This isn't a review as such, because I can't give any semblance of impartiality. Like I said in my YA vs. Adult post, I grew up with these books. So I finally got around to reading The Maleficent Seven and loved it. I've been trying to find time to read more and that was just the ticket (which suits, because I read it on a train. Get it? Ticket? I'll stop now.)
This time, the bad guys take the stage.
Tanith Low, now possessed by a remnant, recruits a gang of villains - many of whom will be familiar from previous Skulduggery adventures - in order to track down and steal the four God-Killer level weapons that could hurt Darquesse when she eventually emerges. Also on the trail of the weapons is a secret group of Sanctuary sorcerors, and doing his best to keep up and keep Tanith alive is one Mr. Ghastly Bespoke.
When the villains around her are lying and scheming and plotting, Tanith needs to stay two steps ahead of her teammates and her enemies. After all, she's get her own double-crosses to plan - and she's a villain herself...
This wasn't the only time I rooted for the bad-guy protagonist, but it was definitely the most fun. I laughed out loud several times while reading it, and the rest of the time just had this stupid smile on my face. Every character is hilarious. All of them, even if it's unintentional. Even though they're all either sarcastic and witty or pathetic and laughable, the characters are still so well-defined and individual. It does help that Derek had seven books before this to flesh out these characters in a more detached way - I think that when you write from the perspective of a character they become more like you, so at least Tanith and co. already had their huge personalities from being described at a distance.
To be honest, I got a bit annoyed by Dexter Vex, Saracen Rue, the Monster Hunters, that whole team, stealing screen time from Tanith. I know the Maleficent Seven needed some obstacles to getting what they wanted, but I just loved Tanith's group so much. I think the Dead Men work best when Skulduggery is with them. Also, I loved how the characters lampshaded Saracen's ability (the elusive "he knows things"). It's played with a lot in this book, and we see him in action, but sadly still no explanation.
GOD there were so many bombshells. Not exactly spoilers, more just shocking backstory. So I don't feel too bad posting some of them. Near the start Sanguine's eyes would have done something "had he not scooped them out long ago". I can't be the only one who assumed he'd been born without eyes, or that he'd lost them in his hitman business. Now I want to know why he plucked his own eyes out. Then again, eye gore is the worst. At one point someone says about Caelan, Valkyrie's vampire ex-boyfriend: "He stalked and he tortured and he murdered every woman he became enamoured with." Valkyrie and Caelan broke it off rather violently in Death Bringer (I think), the outcome worse for him than it was for her, but by that point he was already acting incredibly creepy and definitely stalking her. So you have to wonder what would have happened if he hadn't reached a timely end. Tanith gets a backstory too, which is fun and unexpected.
We're back to my favourite thing about great series: that they have whole world populated with real characters, so there are an infinite amount of stories possible in that world, both for the author and for fanfic writers.
The fact that the book is based on Tanith is interesting, considering that Derek said he planned to kill her off in the first book. I'm very glad he didn't; while she's evil now, she's still lovable. But oh wow, what an asshole. I can't go into detail because of spoilers, but I'll just expand on what it says in the blurb; Tanith does indeed double-cross people, and murder a few people we've come to like.
It's interesting to see how Valkyrie is seen by others. With the book normally told from her teenage perspective, you'd think that the world of sorcerers just constantly talked about her and Skulduggery, and that they're treated with some respect but not like they're the most important people in the universe. Valyrie and Skulduggery are both arrogant (the latter more so) and that tints the story from their perspective. I like to think about how Valkyrie's adolescence influences her view of the magical world, and how it influences the magical world's view of her.
The fact that Valkyrie is only mentioned a few times is also testament to the secondary characters' ability to prop up a story by themselves.
I'd have to say I prefer this book over Kingdom of the Wicked and Last Stand of Dead Men, but maybe not Death Bringer or Skulduggery Pleasant, just because it's so much fun. Definitely recommended if you're a Minion or whatever they're calling themselves these days, but tread carefully if not. You'll still love the jokes, but it's best to read up to Book 7 or 8 first so you have context.
I still haven't read The Dying of the Light. Getting that for Christmas.