Monday, April 5, 2021

Dead or Alive (Skulduggery Pleasant #14)


Dead or Alive is the 14th (and apparently penultimate) Skulduggery Pleasant adventure by Derek Landy. Due out 6th April 2021 from Harper Collins on their Harper360 imprint, it's a whopping 608 pages and will be available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. 

For fans who are already readers of the series, this adventure is more of the same and is a welcome addition to this "doorstop brick" fantasy series. The books are all roughly 600(ish) pages and full of puns and slapstick battles and sleazy slightly ridiculous bad guys and of course Skullduggery himself along with sarcastic and angsty teen sidekick Valkyrie. 

For readers who are not familiar with the series, the books (and this one in particular) don't really work well as standalone stories. There's a *lot* of continuity involved with the characters and their development and coming into book 14 blind will likely prove to be a frustrating slog. I would recommend picking up at least the first book and seeing if it's a good fit before investing in the mammoth  task of consecutively binge reading the whole series. 

Although this is listed as a YA selection, it felt more genre spanning and will likely pick up a fair number of SF/fantasy fans. I am not much of a squeeing fangirl and find that I have a surprisingly low threshold for sarcastic snappy dialogue (such as Harry Dresden, Hearne's Iron Druid, others in the same subgenre). I will say that the plotting and story arc are well put together and despite the page count, didn't strike me as suffering from book bloat. There's always something happening and there wasn't much which was superfluous to the story. The language is relatively clean (a few instances of damn and bloody, nothing worse). 

All in all for me personally three and a half stars, rounded up for the quality of the writing. For current fans of the series, the rating will be highers. Fans of the first books will love this one too.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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