Book update – Skulduggery Pleasant: Kingdom of the Wicked/Artemis Fowl/Black Arrow

I’m reading YA/MG again after a long detour into myth and tarot related materials (all grist for the mill, mind).

I haven’t actually finished the new Skulduggery Pleasant: Kingdom of the Wicked  by Derek Landy yet (well, it was only published this morning) but I’m far enough in to be enjoying it very much indeed. It’s not Tolstoy (thankfully, perhaps) but it’s still funny, fast-moving and with enough new ideas to keep the franchise vibrant. With boyfriend troubles behind her for the moment, the far more interesting relationship between the skeleton detective and Valkyrie takes centre stage again. There’s also more Ghastly (but, sadly, very little China Sorrows so far). It feels a little unedited in places and the dialog isn’t always as funny as Landy might think it is but it’s new Skulduggery and I’m devouring it at top speed.

I’m way behind the rest of the planet on Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl but bought the third one in a charity shop for dudelet  (aged 8) when he ran out of books to read on holiday. He tore through it at light speed and loved it to bits. He’s been through the first and is agitating for the second. I tried to blackmail him into reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe before he was allowed any more but he wasn’t having any.

“I don’t like Narnia! It’s rubbish I like Artemis Fowl! It’s much better! It’s exciting and better written.”

I died a little, of course, but dutifully gave into his exhortations and read Artemis Fowl for myself. And I like it. Yes, there are fairies and deadly collisions between races but this no ordinary middle-grade urban fantasy. Colfer’s fairies are high-tech special forces types or sys-op king-pin centaurs with smart mouths. To all intents and purposes, it’s a well-crafted science fiction thriller. With the Little People. The key ingredient, though, is the very concept of Artemis himself, the twelve-year-old criminal mastermind. I say ‘concept’ because Artemis himself is curiously unengaging in this first outing. I preferred his devoted No. 1, Butler, who has an utterly scene-stealing moment of mayhem with…Well, that would spoil it. But, trust me, Butler is the man you’d want beside you in a dark alley full of deadly assailants. Though definitely not behind you.

Lastly, I finished Robert Louis Stephenson’s The Black Arrow, which might be most kindly described as a ‘medieval romp’. Set in the Wars of the Roses, it follows eighteen-year Dick as he progresses from hard-done-by ward to minor noble, finding romance and a small amount of self-knowledge on the way.

In keeping with the tradition of mayhem in Treasure Island, guts are spilled, heads roll and gizzards (whatever that means) are spitted. The dialog was risible even at the time (‘”Ye are something smallish, indeed,’ began Dick.”) and the Winters Tale style shenanigans at the beginning of the book, where everyone except Dick can see that his travelling companion (and future romantic interest) is a girl, get old fast. Really fast. What was RLS thinking? Take this, for instance

“I tell you,” he went on with a chuckle. ” I swear by the mass  I believe Hugh Ferryman took you for a maid.”

“Nay, never,” cried the other, colouring high.

“A’ did, though, for a wager,” Dick exclaimed. “Small blame to him. Ye look liker maid than man; and – I tell you more – y’are a strange looking rogue for a boy; but for a hussy, Jack, ye would be right fair – ye would. Ye would be well favoured for a wench.”

And so on and on…If you like Stephenson, it’s diverting and entertaining but no Kidnapped.

Next week, I’ll have to try reading some Serious Literature between bashing away at the next draft for my own masterpiece. I doubt Serious Literature will be as much fun, mind.

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About Dad Who Writes (Gabriel)

Writing, reading, listening, parenting... On Twitter as @dadwhowrites. View all posts by Dad Who Writes (Gabriel)

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