Friday, April 15, 2011

"'It's Christmas' Is Not an Argument. It's Not a Reason. It's Just a Statement of the Obvious.": A Review of Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant: Mortal Coil

Mortal Coil is the latest book in Derek Landy's series and, as such, this review marks the end of my detour from books on religion and spirituality. The next two books I'll be reading are Her Voice, Her Faith: Women Speak on World Religions by Katherine Young and Arvind Sharma and The Goddess Lives in Upstate New York: Breaking Convention and Making Home at a North American Hindu Temple by Corinne G. Dempsey.

Synopsis: Valkyrie Cain begins her search to find a solution to preventing the awful fate that she glimpsed in the last book. At the same time, a Remnant, an evil creature of darkness that possesses human bodies, has escaped and has let loose thousands of Remnants on Ireland. With the country plunged into chaos, Skulduggery, Valkyrie, Tanith, Ghastly, and Fletcher must find a way to trap the Remnants once again and restore order to the already shaky Sanctuary. But who can you trust when anybody could be playing host to a Remnant?

Review: This was the only Skulduggery Pleasant book that really made me nervous. Usually I take it as a given that in the end everything will be all right. This time I wasn't so sure. It looked like there would be no way out of this sticky situation. I was wrong--there's always a solution--but in a way I was also right. By the end of this book, someone that Valkyrie loves and trusts will become her enemy...and there will be no turning back.

It's Christmas in Ireland and everything is not merry. A horde of 2000 Remnants has taken hosts--both mortal and mage alike--all over Ireland. No one can be trusted and no one is safe. Valkyrie and her friends battle long and hard to defeat this seemingly unstoppable force, having to hurt friend and foe alike along the way. During the process, a few old foes begin fighting temporarily on the side of right, a beloved character dies, and a close friend becomes permanently taken over by a Remnant. 

This book was amazing. It was, I think, darker than the others...which is saying a lot. The humor was there, the favorite characters were there, but the whole book hints at a dark and dismal future for Valkyrie Cain. She discovers a side of her she didn't know she had, an evil and violent side that she will have to work to keep in check. It is entirely possible that, in future books to come, Valkyrie herself will become the enemy, but that's all purely conjecture on my part. 

As usual, Landy uses his minor characters with much skill. Billy-Ray Sanguine, my favorite villain, comes into the story late but he's there and he's wonderful as usual. This time around he's actually fighting with Skulduggery and Valkyrie, purely for selfish reasons, of course, but it's still great to see him. In addition to this, Vaurien Scapegrace, the Zombie King, is back, looking for a way to preserve himself as he starts to fall apart. One of my favorite scenes in the entire book is when he goes to a funeral parlor, hoping to embalm himself. Pretending that he's trying to find out information on how to preserve his dear dead brother, he tells the funeral director that his brother was a devout Catholic:

"The funeral director nodded slowly. 'So at least he was comforted in his time of need. Then it will be a traditional funeral you're looking for?'
'Not at all. Have you read the Bible?'
'I have, yes. I find great strength in its words.'
'Did you read the bit with the zombies?'
'The bit at the end, where God raises the dead for Judgment Day.'
'Um, I...I'm not sure I...'
'It's when God decides who gets into Heaven and who doesn't and all the dead climb out of their graves and they all wait there to see who gets in. That's in the Bible, right? That's what [my brother] wants to do, but he wants a head start on all the others. He doesn't want to waste time crawling out of a hole in the ground. He wants to be ready for the sprint. So I want you to preserve him.'" (p. 85)

I was pretty much dying laughing at this point.

As I've mentioned before, Landy likes to throw in pop culture references that older generations will recognize. There are two in this book (that I caught, at least) and both left me in fits of giggles. The first is a nod to Monty Python's "Dead Parrot" sketch. Valkyrie, worried that her parents' new baby will leave her as second-best, tells Skulduggery the story of her rabbit, Mister Fluffy, whom her dad took an instant liking to...until he accidentally stood on him:

Valkyrie sighed, her head lolling back on the seat. 'He stepped on it. Squished it. Squashed it. Killed it. Cut it down in its prime. It kicked the bucket, turned up its toes, shuffled off this mortal coil. It ex-rabbit.'" (p. 202)

The second reference occurs during a sword fight, when Skulduggery and China Sorrows are fighting Burgundy Dalrymple, an odd mage who actually wants to merge with a Remnant. As they are fighting two against one, the following happens:

"'Surrender,' Skulduggery said.
Dalrymple didn't answer immediately, too busy defending. 'You seem to have me beaten,' he said at last.
'So it seems. But if this is true, then why are you smiling?'
'Because,' Dalrymple answered, 'I know something you don't know.'
'And what is that?' asked Skulduggery.
'I'm not right-handed,' Dalrymple replied, and threw the sword into his left hand." (p. 428)

Anyone who has seen the brilliant film The Princess Bride will recognize it as a slightly modified version of this scene. I laughed so hard that people heard me in the other room.

Mortal Coil is a great book. I feel like the Russian assassin, Tesseract, was a little underused, but the action and the plot twists kept me gasping until the very end. A character that I enjoyed very much is killed--horribly, as always--and I really wasn't prepared for the last Remnant to permanently take over the body of one of Valkyrie's best friends, so I'd say that this book is a win all around. I dislike when novelists play it safe and don't let horrible things happen. The way this book ended is leaving me in absolute agony over the fact that book 6 is only in the editing process right now. I'm probably going to stalk Landy's blog for any iota of information that will give me an idea of when it will be published and this time I'm not waiting around. I'm preordering it from Amazon UK the minute it's available. 

Mortal Coil gets five out of five stars. I'm sure that there are some followers of my blog who are glad that I've gotten this series out of my system and will be back to my regularly scheduled books, but the truth is that I could just jump right back into them at any time. I won't, obviously, but they're really that good. 

Please, if you haven't, go out and at least get the first book. This is an absolute treasure of a series and, as I've said before, it's not getting the attention that it deserves. There are, as of now, a total of nine books planned for the series, so you still have some time to jump on the bandwagon. 

Also, if you need any more prodding, the book won the Irish Book of the Decade award. The decade, people. That's kind of a big deal. And, if you don't mind coming across spoilers, it also has its own wiki, Skulpedia.

Okay, I'm done. That's it. I've already started my next book, Her Voice, Her Faith. Look for a review of that in the coming days.



  1. Lol. Sounds like a funny book.

  2. I've often dismissed Skulduggery books as they look like they're for much younger readers. If I wasn't trying to ban myself from book buying for a while I'd probably give them a go after reading your reviews.

  3. pwb: I keep trying to ban myself from buying books and somehow I end up with ten new ones. I applaud your self-control and wish that I knew where to get some. :)

  4. My TBR is dangerously close to 400 books...I have no control...just desperation!

  5. Ah, so you're like me--a compulsive book buyer who never quite finds the time to read them. I know the feeling all too well.

  6. This has nothing to do with almost anything here, but I was wondering if you were going to do a review on Death Bringer, the next one in the series, or Kingdom of the Wicked? Also I enjoy these and know loads of people who enjoy the Artemis Fowl series too, just wondering if you had tried them?