Skulduggery Pleasant -- Derek Landy
From Chapter Two:
Life in the Edgely household had always been fairly uneventful. Stephanie's mother worked in a bank, and her father owned a construction company, and she had no brothers or sisters, so the routine they had settled into was one of amiable convenience. But even so, there was always the voice in the back of her mind telling her that there should be more to life that this, more to her life than the small town of Haggard, which was tucked quietly into the east coast of Ireland. She just couldn't figure out what that something was.
Then her uncle dies and leaves almost everything to Stephanie, much to the surprise and dismay of her father's other brother. During her first night alone in her uncle's house, a man breaks in and attacks her, demanding that she give him some sort of key.
In the nick of time, the front door explodes open and in bursts Skulduggery Pleasant, a suit-wearing, Bentley-driving, walking, talking, shooting, boxing detective skeleton.
Stephanie joins him, and is introduced to a whole new world -- a world of magic and secret wars and politics, of murder and more magic and a whole new version of history. And, yes, you guessed it. Between the two of them, they have to Save The World.
Skulduggery Pleasant is an action movie of a book*. As with most action movies, I didn't really get attached to any of the characters. I LIKED them, and lots of them (especially, of course, Skulduggery) were really COOL, but I was never particularly worried about who'd live and who'd die. But remember -- it's an action movie of a book. All that really matters is whether or not it's fun.
I enjoyed Stephanie's ongoing introduction to the world-behind-our-world (within, really, we just don't notice it), the magic system is easily explained but has real potential to be flashy and fun, and I loved the Lovecraft bit, especially since the mentions of "The Faceless Ones" him on my brain anyway. The dialogue is mostly pretty snappy, with lots of fun buddy-action-movie-type squabbling, but Landy doesn't seem to go for the guffaws too much -- he goes for the 'heh' laugh, which I tend to prefer:
"Funny. I wouldn't have thought that a living skeleton would be such a skeptic. So what's our next move?"
He was silent for a bit. "Right, well, we've got to work out what we need. We've got to work out what we need, how we get it, and what we need to get to get what we need."
"I think I actually understood that," Stephanie said slowly. The car went over a bump. "No, it's gone again."
It's very violent -- you've got your torture, your multiple murders -- deaths galore, really. That said, I think there are a lot of middle-schoolers out there who'll like it a whole lot. Specifically Artemis Fowl fans, maybe Looking Glass Wars and Death Collector fans. And, wow. It looks to me like HarperC is pushing it pretty hard**. As it's apparently the first of a nine-book series, I'm not surprised.
*Warner Brothers already bought the movie rights, so I doubt I'm the only one who thinks so.
**The website is fun, but the video is just bizarre. I mean, I like the dancing skeleton, but it seemed a bit too playful for Skulduggery's character.