Book Review: Playing With Fire by Derek Landy

Playing With Fire by Derek Landy

Posted June 29, 2021 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

Playing With Fire

Playing With Fire

by Derek Landy

Series: Skulduggery Pleasant #2
Publisher: HarperCollins on April 1, 2008
Genre: Fantasy
Target Age Group: Young Adult
Content Warnings: Death, Gore, Violence

Rating: ★★★★★

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Skulduggery and Valkyrie are facing a new enemy: Baron Vengeous, who is determined to bring back the terrifying Faceless Ones and is crafting an army of evil to help him. Added to that, Vengeous is about to enlist a new ally (if he can raise it from the dead): the horrible Grotesquery, a very unlikable monster of legend.

Once Vengeous is on the loose, dead bodies and vampires start showing up all over Ireland. Now pretty much everybody is out to kill Valkyrie, and the daring detective duo faces its biggest challenge yet.

But what if the greatest threat to Valkyrie is just a little closer to home?


The Skulduggery Pleasant books are absolutely hilarious and I enjoy them every time I read one.  These books have exactly the kind of exciting world I loved reading about when I was younger, and is still nostalgic today.  Playing with Fire is just as much fun as the first book in the series, and sets us up for even more danger and thrills to come as the series moves forward.

Now that the world has been unveiled Derek Landy has a bit of room to tease out the relationships between characters, including their sordid pasts.  Playing with Fire has the feel of history repeating itself, but this history is just as new to the reader as it is to Valkyrie Kane.  We spent quite a lot of time untangling evil motives and plots in this book, but there is still time for Skulduggery’s dry sense of humor and Valkyrie’s family reunion.  Many new faces appear in Playing with Fire, but there are also many faces from the first book that we have grown to love. Altogether the characters remain delightful, providing both intrigue and entertainment.

I really do genuinely love fantasies like this where there is a world within a world.  It is the idea that there is something more than the eye can see in our own reality, and that that makes everything both in the book and in our own lives feel just a little bit more magical and mysterious.  Derek Landy absolutely nails this feeling in the Skulduggery Pleasant series, and Playing with Fire is no exception.

The pacing in these books is fantastic. It keeps the reader on their toes the whole time without getting boring or rushing too quickly.  Landy has mastered a perfect balance in his writing style, one that makes this book which is intended for middle graders and young adults accessible to any age.  I love the comedy woven in to Skulduggery’s character in particular.  And as if all of these things were not enough to make this book incredibly fun, the narrator does an excellent job bringing the story to life.

The only thing that keeps me from making this a five-stars-across-the-board book is the plot. The plot isn’t bad, but it just isn’t as good as the first book was. Playing with Fire sets the stage for the third book in the series, and it is necessary world and story building.  However, it just isn’t as exciting as the first book was or I imagine the third book will be.  I don’t hold this too much against the book, and in series like this you have to expect that some books are going to be more world building and setting up a storyline than they are going to be standalone exciting books.  I can’t emphasize enough that the plot wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as good as what I’ve already seen.  That said, I am absolutely going to continue the series and I look forward to it.

I continue to recommend the Skulduggery Pleasant books, but if you haven’t read the first book in the series read that before you read Playing with Fire.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★ 1/2
Characters: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★★
Narrator: ★★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★★

5 Star Rating


Have you read this book or anything by this author?  If so, did you enjoy it?  Tell me all about your experience in the comments!

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