Stephanie is an average teenager in Ireland. She has no siblings, her parents both have careers, she has a pair of annoying cousins and she has a rich bachelor uncle that she adores. She has always enjoyed the times spent with her uncle, even though his two brothers (Stephanie’s father and the father of the dreaded cousins) prefer to avoid him. Once she meets a few of his acquaintances, she finds out why, and she finds them fascinating, especially Mr. Skulduggery Pleasant.
Her uncle is wealthy because he is an extremely popular writer of fantasy, and Stephanie learns that his imagination is only a minor source for his plots and characters; his friends are the real deal. Sorcerers, mages, necromancers and a host of other unclassifiable magical persons have crossed paths with him, and it is their stories that he writes.
In this first book of a continuing series, Skulduggery takes on Stephanie as a student to teach her about the magical world around her, which she decides is vastly more interesting than her own world. The Scepter of the Ancients is believed to be a myth, but Stephanie and her uncle think otherwise, as do a number of powerful (and evil) sorcerers. They must wade through a maze of clues and decide whom to believe in order to stop their enemies and prevent ancient beings from annihilating the people of the world.
There is a LOT of action, to the point of being predictable. In every case, once a possibility for an encounter has been established, the actual encounter is not much further on. Although the details of these interactions are not always foreseeable, the big picture is pretty easy to guess.
The characters are likable enough, and, for once, the teenage protagonist is not a self-absorbed know-it-all. The story is just edgy enough to keep the reader’s interest, and there are enough surprises to prevent boredom from developing.
Rated: Mild. Just over a half dozen mild terms, and a handful of vain uses of the Lord’s name.