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Scepter of the Ancients (Skulduggery Pleasant) Paperback – March 25, 2008


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Trophy (March 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061231177
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061231179
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #419,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5–8—When 12-year-old Stephanie's eccentric Uncle Gordon dies, a mysterious man bundled in an overcoat, scarf, sunglasses, and a hat shows up at both the funeral and the reading of the will. This man, as it turns out, is Skulduggery Pleasant, a walking, talking skeleton who rescues Stephanie when she is attacked while alone in the house that she has just inherited. It seems that a particularly evil person named Serpine is trying to obtain a scepter that will allow him to rule the world. Stephanie is swept into a world of magic, secrets, power, and intrigue as she and Skulduggery try to keep one step ahead of Serpine and various other nefarious folk. Deadly hand-to-hand combat, nasty villains, magical derring-do, and traitorous allies will keep readers turning the pages, but it is the dynamic duo of Stephanie and Skulduggery who provide the real magic. The girl eagerly jumps into this new, dangerous, action-packed life, but she isn't sure that she has the guts or the power to pull it off. Skulduggery Pleasant lives up to his name, performing amazing feats with such self-effacing drollness that readers will wish they had a similar skeletal friend. Give this one to fans of Eoin Colfer's "Artemis Fowl" books (Hyperion) or to anyone who likes a dash of violence and danger served up with the magic.—Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Twelve-year-old Stephanie Edgley inherits her uncle Gordon's estate and is promptly attacked on her first solo visit to the property. A mysterious skeleton-detective, Skulduggery Pleasant, comes to her rescue, explaining that he thinks Gordon was murdered and that she may be next. The two join forces and set off to solve the crime in a series of magical adventures that take them into a world filled with ancient evil creatures, including Nefarian Serpine, who seeks the Scepter of the Ancients and the infinite power it will bring him. Landy, whose previous writing credits include horror screenplays, keeps the action brisk, his characters slightly macabre, and uses humor to take the edge off the violence. The story line is intricate (with numerous plot twists and switches in allegiance), and although her actions seem better suited to a somewhat older girl, Stephanie is a well-developed main character. The level of violence may disturb younger readers, however. This is recommended for larger collections where demand for horror/fantasy is high. Kay Weisman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

It has good dialogue and the action scenes are very good.
Mashu
This wonderful book is an exciting, suspenseful, fun mixture of mystery, magic, action, adventure and humor.
Sheila L. Beaumont
Skulduggery Pleasant is one of the best books I have ever read and written by a great author.
Yegambran Moopen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Kate Coombs VINE VOICE on August 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Skulduggery Pleasant is a wonderful name, and the skeletal title character is a fun new addition to the children's fantasy genre. However, when I bought the book, the bookstore clerk told me she thought it read like a TV show, particularly because of its snarky dialogue, and she was right. After an early interlude in which main kid Stephanie seems like a relatively normal child, we discover that the rest of the book is written in that dialect known as Banter, herein practiced by a preternaturally adult child character having snippy-snappy conversations with a childish adult character (Skulduggery).

The clerk also said she's seeing more and more children's books written in this style. Is it because everyone's aiming for a movie someday, like the Harry Potter franchise? Or is it because we have a new generation of writers whose training stems as much from years of TV and movie watching as from reading--writers with an ear for TV-style dialogue and characterization?

The plotting, too, which other Amazon reviewers have described in some detail, feels like a movie or at least a Saturday morning cartoon, albeit a lively one. Evil-villain-takes-over-the-world-with-the-help-of-appropriate-traitors-and-henchmen has been done to death, but Landy does throw in a few fresh twists, though the character of Skulduggery remains his greatest accomplishment. I would like to tell you that I found Stephanie appealing, but her mall-speak didn't quite work for me.

That said, there's obviously a place in the world for rowdy, TVesque books--look at all these rave reviews! Skulduggery Pleasant will be an entertaining read for a lot of kids, and it may yet become a movie or at least a video game. Still, it isn't well crafted in a traditional (award-winning, vanishing-classic, literary) sense. Try Terry Pratchett's Wee Free Men, Tamora Pierce's Terrier, or Jonathan Stroud's Amulet of Samarkind if you want to see what I mean.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Diana Carroll VINE VOICE on January 19, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My 10 year old son loves this book so much he arm-twisted me into reading it, and even I liked it. It's a PI book featuring a sarcastic, cynical skeleton as the PI. I recommend it for any fan of Harry Potter, Gregor the Overlander, The Lightning Thief, the City of Ember or other Young Adult fantasy novels.

But mostly I wanted to say if you are looking at this review of a used paperback version of the book "Skulduggery Pleasant", what you'll actually get is the book "Scepter of the Ancients (Skulduggery Pleasant)". They are the same book...the first title was the hardcover edition; the title was changed for the American paperback edition released in 2009. Amazon sells the paperback new. I was mislead into thinking it was a different book (different covers, different titles, one out of print and selling used for premium prices), and thus I ordered both -- and wound up with exactly the same book, one new from Amazon, one used and more expensive from Amazon Marketplace!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Barbara A. Varacalli on May 14, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First of all, don't laugh, but I'm almost 16. And this is still one of my favorite books ever. I read it at least three times a year.

This book contains everything a good children's book should: Ancient relics that possess sinister powers, a band of heroes and heroines who need to save the world, a creepy mansion, a unique system of magic, and even a scene of nice, old-fashioned spelunking. At the heart of the story is Skulduggery Pleasant, a character who's so good he deserves to have the series named after him. The witty, clever dialogue thrown back and forth between Stephanie and Skulduggery will bring nonstop entertainment.

While the book is lighthearted, I'm fascinated by the way Derek Landy has managed to subtly defy so many social stereotypes. Although this may not be an issue for everyone, it pleases me to read a story that rings with gender equity, yet doesn't contain a poorly developed in-your-face female lead. Stephanie Edgley is strong, intelligent, and precocious, which makes this book suitable for older readers as well as kids. It's also satisfying to read a book where the main character doesn't hate his or her parents, and the parents aren't oblivious idiots; in Skulduggery Pleasant, the Edgley family begins to notice when Stephanie goes out to solve mysteries with a skeleton detective.

The plot is highly original, the villains having been loosely based off of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. The action and fighting sequences are well-written, and it's clear the author knows what he's talking about; Derek Landy is a black belt, and still trains regularly.

This book deserves to be way more popular in the United States than it currently is. If you're looking for the next great adventure story, this is it!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Shanshad VINE VOICE on February 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Some books you just know will be fun to read. It can be the title, the cover, the plot description . . . something that just makes your fingers itch to crack the cover. This is one of those books. His name is Skulduggery Pleasant. He's a snazzy dresser with a cool car. He's an elemental master who never has to find trouble, because it finds him. He's also a walking, talking skeleton. But that hasn't stopped him from trying to save the world. Derek Landy makes his debut in children's fiction with this delightfully action-packed romp about a skeleton detective and his strong-minded 12 year old sidekick.

The book opens with twelve-year old Stephanie Edgley receiving an inheritance from her recently deceased uncle. That inheritance includes, among other things, a mansion, money and entry into a deadly and fascinating world of magic and mayhem. Like, Harry Potter, Stephanie's about to discover there's a secret society of sorcerers and mages that the ordinary world doesn't know about. Unlike Harry Potter, she's a stubborn, smart-talking gal who won't take `no' for an answer, even when she's in mortal danger. The forces of evil are looking for a key that her uncle had, and they think she has it. They'll do whatever it takes to get it. Skulduggery and Stephanie have their hands full trying to stop them, because if they find what they're looking for, it just may be the end of the world. It's a high action adventure that readers will tear through to find out what happens, enjoying the witty dialog and colorful characters along the way. Derek Landy's first book for children is enjoyable, entertaining and vivid. In fact, it would likely make a good movie or television series without too much effort.

It's no surprise that Mr.
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More About the Author

Derek Landy lives near Dublin. Before writing his children's story about a sharply-dressed skeleton detective, he wrote the screenplays for a zombie movie and a murderous horror film. "I think my career-guidance teacher is spinning in her grave," he says, "or she would be if she were dead."

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