Tag Archives: Derek Landy

Hanging on, and forgetting

I forget. Not quite everything, but an embarrassing amount.

When there is a new book once a year, even if it’s part of a series I really like, I need to work hard at remembering ‘how we left things.’ Usually I can pick up quickly enough, especially if there’s some coarse hint somewhere near the beginning.

Keeping up with Harry Potter was never a problem. I remembered his name and those of most of his friends and teachers. What’s more, I remembered what they’d done in the last book too.

If someone were to chat to me about when a certain thing happened in Skulduggery Pleasant, I would remember it. What I’d be less sure about is which book it was; the latest one, or one or two further back?

Maybe this is normal for my age. It’s not that I don’t obsess about the books. I do. I especially enjoyed it when, erm, you-know-him did that, thing, at that place…

And how can I forget cliff-hangers? It’s in their very nature that you mustn’t forget. Can’t forget.

Eleanor Updale, Montmorency Returns

So now that I have this new-found interest in Eleanor Updale’s Montmorency, maybe it’s a good thing I am looking at reading all the books in a short period of time. That way I’ll remember what just happened.

I know this isn’t an option when you have to wait for books to be published. And whereas it can’t be the same if you come to Harry Potter now, having missed out on the media frenzy and midnight trips to bookshops, it must feel good to be able to move from the fourth book to the fifth and not have a three year wait.

To return to Eleanor and her books, I was intrigued to see that both Johnny Swanson and The Last Minute are published in paperback within weeks of each other, along with Eleanor’s own reissued Montmorency books and the new fifth book. Someone is wanting an Updale book bath.

Skulduggery Pleasant – Last Stand of Dead Men

Not all characters die quite as much as others. Being dead is not necessarily a permanent position, nor is being reduced to existing as merely a head. Though not all dead characters return to life, unfortunately.

And I had no idea that Darquesse had a sense of humour!

I can’t believe I missed the arrival of Skulduggery Pleasant’s penultimate outing in Last Stand of Dead Men. Somehow this time of year comes round far too quickly on occasion. A witch shouldn’t have to stand in a bookshop and think ‘Funny, I don’t recognise that Skulduggery cover. Or the title…’

Derek Landy, Skulduggery Pleasant Last Stand of Dead Men

This is war, and it is very bloody indeed. And don’t believe what you see on the cover.

In fact, don’t believe what you thought as the last book ended. It’s not going to be quite like that. That’s how Derek Landy keeps his Minions on their toes. Besides, I know of no other books where the characters change sides so often you don’t even remember what side they’ve just changed from. Or how many times.

Someone you like will die. Not everyone, though, because there will be one more book, and it will want a few people in it.

I am not twelve and I don’t look like Valkyrie, but that doesn’t prevent me from loving these books. They are exciting and they are funny. I’d like to quote a bit, but there are too many potential quotes for it to be possible to pick just the one.

Valkyrie – or perhaps I mean Stephanie – has just left school with excellent results. She needs to decide what to do. Valkyrie wants to continue doing what she does with Skulduggery. The reflection wants to live Valkyrie’s perfect life at home.

And then a lot of hells break lose all over the place.

As for the surprise traitor, I had been expecting it, because there was such a heavy hint (more than a hint, actually) a few books ago that it didn’t seem like a surprise.

Did I mention that Darquesse has a sense of humour? Who’d have thought?

The EIBF 2013 programme

It’s not exactly a bad programme this year. It’s not exactly short on authors, either. I’ve probably missed a few, seeing as I have only browsed the pdf  in a hasty fashion, but even so, were it not for the fact that I actually know I am unable to cover the full two and a half weeks of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, I’d sign up for the complete works. Again.

I’d been thinking a weekend. Maybe a longish weekend, but no more than four days. But which longish weekend? And what about the fantastic midweek offerings?

This is going to be an easy post to write! I could simply list authors, one after the other. But that would be boring.

For the time being I will not cover the adult writers, although I noticed Salman Rushdie is coming. Roddy Doyle. And Patrick Ness is an adult this time.

So, first weekend ‘as usual’ we have Meg Rosoff, as well as her stable (yeah, right…) mates Eoin Colfer and Cathy Cassidy. Anne Fine, Tommy Donbavand, Helena Pielichaty, Linda Strachan, Andy Mulligan. Carnegie winner Sally Gardner. Obvious choice. First weekend it will be.

Meg Rosoff

On the other hand, during the week when it grows a little quieter we have Elizabeth Wein. Hmm. Debi Gliori with Tobermory Cat. Nicola Morgan. Lari Don and Vivian French. Damien M Love. Well, that would be good!

But Elen Caldecott is someone I’ve always missed. She’s there the second weekend. It will have to be the middle weekend. Charlie Fletcher, Teresa Breslin and Eleanor Updale, Jon Mayhew and Darren Shan. Need I say more? OK, Tom Palmer, Chae Strathie. Melvin Burgess. Keith Gray.

Jonathan Stroud has a new book coming, which I like the look of. And he’s there the second week. So are Julie Bertagna and Teri Terry, and Daniel Hahn is talking translation. That is interesting.

Having said that, the last, extra long weekend looks by far the best. Doesn’t it? Judit Kerr. Neil Gaiman. Our new children’s laureate, Malorie Blackman. Our own Liz Kessler, and Tim Bowler. Philip Caveney from ‘home’ and Derek Landy, whom I’ve not seen for a long time… Jo Nadin and Spideyman himself, Steve Cole.

Yes. No competition there. Except maybe all the other days.

What do the rest of you think?

(Sorry. I see I have done a list after all.)

The Maleficent Seven

Authors have been known to get it wrong on occasion. ‘Little’ things like which characters their readers really, really like. Luckily Derek Landy seems to understand – and possibly shares – our fascination with Tanith Low. So he wrote a whole extra book about her, while we wait for Skulduggery number eight.

And I for one am quite satisfied. We now know a lot more about Tanith and what made her the way she is (that’s before the Remnant took up residence in her). She’s a violent murderer, but she’s a nice one. I think.

Derek Landy, Tanith Low in the Maleficent Seven

In The Maleficent Seven Tanith collects a group of other bad types to steal some particularly deadly weapons, before a similar group of slightly more ‘good guys’ steal them. Each group wants them so the other group can’t do whatever they believe the others will do with the weapons.

The plot is a little complicated (for me) but there are satisfyingly many fights, and no one fights fair. Tanith wears a selection of alluring outfits, while some of her colleagues smell. Not all of them like killing, but death is unavoidable.

The dialogue is its usual fun and witty self, with plenty of puns, just the way we like it. And there’s romance. Lots of it!

We’ve met a few of these characters before, but I suspect Derek picked more low key people and new characters to keep this tale separate from the Skulduggery books. Presumably you could read the next one without having first read about Tanith’s maleficent seven, but why would you want to? You’re a fan. You’ll want to read this.

More authors should consider bonus books about their most loveable creations.

Bookwitch bites #96

I’m afraid I don’t know who I am. Usually I can tell that people (children, generally, but children are also people) who contact me have been reading the Derek Landy interview or something about Jacqueline Wilson, and they are under the impression I am them.

This week I heard from a charming young man who loves my books and he is doing a profile on me for school and the school would like me to visit them. Again. It seems I’ve already been. They will pick up any travelling costs I may have, although my fan might be wrong on that.

My research tells me the school is in Nova Scotia. I’m really looking forward to it.

Someone who might be in Notting Hill – or she might not – is SH, who contacted me (see, I’m really very popular) and said she felt like applying for that job in Notting Hill. I wished her good luck.

I’ve not heard from her since.

Nor have we had any more contact with dear Clecky…

Gill Lewis, Sky Hawk

To end on a happier note, above is the winning book from the Salford Children’s Book Award, Sky Hawk by Gill Lewis.

Bookwitch bites #92

Thank goodness for these bites where I can complain on a variety of subjects almost every week. Occasionally I have lovely news as well. Let’s see if I can find some.

I don’t often (like never, obviously) receive invitations from the Canadian High Commission in London, but this week I had to make myself say ‘no thanks’ to them. But as Disney’s Cinderella says, what could possibly be nice about a visit to Canada House? (Only all of it…)

Came across the programme for Book Week Scotland at the end of November. Can’t go, even though I can be found north of the border that very week. So no Frank Cottrell Boyce. No Debi Gliori and no Steve Cole. Nobody.

Offspring are my reasons for travelling, and Son had some news this week, relating to the literal translation he did earlier this year. We are finally able to say it was Strindberg, for the Donmar at Trafalgar Studios. The Dance of Death. Will get back to you on that.

Before leaving Scotland, let me just mention the Grampian Children’s Book Award 2013. Apart from Patrick Ness who is on every single shortlist these days, the shortlisted authors are Barry Hutchison, Cathy MacPhail, Mark Lowery, Dave Cousins and Annabel Pitcher. Tough competition.

South to Newcastle, where the good news is that Seven Stories can call themselves National Centre for Children’s Books, as the only ‘national’ place in the Northeast. Well done to a special place!

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

Actually, I am coping with the happy business, after all. We’ll finish with a decisive jump across the water to Ireland, where they have The Irish Book Awards. You can vote, but you might want to follow my example and only vote in categories (they have so many!) where you have read the books. Luckily I didn’t have to choose between Declan Burke and Adrian McKinty. Not quite so lucky with Eoin Colfer and Derek Landy, though.

A witch can always flip a coin.

Bookwitch bites #88

As I was hinting in yesterday’s review, authors really can’t make their minds up, can they? Eva Ibbotson has very sweet, vegetarian abominable snowmen. Derek Landy’s version are the worst possible. They tried to… (oops, spoiler)

Never mind.

And then there is that J K Rowling who has a new book out that dares not to be about wizards. I like that. It’s not even about vampires. And I gather the only dystopia is our own. As it already is, and all that. I’m supposed to be getting a copy. Hasn’t happened yet, but I’ll let you know. Do you reckon after Harry and Barry, the next hero will be called, erm, Larry?

I could kill that Ian Rankin for spreading rumours J K was writing a crime novel. He should stick to balls in BSL.

Although, sticking to things aren’t always for the best. Stephen and Lucy Hawking have new covers for the George trilogy, and for such a stick-in-the-mud, I do like the new covers better than the old ones.
Lucy and Stephen Hawking, George trilogy
Aren’t they cool? Surely any child would want to read these? I would almost want to be a child again. Almost.

Whenever I receive information as a member of the Jacqueline Wilson fan club (yes, really) I do feel quite young. The message from Dame JW herself in celebration of the newly re-designed website makes me want to worship at her knee.

And there is Emerald Star still to enjoy. It was published this week, but whereas super fan Daughter has read it, I had to stand in queue and will get to it shortly. Time she grew up and let me be the child. After all, I am the shortest.

Skulduggery Pleasant – Kingdom of the Wicked

The good thing about fantasy is that the author can bring back dead characters.

The bad thing about fantasy is that the author can bring back dead characters.

So basically, you’re only as dead as Derek Landy wants you to be. In Skulduggery Pleasant, Kingdom of the Wicked, Derek kills and revives his characters at an astonishing speed, even for him.

Valkyrie and Skulduggery have their work cut out, when lots of people suddenly find they have magic powers. That is not good. Colleagues overseas don’t think what is happening in Ireland is terribly good, either. And Valkyrie really would like to spend more time with her family (before she, as Darquesse, kills them), but she is needed elsewhere.

Heads roll. People come back. Skulduggery and Valkyrie do that humourous banter thing they always do. There is more than one reality. (And I really do wish authors could agree on whether abominable snowmen are good or bad!) This is gruesome stuff. Whether it’s worse than normal, or if I just never noticed quite how gory before, I don’t know. But I love it!

Derek Landy, Skulduggery Pleasant - Kingdom of the Wicked

I shouldn’t, though. There is absolutely nothing about the book that would tempt me – in my role as an old woman –  if I came to it now. I don’t particularly like the cover (I used to) and the blurb is like any other fantasy blurb. Even the old trick of reading the first chapter wouldn’t do it for me. If I wasn’t already a fan, obviously. Perhaps we need an adult cover, like HP?

But I do like the dedication. That alone would sell the book. Derek has dedicated Kingdom of the Wicked to the publisher’s PR department. I know most of them. He has a little personal bit for each and every one. It’s very nice, done with just the right level of love and humour.

(But dearest Derek, there is no such thing as the wrong train for you to get on. If you’re on it, how can it be the wrong train?)

Ending with a cliffhanger, this is worse even than when we ‘lost’ Tanith. That thing I’d been concerned about for some time, really happens. And after kind, sweet Derek had lulled me into a false sense of security, too.

How could you?

Bookwitch bites #74

Because I can. Rather like the annoying DiNozzo in NCIS, except he does bad things ‘because he can.’ Here I will present you with things I’ve got up to because it was possible, or because I was lucky. And cheeky enough to ask.

I hinted earlier in the week that you’d see more of James Draper’s socks. Here they are, in all their froggy, Kermit-y glory. It’s the power of being able to say to someone ‘show me your socks!’… Any sensible person would say no, whereas Manchester Children’s Book Festival organiser James is just nice. The shoes are nice, too.

Kermit socks

‘Oh crikey you live in Stockport’ comes under the heading ‘favourite subject lines’ in my inbox. I correspond intermittently with one of my wonderful blog readers, and didn’t mind in the least when this reader said something rude about my home town some months ago. But his/her awakening was fun. At least for me. (There was really no need to apologise.) And then came the irregularly addressed Christmas card, as seen below. (I’ll never receive another one after this.)


My most popular interview (hits wise) is the Derek Landy one. And I am still not him. Someone who seemed to realise this, when she read Derek’s guest post in October, still thought it’d be nice if Derek could read her very enthusiastic fan gushings on Bookwitch. So I half offered to ask him. She more than half asked me to actually do so. And the lovely man did, and for a few minutes away from his Skulduggery-ing, Derek wrote her a reply. I can never ask anyone to do so again.

Bookwitch comment

And – this must be an Irish thing – my Cynical reader sent me a message to tell Michael Grant ‘in no uncertain terms’ not to kill Edilio or Dekka, but that he ‘can do what he wants with Astrid.’ Michael took this in the good natured way it was intended (it was, wasn’t it?), and consented to a photographical hello to his Cynical fan.

Michael Grant


It wasn’t my first time. But I suppose my luck could be running out and I need to think of new ways to embarrass people and myself. Before they run away when I turn up. (Actually, many of them already do.)


Would you rather sleep well? If so, don’t do what I did. I read a short story every evening before going to bed. I thought it’d be a good way of enjoying this new anthology – Haunted – for Halloween. How wrong I was.


The stories aren’t bad. Not at all. Most of them do exactly what they are meant to do. Scare you, and make you think of ghosts, and possibly even make your pulse go a wee bit faster.

Who’d have thought there could be so many ghosts? There are bad ones and small ones and sweet ones (I think so, anyway) and funny ones and ones you wouldn’t want to meet in your friendly neighbourhood graveyard. Even in daylight.

Some stories end well (ish). Others don’t.

As I might have mentioned when Derek Landy guest blogged here the other day, his story is very funny. Doesn’t mean people don’t die.

And if you look in the mirror, is there someone there? Apart from your good self, I mean. Also, whatever possesses people – children – to go out late at night to some dark and haunted place? On their own. It’s just asking for trouble.

I have to take issue with Matt Haig over giftshops. At first I thought he’s a really enlightened man. Then I realised he’d got it all wrong. He could have done the umbrellas even by doing the giftshop the other way round.

It’s not just dark dungeons that are haunted. Sunny beaches aren’t necessarily any better. Sunnier, but not safer. And what are you most scared of; computers or dogs?

Anyway, don’t let me put you off. Joseph Delaney, Susan Cooper, Mal Peet, Jamila Gavin, Eleanor Updale, Derek Landy, Robin Jarvis, Sam Llewellyn, Matt Haig, Philip Reeve and Berlie Doherty have come up with some good stories. Best enjoyed with your elevenses, than with your bedtime snack, though.