn’t like: I would have loved a sequel, or more islands included because I absolutely loved the style of writing

Who I would recommend it to: Anyone interested in learning more about the islands of Britain, or anyone who just likes hearing about cool, isolated places

Book 2: May Day by Josie Jaffrey

Genre: vampires, fantasy, contemporary

What I liked: the humour, all the characters especially the bisexual, badass main character, the setting of Oxford

What I didn’t like: that there’s no sequel yet. I devoured this book in one sitting and I was 100% primed for another one.

Who I would recommend it to: fans of urban fantasy, vampires and awesome, humorous writing

Book 3: The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

Genre: sci-fi

What I liked: Really cool, fresh concept and the world-building was good. I liked the main character and the plot twists. Also: amazing ending.

What I didn’t like: I would have enjoyed more emotional depth to the story. I felt like I was missing a connection.

Who I would recommend it to: science fiction fans, people looking to try something new

Book 4: The Peace of Wild Things and Other Poems by Wendell Berry

Genre: poetry

What I liked: there are not enough words to describe how much I adored this poetry collection. Its writing is so evocative and peaceful, I just want to move to the countryside and live in a cottage and tend to my orchard

What I didn’t like: Nothing.

Who I would recommend it to: poetry-lovers, people who don’t like poetry, anyone who asks me for a poetry recommendation, people who love nature and want to reconnect with it

Book 5: The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones

Genre: middle grade, fantasy

What I liked: the magic, the seemingly unconnected plot strands which pulled together, the richly developed characters

What I didn’t like: I don’t really have any complaints. This is not a book written for adults but I really enjoyed it.

Who I would recommend it to: People who want a good book which is a bit easier to read, kids, people who want a book to read with their family

I might not have read many books this month, but I am happy to say I have definitely read quality books. I loved every single book on this list, and I took the time to really engage with each book so maybe reading 9 books in a month isn’t so bad. There’s also the fact I keep starting books and not finishing them, which means despite reading my total books doesn’t actually go up because I don’t finish them before starting something new! Do you stick to one book at a time or have bookmarks here, there and everywhere? I’d love to hear, so comment down below or click on one of the links to check out my social media!

The Tyrant’s Tomb

The Tyrant’s Tomb by Rick Riordan.

For more of me saying how much I love Rick Riordan, check out my previous post!

‘We didn’t count the dead. They weren’t numbers. They were people we had known, friends we had fought with.”

What a line. Without spoilers, my heart was broken once again in this book. I really wish Riordan would stop writing such loveable characters who you see develop and grow and then doing horrible things to them. I would be perfectly happy to have a book of just daily life at Camp Jupiter and Camp Half-Blood. There’s is no need for all the pain.
I love this new version of Apollo, seeing him reflect on the mistakes he has made and truly regretting them, watching him change from a haughty god to someone who genuinely cares about the people around him. I loved the choice of the song Sweet Caroline. I love the mix of old and new characters, from Apollo and Meg to Thalia Grace. And most of all I love the line ‘We didn’t count the dead. They weren’t numbers. They were people we had known, friends we had fought with’ even though it made me cry. It just seems so relevant.
This book was so readable but never over-simplified, the world doesn’t feel at all tired or overwritten despite the volume of books Riordan has published and the mix of new and old characters and plots is just seamless. Reading this after a while of not reading any of Riordan’s books feels like coming home.
As usual, Riordan has an excellent plot, awesome characters and lots of humour. If you haven’t read these books, what are you waiting for? Go and get Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.

A Love Letter to Rick Riordan’s Books

I remember the day that I bought Percy Jackson and the lightning thief. It was a world book day, and we had vouchers that allowed £1 off a book so my mum took my brothers and me to a bookshop where we could choose a book. I spent some time looking around, but nothing in particular caught my fancy. (How?!) Then my mum suggested Percy Jackson. I read the blurb and although I was unsure about having a male main character, my younger self obviously decided it would do because I bought it. I was eight or nine at that point. I am now 17.

I have many memories of Rick Riordan’s books since then. I remember comparing favourite passages of the Son of Neptune with my primary school friends, I remember reading the Sea of Monsters and adoring Circe, I remember the torturous wait for The Blood of Olympus to be released. After that I paused for a while, with no new books and a new school to contend with. Yet the moment I saw that Rick Riordan had released two new series, Magnus Chase and The Trials of Apollo, I set my heart upon tracking them down and reading them ASAP. And even though I am irrevocably changed from the little girl who first read these books, they still retained their magic. I still raced through them, falling in love with the characters, perhaps even more this time because I was a teenager and I understood some of the things the characters were going through. I just finished reading The Tyrant’s Tomb in the Trials of Apollo series and without spoilers, it felt like my childhood was ending slightly, despite the fact there will be another book.

Rick Riordan’s books are a wonder. There is no debating that. I truly believe that anyone, of any age could enjoy them, and that they should. These books are so much more than fantasy-adventure books for children based on Greek, Roman, Norse and Egyptian mythology. They mix fantasy and the real world perfectly, with a hefty dollop of humour and sarcasm. No matter how many books Riordan writes in this world (and there’s quite a few now!) it never feels tired or overwritten. It just adds to the awesome.

The range of characters is astounding, each realistic and profoundly individual. You cannot help but fall in love with them, their quirks and habits and hopes and fears. Rick Riordan showed me that things society deems as flaws or disadvantages are not unilaterally so, taking dyslexia and ADHD as common characteristics for demigods because it helps them with reading Ancient Greek and being alert on the battlefield. Riordan has an incredible range of diversity, much more so than I see in most adult literature, and he had it when I needed it most. Characters struggling with their sexuality and hating themselves for it resounded with me deeply as I came to terms with my own, and the hardships that Riordan shows the characters overcoming, from their childhoods and personal lives, showed me that negative events do not have to define my future and there is always hope. Being different does not mean being wrong, or broken, or undeserving of happiness.

Gently, almost imperceptibly, Riordan weaves in messages that I am thoroughly glad I grew up with. It’s okay to be different, everyone has different strengths and together we can be stronger than apart. That it’s okay to be wrong, and what is important is learning from your mistakes, apologising and making reparations for what you have done. That it’s okay to show emotions, and it does not make you weak or unlovable. I am sure there are many more, and one I particularly noticed in the Tyrant’s Tomb was the way Riordan portrays battles. There is an element of fun, because of course these are first and foremost children’s books, of slaying monsters and awesome skills. But Riordan does not shy away from showing the aftermath, the heartbreak and devastation and grief that follows, the pain and destruction war causes. This can be so easily glossed over, making war seem heroic and brave rather than the devastating event that it is. I finally cracked and cried when I came to the line ‘We didn’t count the dead. They weren’t numbers. They were people we had known, friends we had fought with.’ It just seemed so relevant in the world we live in today, full of politicians quoting statistics and percentages like they are merely facts and figures, instead of people’s lives.

This is one of the few series that I have cried at character deaths, and it does not surprise me, for I have grown up with these characters, spent years following their stories. I very rarely reread books and yet my Rick Riordan books all have cracked spines from where I have spent hours poring over the pages, each time noticing some new details that makes me smile. The humour of the books, ever witty and sarcastic is my exact sense of humour and it does make me wonder whether I liked the books because of my sense of humour, or if I developed my sense of humour liking the books. Hearing of a new Rick Riordan book being released fills me with excitement every single time. They are so easy to slip into and get carried away by the story, so disappointing when they finish. Over the years they have been my solace, my guide and my reassurance that everything is going to be okay.

So, thank you, Rick Riordan. Thank you for the books that have shaped my life as I know it. I cannot imagine life without them, and I wouldn’t want to. Even if sometimes I love your books so much it hurts, reading them feels like coming home.