Skulduggery Pleasant One-Liners

I’m placing you under arrest for murder, conspiracy to commit murder and, I don’t know, possibly littering.

– Skulduggery Pleasant

Skulduggery: What would killing the Elders result in?
Valkyrie: Panic? Fear? Three empty parking spaces in the Sanctuary?

– Skulduggery Pleasant

I woke up, a bag of bones. Literally. They had gathered up my bones and put them in a bag and thrown the bag into a river.

– Skulduggery Pleasant

If you hear any screaming, that’ll be me.

– Skulduggery Pleasant

Serpine: You have caused me so much trouble over the years detective. It’s almost a shame to end it
Skulduggery: You’re surrendering?

– Skulduggery Pleasant


Valkyrie: Was it a test? I mean, I know I’m still new to this. I’m still the rookie. Did you hang back to test me, to see if I’d be able to handle it alone?
Skulduggery: Well, kind of. Actually, no, nothing like that. My shoelace was untied. That’s why I was late. That’s why you were alone.
Valkyrie: I could have been killed because you were tying your SHOELACE?
Skulduggery: An untied shoelace an be dangerous, I could have tripped.

She stared at him. A moment dragged by.

Skulduggery: I’m joking.
Valkyrie: Really?
Skulduggery: Absolutely. I would never have tripped. I’m far too graceful

– Playing with Fire

Valkyrie: Have you killed anyone?
Scrapgrace: What? Did you miss what I said, about turning murder into
an art form?
Valkyrie: But you haven’t actually killed anyone yet, have you? I read
your file.
Scrapgrace: Technically, yeah, all right, maybe I haven’t

– Playing with Fire


Honesty is, honestly, the best policy. But when honesty doesn’t work, lie, and lie convincingly.

– Saracen Rue, The Dying of the Light


“Of course I want to kill you. I want to kill most people. But then where would I be? In a field of dead people with no one to talk to.”

– Skulduggery Pleasant, Kingdom of the Wicked


Stephanie: What was wrong with the door? You could have just come down the stairs and walked out the door. Why did you have to jump out of the window?
Skulduggery: You know why
Axle: Why did he do that? Why?
Stephanie: Because doors are for people with no imagination.

– The Dying of the Light


“It would be fun. I like kicking Wreath in the face. I haven’t had a chance to do it nearly as much as I’d like.”

– Skulduggery Pleasant, Mortal Coil


Nye: Clarabelle…Clarabelle… You worked as Kenspeckle Grouse’s assistant, did you not?’
Clarabelle: One of the. He fired all the others.
Nye: But not you?
Clarabelle: He fired me on the second day, but I kept coming in. I had nowhere else to go.
Nye: And then you killed him.
Clarabelle: Yes.
Nye: A Remnant squirmed inside you, and you killed Kenspeckle Grouse.
Clarabelle: Yes.
Nye: You’re hired. But I have warn you, if you try to kill me, I will dissect you and sing along to your screams.
Clarabelle: Can I have Mondays off?
Nye: You may.

– Death Bringer


Tanith: Serpine is used to the Elders taking forever to make their calm, thought-out decisions. So he won’t be expecting anything as amazingly rash and reckless as this.
Ghastly: That’ll teach him to underestimate stupid people.

– Skulduggery Pleasant


Serpine: No, my old enemy, I think for the moment anyway, we’re all alone. And you have something I want.
Skulduggery: A winning sense of style?

– Skulduggery Pleasant


Skulduggery: It would be a tad redudant to encourage you to hurry up, wouldn’t it? Whatever you do, do not fall over. Falling over, I think, would be the wrong move to make at this moment
Valkyrie: Hate…
Skulduggery: Yes?
Valkyrie: Hate… You…
Skulduggery: Breathe some more air, the lack of oxygen is making you delirious.

– Playing with Fire

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Ten Things I loved about Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant

1. Skulduggery is a magical skeleton detective.

Just stop and think about that for a second. So many children’s authors would expect their young readers to simply suspend their disbelief and accept that, in the world of this novel, magical skeleton detectives are just part of how things roll. Not so Derek Landy. Instead, Skulduggery’s past and his current status as animate skeleton are explained so matter-of-factly that the reader is able to place complete trust in the potential of this world to exist. Skulduggery is witty, droll, powerful, loyal and just a little bit shifty. Few titular characters are as likable as the skeleton detective.


2. The meta-fictional sense of humour

Skulduggery Pleasant is a book that is constantly aware of its genre, and of the reader’s scepticism. Rather than trying to overcome this with detailed descriptions and overwhelming world-building, Landy instead turns this into a basis for humour.  Skulduggery Pleasant literally made me laugh out loud so often that I repeatedly garnered odd looks from my fellow passengers on public transport.

“China is the same age as I am, and even I have to admit that she wears it better!” He laughed, then stopped and peered at her. “Because I’m a skeleton” he explained.”

“A living skeleton isn’t enough for you, is it? What does it take to impress young people these days?”

“Doesn’t sunlight kill them? Doesn’t it turn them to dust, or make them burst into flames or something?”
“Nope. Vampires tan, just like you and me. Well, just like you. I tend to bleach.”


3. The character’s names are excellent.

The magic system in the world of Skulduggery Pleasant is based upon names. Individuals are given three names – their given name, the name they choose, and their true name. Some of the names that characters choose for themselves are simply wonderful:  Skulduggery Pleasant, for one, but also: Mevolent, the evil sorcerer; Meritorious, one of the wise Elders; Ghastly, the scarred but kindly tailor; and China Sorrows, dangerously beautiful librarian.


4. Stephanie’s inquisitive and enjoyably bossy personality

I’m so tired of reading reviews that praise “strong female characters.” It’s a concept I can no longer be bothered engaging with, because I think I believe it is more detrimental than it is helpful to depictions of female characters. What fiction, especially children’s fiction, needs more of are characters like Stephanie. Through a combination of inheritance and conscious choice, Stephanie finds herself fully immersed in the magical world of Skulduggery and his companions. Certain that she is now on the path to realising her life’s goals, she pesters, annoys and frustrates Skulduggery into taking her on as an apprentice. Stephanie is whip-smart, insolent and determined. In other words, she’s an actual twelve-year-old girl, and not an idealised “role model” coming to us from the top of an unrealistically high pedestal.


5. The book does not speak down to its readers

This is not a book dumbed down for its young readers. Now, it should be noted that the narration, content and language used are all age-appropriate, but in no way is it lowered in either quality or context for the younger reader. This means that Skulduggery Pleasant is just as enjoyable for the adult readers as it is for the kids!


6. The cleverly revealed layers of the plot

In addition to the highly entertaining dialogue, the plot of the first novel is fast-paced, action-packed and character-driven. All the things that you need to make a compulsive read. The author pays homage to the noir tradition, but also splices in all manner of pop-culture references (not the least of which is Lovecraftian!).


7. The relationship between Skulduggery and Stephanie (later Valkyrie)

Skulduggery is Stephanie’s teacher, mentor and protector. In turn, she is his loyal protégée. At times, they act like bickering siblings, and they’re certainly not afraid of being open with one another, but it’s quite clear that they are fiercely protective friends. It is refreshing and endearing to read about a genuinely caring relationship which is not based on romance. Skulduggery and Stephanie are simply in this together because they want to be, and that’s lovely.

“…what I was going to say is there’s something about you that is really annoying, and you never do what you’re told, and sometimes I question your intelligence—but even so, I’m going to train you, because I like having someone follow me around like a little puppy. It makes me feel good about myself.”
She rolled her eyes. “You are such a moron.”
“Don’t be jealous of my genius.”
“Can you get over yourself for just a moment?”
“If only that were possible.”
“For a guy with no internal organs, you’ve got quite the ego.”
“And for a girl who can’t stand up without falling over, you’re quite the critic.”
“My leg will be fine.”
“And my ego will flourish. What a pair we are.”


8. The fact that Skulduggery Pleasant is not yet a movie franchise

This is surprising, because it’s a series bound for the silver screen. I’m delighted to have found these books before they get to movie-stage, because it could be done so very badly. Derek Landy’s novels are eccentric, quintessentially Irish and highly imaginative, and I worry that they would not translate effectively through the lens of a Hollywood camera. Read them before a film comes out, so you can make up your own mind.


9. The darkness that counterbalances the humour

Many children’s novels lean toward the saccharine in order to avoid frightening young readers. Few authors manage to walk the line between humour and darkness, but Landy carries it off without a hitch. There are scenes of surprising darkness in Skulduggery Pleasant, but the characters balance this out with unexpected quips and flippant commentary. Indeed, when Skulduggery is faced with somewhat graphic torture, he lightens the mood considerably by  simply laughing at his captor.


10. The fact that this is a whole series I get to discover

These are the kind of books I look forward to reading during my breaks, on the bus and before bed – an escape into a world with vivid characters, a multi-faceted magic system and an endless font of humour.

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