What Age is Skulduggery Pleasant for? Children’s Book Review

Children’s book week review:

Skulduggery Pleasant – Last Stand of Dead Men (Review)

by Derek Landy. Recommended age 11+

Today sees the start of Children’s Book Week in the UK, and we are celebrating by posting a children’s book review each day between now and Friday.

Today we are reviewing the latest in the children’s book series Skulduggery Pleasant, by Derek Landy. Last Stand of Dead Men is number 8 in the series, and the sequel to Kingdom of the Wicked.

What is the best age to read the Skulduggery Pleasant series of children's books?

GG has always been a prolific reader. She almost literally consumes books, maxing out her library card and finishing her stash within a couple of days. She loves an easy read, but of late she has found herself keen to read something a bit more meaty, and to be honest, I’m pleased that she is moving on from the generic fairy box sets, and relishing a more challenging text.

What age is Skulduggery Pleasant for?

She has recently fallen in love with the Percy Jackson series, so I put some feelers out for fantasy fiction appropriate to her age. In year 4, her school do not allow her to borrow the Percy Jackson books – they are for upper school only, and I tend to follow their lead, as often the themes are inappropriate, even if the language is manageable. She is just 9, but her reading ability and comprehension is further ahead, which often means that books she is capable of reading, just aren’t appropriate yet in subject matter. Yes, I’m looking at you Jacqueline Wilson!

But Percy Jackson has been fine, so I had high hopes for Skulduggery Pleasant when it was both sent to me for review, and recommended by a lot of Facebook contacts with slightly older children. Here’s what we thought:

Stephanie (Valkyrie) is a feisty 12 year old with a bizarre protector – the undead Skulduggery Pleasant. Together they race through war-torn and magic-strewn mythology in an attempt to save the world from conspiracy and disaster.

Reading reviews of the book series before we got started, I decided that rather than leave her to read by herself, we would read the book together. I knew there would be concepts needing explanation, and every review contains the word horror somewhere. She has coped with the final Harry Potters, and with Pirates of the Caribbean, and comedy is a big part of Skulduggery Pleasant, so I was hopeful.

As we began to read, it quickly became clear that this book was not her cup of tea. It’s interesting that the horror and comedy mix is more palatable to her on the big screen than in the written word; perhaps it’s testament to the quality of the prose that the descriptive passages rendered her squeamish, but it was just a little too much for her 9 year old sensitivities. This particular book also majors on war scenes, and my girl is far more interested in the relationships between characters than she is in action sequences.

So is Skulduggery Pleasant too old for a 9 year old?

Reading reviews of earlier books in the series, an outstanding theme seems to be the comedic value of exchanges between the two key characters, so rather than write off the series until she is into her teens, I’m going to try the first Skulduggery Pleasant book with her, in the hope that it will lead her into the narrative more gently. Various websites quote a recommended age range for Skulduggery Pleasant of 8-12, though the book jacket itself says 11+, and I think that’s a good guide.

So I’d love to know your thoughts. Do you have a child with an ambitious reading age? And do you have any recommendations for challenging reads that are age-appropriate?


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21 thoughts on “What Age is Skulduggery Pleasant for? Children’s Book Review”

  1. I’ve reviewed this book on my blog. I loved it, my 15 year old boy loved it and I think that when my 15 year old girl gets her turn she’ll also love it because it’s the kind of stuff she adores. They’d have both been able to read it at 11 and enjoy it, but not really before then. I think at 8,9,10 you’d have a job to follow the story AND catch on to all the undercurrents and asides. I think that earlier books in the series were directed towards a younger audience, but this one is not. I know my son has read a few of them now over the years. I totall agree with you – go with the age on the bookjacket 🙂

    • Ah that’s interesting – I might give it a year or so then. It’s funny though with ages on book jackets, sometimes she can manage them and totally understand them, others it’s way out of her league! Thanks for the input on this one – I’ll keep it for another day 🙂

      • Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, (fantasy)
        Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan
        Don’t know about this one but i also read Miss Perigrine’s home for peculiar children by Ransom Riggs
        Ink Heat by Cornelia Funke

  2. Frankie is 9 hes a massive reader too just read the young sherlock holmes books and I was trying to get him to read more female authors and we were introduced to eva ibbotson he has devoured her books says they ROCK!

    • Ah, yes, she enjoyed One Dog and His Boy – I’ll have a scout around for some others to add to her Kindle wish list (which she is getting for her birthday – shhhh)!

  3. I’ve only heard of these because they are so popular at the moment and do look a bit dark don’t they? But they seem to be favourites with the OHs 10 and 11 year old nieces and nephews.

  4. Funnily enough Ross read the first book in the series to Grace. I’m half way through the second with her and she has pretty much lost interest. I did wonder given her age whether it would be a) too old in the language sense and b) too much. We are going to save the rest of it until she is older but it is really well written and very exciting. I think we will stick to David Walliams for now!

  5. My son is a very busy reader, after chomping through all the books in our house he begged to read Skulduggery pleasant, he’s 10. His mate had read it so I think he was trying to be cool and read it as well even though the content disturbed him.

    Vampire’s that rip their heads off and fights until they are bloodied, it’s a bit much for a 10 year old who is already afraid of the dark. Even though he wants to read the next book I took the 3rd book off him and I’ll give them back to him when he’s 11 or 12. I think it’s important for parents to research a little about a book before you hand it too a child. I fear I have given this book out to him a little too young.

    • Totally agree! It’s difficult to keep up with them at this age now, but there’s definitely a transition period where some surveillance of what they read is important. At 11, GG is now reading a lot without me, and I don’t have time to pre-read, but it’s worth checking out reviews. She’s just read Paper Towns, and I decided, after seeing the film that she could handle it. The book has a lot more in it though than the film!

    • I read it when I was 8 and I loved it. I had read before, but the prose was unfamiliar and it was boring. But I thoroughly enjoyed at 8 and continuing on forwards. I think it is because my older brother read that I gave it a try and it was great!

      I don’t think I was a bit squeamish because the earlier books are less violent but I wouldn’t recommend the later books for 8 year olds. They touch on discrimination, gay, lesbian, and bisexual themes that are are meant for teens. The action scenes are more violent and the humour, although funnier, I wouldn’t recommend an 8 year old.

      • Yes I think you’re right about the text it is quite challenging for an 8 year old. You make very good points about the older themes – we might revisit the books now the kids are teenagers.

  6. Skulduggery pleasant is an amazing book, im reading it at age 13, it’s fine for over 10s i think, but there is ALOT of blood and gore if your kid has nightmares often i wouldn’t recommend. There are also about one or two sex references

  7. My daughter is 10 and also reading well beyond her years. She has finished the Skullduggery Pleasent seriesalso devouring the books with 2-3 days of getting the from library. I agree a little graphic on the horror war side but she loves that so it didn’t affect us here. I would recommend the School of Good and Evil series for your 9 year old. Some witches but more advance than Disney princess and more witchy evil rather than war horror so certainly better suited to young advanced readers.
    We also loved the series called Scarlet and Ivy. Again good content for the age group 9-11 but developed storyline and reading.

  8. Thanks for this review. I can tell from the comments that you wrote this about a decade ago, but thought I’d share our recommendations for those who stumble on your review with younger kids, like myself. My 8 year old is a ravenous reader (she has read all 7 Harry Potters – actually 8 if you include the play- at least 6 times and the first few books a dozen times each). It sounds like she may need to wait a bit longer for this particular book.

    Here are a few series that she has enjoyed recently:
    – Wings of Fire
    – Keeper of the Lost Cities (She loves that these are longer books, so they take more than a day to read.)
    – The Inheritance Cycle (Eragon)
    – His Dark Materials (Golden Compass)
    – various series by Rick Riordan, including: Percy Jackson, The Kane Chronicles, The Trials of Apollo

    I do try to read reviews, but I honestly cannot keep up with her reading, so I have not read any of these books. I appreciate the parents out there that are able to give reviews and help the rest of us navigate appropriate books for our kids. Thanks!


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