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Skulduggery Pleasant: Resurrection by Derek Landy and The Whitby Witches by Robin Jarvis. Book Review

June 23, 2017


Derek Landy and Robin Jarvis are two authors who really understand their audience; writing in a way that appeals to a wide age range and delivering gruesome scariness in just the right proportions. They also seem to be very comfortable spanning both the mid-grade reader and young adult market.

Landy might appear to write for young adults, but given that we first meet Valkyrie Cain, aka Stephanie Edgley at the age of twelve, the first Skulduggery book edges into the mid-grade market. Resurrection, the latest book in the Skulduggery series, finds her ten years older, making the book eligible for the new adult market. By bringing a new fourteen year old character into Resurrection, Landy also provides a platform for young adult readers to relate to the content of the book. In this way the original fans have been able to grow up with the books, but the younger character in the new book also means that YA readers can still feel a part of the story. Although Valkyrie is written in a way which makes her seem much younger, she has acquired the type of wisdom and angst associated with a woman who’s been put through the mill physically and psychologically.

Robin Jarvis is happy to slip from one age range to another and also write in a way that bridges the mid-grade reader to YA market.

Both writers have a very cinematic feel to their novels, particularly given the action that takes place in them and the brilliant sense of drama, due to some highly memorable and dastardly characters. Their stories also come under the category of ‘I don’t care if I’m an adult, I’m curling up with this one, once I’ve put the kettle on and filled a bowl with biscuits’.

Skulduggery Pleasant

Skulduggery Pleasant: Resurrection by Derek Landy.

It seemed as if after nine books that Valkerie and Skulduggery were going to put their feet up permanently. But there are still too many adventures to be had and inner as well as outer demons for Valkerie and Skulduggery to fight.

This time there are the usual suspects as well as Omen Darkly, a fourteen year old, insignificant school boy and underdog to his first-born (by a few minutes) older brother Auger who is supposed to take his place in history in “a battle that would decide the fate of humanity”. However Omen’s anonymity makes him an asset to Skulduggery who sets the unassuming boy off on some intelligence work with interesting results.

Resurrection is very dark. There is a genuine sense that people can get hurt and in some very unpleasant ways. But the story is also not without plenty of wise ass wit along the way. Because of this the Skullduggery Pleasant series shows little sign of wearing out its welcome.

Whitby Witches

The Whitby Witches by Robin Jarvis

Ben and Jennet are orphans who have been pushed from one foster home to another. This is because of Ben’s unnerving ability to see things normal people cannot see; like the dead. When they end up in the care of Alice Boston their unenviable life suddenly becomes a whole lot more interesting and dangerous, because Alice and her friends are not quite the sweet old ladies they might at first seem.

Something sinister is afoot in the seaside town of Whitby and things begin to get very strange and unpleasant.

The Whitby Witches was first published in the 1990s, with the latest, The Witching Legacy, carrying on the atmospheric eeriness of the Witches series. Although first published twenty six years ago, The Whitby Witches does not feel dated. There may be no mobile phones, but the action, gruesomeness and tension remains undiminished and the series sits well with the newer up-to-date The Witching Legacy series.

The Whitby Witches starts out Enid Blyton enough with a delicious tea, but set against an unsettling background because something appears to be ‘wrong’ with Ben.

Alice’s friends are an interesting group of ladies, but the rather unpleasant Rowena Cooper who seems to be taking over Alice’s little group is a force to be reckoned with and a wonderful villain to boo and hiss at. There are also plenty of hide behind the sofa and ‘look out behind you moments’.

This series introduces the Aufwaders or ‘Fisher Folk’, a reclusive and mysterious tribe of beings who can only be seen by special people, like Ben, who possess the sixth sense. It is forbidden for an Aufwader to associate with humans. But when Nelda Shrimp meets Ben they soon become good friends.

As usual there is an element of timeslip at which Jarvis excels, providing an interesting take on the history of Whitby.

Whitby is a place fast becoming number one on my places to see, providing it is as scary and other worldly as Robin Jarvis’s fantastical stories make out. But as it might also prove somewhat terminal, maybe I should take a good dose of magic with me to counteract all the mystical goings on.

Skulduggery Pleasant: Resurrection was courtesy of HarperCollins Children’s Books and The Whitby Witches was courtesy of Egmont Publishing, both via NetGalley.

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