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The Dying of the Light (Skulduggery Pleasant, Book 9) (Skulduggery Pleasant series)
The Dying of the Light (Skulduggery Pleasant, Book 9) (Skulduggery Pleasant series)

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fitting Ending to a Great Series, August 29, 2014
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It's nearly impossible to write a review for this book without giving anything away - and believe me, if there is a book that one should read without being spoiled for what happens, it's this one. So I will have to be brief when it comes to anything actually IN the book, and this review will be more about what the book, and the series, has meant for me.

Sorry about that.

Skulduggery Pleasant came into my life in 2010, a couple of years after the series started and when four books were already released. It started off as "oh, this is a fun read for kids", but quickly developed into something that was much, much more. Into something that, and as a 30-something woman, not really the targeted demographic for this series, I'm not ashamed to say "took over my life". Well - figuratively, anyway. Obviously I did, and do, still have a life beyond this series, or books in general.

In any case, about four books in, it was clear that this had become my all time favourite series.

So, yes. I'm biased. This is a fan review. But then, any review for the ninth and final book in a series is probably going to be written by someone who has read and loved the books for a long while. If you're looking for an unbiased, objective opinion, this won't be it - it's as subjective as it gets.

And my subjective opinion is that "The Dying of the Light" is the best Skulduggery Pleasant book written.

I know, I said that also about the previous book, "Last Stand of Dead Men". But unlike LSODM, which, as I still think, was the best-written, most ambitious, biggest-in-scope SP book written by that point, but was not my favourite in the series, "The Dying of the Light" is probably also going to get that title, finally pushing "Death Bringer" away from that spot.

It's ... Well, no. It's not perfect. As usual, I have - or would have - some quibbles about it, if I was going for "objective review". Some of the things that happened ... Some of the solutions seemed almost too easy, too quick. Some of those easy solutions of course then turned out to be not that easy or simple after all, and the amount of twists and turns the story takes in "The Dying of the Light" is one of the things I adored about this book. Almost every time I thought "oh, so this is how it goes", it turned out that ... no, not quite like that.

Actually, one could argue the number of twists - the number of times the carpet was pulled away from under your feet, just when you thought something had been established and you were safe standing where you were - is also cause for criticism, and I have understanding for those who would say so. It worked for me, though.

I'm also still trying to decide how I feel about a literary device that was used for the first time (for this series) in this book, a literary device that provided a different ... frame, or structure, than what the previous instalments had. I think, overall, that I approve of it, although there were times, especially towards the end, that I had a very hard time, and I mean a *very* hard time, mustering up the enthusiasm to make my way through certain of those chapters. (Those who have read the book will probably understand what I mean.)

But what am I saying, anyway? In my subjective, not objective, opinion, this book *was* perfect.

It's a beautiful, raw, occasionally heart-breaking, bittersweet, painful, and most of all, fitting ending to this series. There were things that made me cry. As usual with SP books, there were things that made me laugh. There were parts that made me choke a bit from all the emotions, the impact it had on me. There were parts that made me punch the air in joy and triumph.

I was terrified when I started the book. I was so scared I wouldn't be okay with the way it ends. I feared I couldn't cope.

I'm glad to say that - in spite of those cries, that heartache - I am more than okay with the way it ended. It ends ... well, exactly the way that felt right. Right for those characters, right for this series, right after everything that happened in the last few books. Yes, there were deaths I'm still trying to come to terms with (heck, there are deaths in some of the previous books I'm still trying to come to terms with) - is it spoilery to say that there are deaths? does any reader of this series at this point expect otherwise? - but I understood the way they happened and why they happened.

One last thing: I loved, LOVED, the way "The Dying of the Light" brought things full circle. It's a book that is full of nods to the very first book, nods to the way it all started. Not in the way of "oh, we've run out of ideas, let's just copy some things from the first book", but little things, details, parallels both explicit and subtle, both things pointed out by the characters and things left for the reader to remember and smile about with a nostalgic happiness - nods of respect, nods of remembrance, nods that make it clear that this is where this particular story started, and this is also where ends. I loved that, and I think that, almost more than anything else, makes it easier for me to accept that this series is really and truly over.

I'm going to miss it. I'm going to miss Skulduggery, and Valkyrie (whose story this always really was, in spite of the title of the series - this was her story), and China, and everyone else - even Scapegrace and Thrasher. Skulduggery, more than anyone else - I don't really do the "fictional boyfriend" thing but oh, I'm not going to lie: I'm in love with this skeleton. Always have been, probably always will be. I will miss him.

But I'm also glad that the series always had a point where it was going to end. That this end was always in sight - that everything throughout the series was moving towards this. As much as I loved it, as much as I'm going to miss it, I'm glad it ended on a high note, with a perfect book. It never lost its way, never became a meandering mass of confusion. And for that I am grateful.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 17, 2014 8:38 PM PDT

Unsouled (Unwind Dystology)
Unsouled (Unwind Dystology)

5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite book in the series so far, December 8, 2013
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I don't give five star ratings very often, and if half-stars existed on Amazon, I'd probably rate it as four and a half stars. Unsouled wasn't a perfect book (not the least because of the rather troubling number of typos in the Kindle edition - not nearly the worst book I've seen when it comes to those, but more than I'm used to seeing in a brand new traditionally published novel - but that's nearly not all), but all in all, it *worked* for me.

It was a bit slow-going at first, much like the previous books in this series, and there was less action in it (and less romance - not that there's been overly much of it in the previous books either) - what we got instead was more plot, more politics, more background on this horrible world. I'm still not sure I truly buy the concept; I could just nearly buy people not giving a damn about other people's kids, up to and including getting them chopped up for parts, but I still cannot really believe there would be that many people giving up their own flesh and blood, their own offspring.

But then, there are people in the world who think nothing of murdering their own kids for some perceived slight or another, I guess, so anything is possible. I just have trouble seeing it happen in what is supposed to be a relatively close-to-us future and in such huge numbers.

Anyway, if one can suspend disbelief and go with that, at least there's a reasonable attempt made here to explain that world, and the reasons people use to keep themselves blindly okay with the new arrangement - and that there are, after all, plenty of people who don't think it's the most awesome of best ideas ever.

If there's anything I could have wished for (other than fewer typos) in this book, it's "more Risa"; she's largely absent. Fortunately the other main characters are strong enough and the plot was excellent, so while I missed her, it didn't detract from my general enjoyment.

Katya's War (Russalka Chronicles)
Katya's War (Russalka Chronicles)
Price: $6.29

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good follow-up to Katya's World., December 8, 2013
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A good follow-up to Katya's World.

I think those who enjoyed the first book will likely enjoy this one as well. Being a war book, as the title indicates, it's both more personal and more brutal (the violence isn't prettified, and there is some torture), but the world-building's solid, there is character development and there is significant plot development, and I liked it very much indeed.

One thing I really appreciate about these books, both the first one and the second one, is that this is one of those rare YA series with a female protagonist that don't focus on romance (in fact, there is no romance at all). It's refreshing, and in the circumstances of these books, it's also realistic - yes, Katya's a 16-year-old girl, but she's also one who has other things on her mind; bigger and more important things at that, such as the survival of her entire world.

I haven't seen any indication of there being a third book on the way, but the way this one ended, it seems fairly obvious that more is planned. I'm certainly looking forward to it.

Geek Girl (Geek Girl, Book 1) (Geek Girl Series)
Geek Girl (Geek Girl, Book 1) (Geek Girl Series)

4.0 out of 5 stars Funny and thoughtful, October 26, 2013
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I loved this book. A lot. Much more than I expected to, really. Not *quite* enough for five stars, but I acknowledge I'm really not in the main target group for this book and most of the things I didn't entirely care for seemed to be of the kind that 14- or 15-year-old readers might have less issue with.

It was just a whole lot of fun. There's always this danger with humour that it might not work - indeed, quite a few "funny" books have fell completely flat for me or worse, I've ended up hating them because if the humour is on the wrong wavelength for the reader, it's not a good thing at all - but the humour in Geek Girl worked for me. I liked Harriet's voice, and when you have humour combined with a first person narrative, that part "clicking" really helps.

There was a lot of other stuff to like, too - the pacing was good, the plot decent and nicely self-contained (while setting things up for a sequel - I believe this is planned as a trilogy, but it works well on its own), Harriet's relationships with her family and friends were a joy to read (and speaking of a joy to read, it's a relief to read a modern YA book where a girl is allowed to have a girl best friend and a non-evil mother figure! plus I really liked Annabel in particular).

I didn't entirely care for the insta!attraction for Nick (but I acknowledge that teenage girls can and do fall for gorgeous boys randomly and suddenly and in an instant, and Nick seemed like a decent boy), and the very ending (I think this is where my age may be a problem - I'm too old not to feel a bit cynical about teenage idealism), and Wilbur was hovering on that fine line between "funny" and "obnoxiously irritating and waaaaaaaay too much of a stereotype", but other than those issues, I didn't really have any complaints.

Doctor Who: The Ripple Effect: Seventh Doctor (Doctor Who 50th Anniversary E-Shorts Book 7)
Doctor Who: The Ripple Effect: Seventh Doctor (Doctor Who 50th Anniversary E-Shorts Book 7)
Price: $3.66

3.0 out of 5 stars Okay, but a little too "young", October 26, 2013
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This was another of the anniversary year short stories where I felt that the story, where the premise was after all quite intriguing, could have used a whole lot more fleshing out.

The Ripple Effect was certainly a perfectly fine little story, but for something that should have had some effect on the reader (at least that was the impression I got), an emotional impact of some sort, it left me to shrug and feel rather indifferent.

Also, and I can't really put my finger on the reasons, but somehow this story felt "younger" to me than the previous stories in this set - not in any particularly bad way, but just, well... part of not feeling quite as satisfying as it could have been. I realise these stories, as part of the Puffin anniversary project, are written so as to be accessible also for the youngest fans of the (new) show, but to me, the other stories, while not without their problems, have seemed more "aimed at everyone", not specifically the younger children.

In any case, this was the first thing by Malorie Blackman that I've read (although I've had some of her other work on my to be read list for a while), and while I could have hoped for a bit more, it does make me want to read her original fiction - I've heard nothing but good things about her YA novels.

Doctor Who: Something Borrowed: Sixth Doctor (Doctor Who 50th Anniversary E-Shorts Book 6)
Doctor Who: Something Borrowed: Sixth Doctor (Doctor Who 50th Anniversary E-Shorts Book 6)
Price: $3.66

4.0 out of 5 stars Short and sweet, October 26, 2013
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As with all the previous Doctor Who 50th anniversary short stories, Something Borrowed was also a little too short for me to truly feel satisfied, but in spite of the short length, this was a nice, complete, self-sustained tale which managed to have a decent plot as well as good characterisation of both the Sixth Doctor as well as Peri.

The warm, often-frustrating but also endearing arrogance of Six was especially well realised in just a few paragraphs here and there, and Peri, as the narrator, came off as a more fully rounded character than in many of her televised stories.

Invitation to Die (Emily Castles Mysteries)
Invitation to Die (Emily Castles Mysteries)
Price: $1.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, October 3, 2013
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I was looking forward to a nice, light, "fluffy" mystery - the premise sounded like good fun for a cosy murder mystery.

Unfortunately I actually struggled to finish it - I found the writing choppy and the characters, although some of them were mildly amusing, to be stereotypes. The book did have a few interesting observations about people, but otherwise, I can't really say all that much about it - the best I can say about most of this story is "dull and plodding". The main reason I persisted to the end was wanting to know who the murderer was, so I suppose that's a point in the book's favour.

I should say that I bought and read this as a completed novel, not as a serial distributed and read in instalments. Perhaps it would have worked better in the serial format, but it's just as likely that I would have just given up before the end.

Earth Star
Earth Star

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A near-perfect sequel, October 3, 2013
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This review is from: Earth Star (Kindle Edition)
I enjoyed Earth Girl, the first book in this series (I believe there's a trilogy planned) a great deal when I read it a few months ago - enough to pre-order Earth Star, even though I was a little worried: would the second book stand up? Would it be as good?

It did, and it was. I'm sort of hovering between four and five stars here, really - it's only a few minor things that don't quite allow me to give it the full five (which I'm trying hard not to hand out happily to every single book I've enjoyed).

The story in Earth Star picks up very soon from where Earth Girl ended, and builds directly on the events of that first book, so I'm rather glad I didn't have a long wait between the two (although major points are recapped, briefly). Jarra, the main character, is a bit more balanced and clearly a bit more mature in this one - she's still a teenager, and she's not done a 180° turn, obviously, so there's still some impulsiveness, some hesitation, trouble with opening up and all that, which makes a lot of sense, but I've enjoyed seeing her actually develop from the (understandably) angry girl of the first book into someone who will almost certainly become a mature adult some day.

I'm generally not one for teen romance in books, but I have to say I like Jarra and Fian. Fian is such a thoroughly decent young man, which is so refreshing. He's a capable, intelligent boy; he's not a doormat, and he's got enough sense to put his foot down when needed, and he's just genuinely decent, funny and respectful (when needed) that, well ... as I said, it's a refreshing change from all the usual dangerous bad boys in YA books. (Also, no triangles. And while Jarra and Fian hit it off pretty quickly in the first book, it doesn't come off as the usual YA insta-love - there's physical attraction, certainly, but they've also got problems, and they're actually working at their relationship.)

Also, I adore Playdon. Like Fian, he's just also so thoroughly decent. It's so nice to have characters like that. I was really hoping that this book would continue enough from the first one to keep the same cast of characters, and it did - and to my great relief Playdon was still in it, too.

As far as plot goes ... WARNING: SOME SPOILERS AHEAD.

On the one hand, when I'm being a realist, it is, of course, rather silly to believe that the military would draft an 18-year-old - granted, an 18-year-old with skills and experience far above average for her age group, but still a relatively inexperienced 18-year-old - into a significant role for a First Contact situation. We all know it wouldn't happen - not on 21st century Earth, and probably not some centuries into the future either.

On the other hand, a relatively inexperienced teenager taking charge and achieving the impossible is a staple of YA fiction, speculative and otherwise. There's a legion of very young literary heroes doing the impossible - and being handed the responsibility to do stuff by their elders. It's a convention of the genre, and one where I'm perfectly willing to suspend disbelief. In this particular case, I appreciated how this was actually pointed out, repeatedly, by Jarra herself - and how there was at least a good attempt to explain it in the narrative, to give reasons for it. And the way it happened, basically going from Jarra being drafted to flush out the more prejudiced members of the Alien Contact teams to deciding to make her the face of the campaign (after she made some good suggestions and offered a fresh and different angle), while making it very clear that the experienced people, the experts, were doing most of the hard behind-the-scenes work - that worked for me well enough.

Niggling issue (that is at least partly responsible for the loss of that fifth star): I loved Playdon "flashing his evil grin" the first three times or so. But at one point in the middle of the book, it happened just way too often. Half the times would have sufficed.

Last Stand of Dead Men (Skulduggery Pleasant)
Last Stand of Dead Men (Skulduggery Pleasant)
by Derek Landy
Edition: Hardcover
24 used & new from $9.82

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complex and heartbreaking, September 9, 2013
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For some reason, this is probably the hardest book for me to review, ever.

For starters: I should probably mention that it's hard for me to be completely unbiased. I am after all a character in this book - or rather there is a minor character in this book named after me (I'm not going to go as far as to say "inspired by me", even though she's sensible and reasonable and what not, ahem), amongst all the other dozen or so fan cameos who made it into this book, so... yeah.

Other than that (i.e. being a total fangirl of this series and of its author and posting and interacting with other fans online), I have no affiliation with either the author or the publisher. I have received no free copies in exchange for this five star review - in fact, I've already purchased three copies myself (Kindle to read + hardback & paperback to adorn my shelves) and, I suspect, will be buying some more.

Now that this is out of the way... I don't want to spoil things too much, so I won't be going into plot detail, but be warned that there will be reactions here - and spoilers to the extent that have been hinted at in the description or other material (blog posts, Twitter posts) that was publicly available before the book was released.

Of course, if you've read this far into this series - and have taken a look at the cover, with that cover art and the "No one is safe" tag line, it probably goes without saying that Things Happen in this book, and that not all of those things are fun, light-hearted and fluffy.

Overall impression: this is, without a doubt, in my opinion, the best Skulduggery Pleasant book written yet. By that I mean the plot, the twists, the writing, the sheer complexity of this eighth - and penultimate - full volume.

Is it my *favourite* book in the series? No. No, it's not. Mostly because of reasons - reasons that have to do with Last Stand of Dead Men leaving me heartbroken and crushed and numb once I was done.

"Children's book", they say. "Humour," they say. ... No. Yes, children can read it (if they're okay with all the bloodshed and the sexual innuendo, which by now isn't always even innuendo but pretty straightforward relationship stuff, or the swearing, which is, while not overwhelming, present and IMHO very much justified when there), and yes, like every other SP book, it contains a lot of humour and howlingly funny moments and scenes and dialogue, but this is neither a children's book or a predominantly humorous book.

This is a book about war, and about betrayal, and about the things people do. The things *good* people do, when there is a need, and the things good people do, when they cannot resist the temptations and the lure of absolute power and freedom and magic any longer. It's a book about how far we - or the characters, anyway - are willing to go, and a book about the breaking points of strong people.

There is torture, and there is death, and there is bloodshed, and there is backstabbing, and there are political machinations, and yes, there is also love (because no matter how one interprets the love between Valkyrie and Skulduggery, whether one reads it as completely platonic or something a bit different, I can't see how one could deny it's there in so many ways, but Val & Skul, central to the book and the series as it is, is not the only relationship touched upon), and there is heartbreak and hurt and sadness.

I would love to talk about characters here, but that would take me straight into spoiler territory. Suffice it to say that Valkyrie's path - the path she has been on since the first book, the first day, but more pronouncedly since the end of Dark Days - has taken another turn, sharper than ever. And I have no idea - no idea at all! - how things will turn out in book nine, the final book. My heart is hoping for a happy ending; my head is saying it's not going to happen.

Skulduggery... Let's be honest, I've been in love with Skulduggery since his first appearance. Since I saw the cover of the first book, probably. But this book, this book made me fall in love with him all over again. He's magnificent when in charge, he's loveable even when jealous, he's sweet and adorable when smug... and truly, I think this was finally his book, one where we see him through the eyes of multiple people, not just Valkyrie.

And oh, how my heart aches for him.

If this is Skulduggery's book, it's also the book of a multitude of secondary characters. We get more points of view than ever before, more chapters from secondary characters' POV, and while I wished deep down that we'd focused more on Skul and Val instead, I do think the multiple points of view enriched the book, emphasized the sheer scope of it (as well as providing some much needed laughs at times, even if Scapegrace and Thrasher have become much more than just comic relief by now).

And then there were the twists and the reveals. One of them I had guessed, sort of - I was about 98% certain of the identity of a particular character, who until this book was only seen pulling strings behind the scenes, mostly by the process of elimination (or in other words, no matter how much I tried to assume otherwise, every hint, every path of reasoning kept leading me back to this one specific person). So when that reveal happened, I wasn't surprised by the who, but I was still shocked about the how.

Another of the Things That Happened... I had not expected. I hadn't expected it to happen in this book, in any case, or in this way. And that one hurt, even more than the first twist, and it's the primary reason why, for the first time in all these years I've been reading this series, I'm not anticipating the next (and final) book with excitement but rather dreading it.

That said, bring it on. I'm scared - terrified, in fact, and right now I'm nowhere near ready yet, emotionally, to face that final chapter in what has become my absolute favourite book series ever - but I trust Derek Landy and most importantly, I trust him to do what is needed, not what the readers might want, no matter how much it might hurt. (That said, I'd be delighted if "what is needed" turns out to be a happy ending, with Skul & Val walking hand in hand into the sunset. Oh yes.)

Earth Girl
Earth Girl

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very enjoyable YA science fiction novel, July 21, 2013
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This review is from: Earth Girl (Kindle Edition)
Earth Girl is one of those rare current young adult sci-fi novels that is not dystopian - I've seen it described as such in reviews, but I honestly cannot see it.

The society it's set in, in the 28th century, seemed perfectly normal to me - no oppressive government, some odd-to-us rules & customs but nothing aggressively restrictive or punishable, a Military that is not just looked up to but portrayed in a positive light, unified humanity, and so on. Not perfect, no - it's not a utopia either, far from it, especially in people's attitudes (I think the blurb gives away enough to indicate what the central issue of this book concerns, for the main character) but just... normal?

Just as the society in this book, the book itself is not perfect either. In particular, I can easily see why some readers would consider Jarra, the protagonist (and the "Earth Girl" of the title) a bit of a "Mary Sue" - she's extremely capable & accomplished, absorbs knowledge easily, masters unarmed combat in a month, people like her, what not - but I felt her (very real, very human) flaws outweighed that particular criticism, especially since I like strong, capable heroines.

There were things I wasn't entirely happy with, and for a character-driven story, I wish some of the secondary cast had been fleshed out a bit more, but ... I really enjoyed the book. The pacing - which is another thing that isn't going to work for everyone - really worked for me; I was happy enough to get some action at last towards the end of the book but I was also more than happy to have most of the book focus on the characters' normal, daily life.

Also, while I could have wished that the romance had been given a bit more time to develop, I didn't really mind that part of the book either - not the least because (a) there was no love triangle! and (b) the love interest, was actually a thoroughly nice guy, not a possessive growly alpha bad boy.

I'm definitely looking forward to the next book(s) in this series - I'm curious as to how this develops.

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