The Dying of the Light (2014) – Derek Landy



Two stars

Read Nov 12 2015 – Nov 21 2015

Book 9 of Skulduggery Pleasant

Valkyrie. Darquesse. Stephanie. The world ain’t big enough for the three of them. The end will come…

The War of the Sanctuaries has been won, but it was not without its casualties. Following the loss of Valkyrie Cain, Skulduggery Pleasant must use any and all means to track down and stop Darquesse before she turns the world into a charred, lifeless cinder.

And so he draws together a team of soldiers, monster hunters, killers, criminals… and Valkyrie’s own murderous reflection.

The war may be over, but the final battle is about to begin. And not everyone gets out of here alive…

Underwhelmed. And it disappoints me that I leave the Skulduggery Pleasant adventure feeling underwhelmed, because there really was something special about this series.

The Dying of the Light picks up where the previous left off. Darquesse, Valkyrie’s true name, has fully emerged and taken control of their body, and is well on her way to ensure the end of the world as foreseen by the Sensitives. Skulduggery and co. must find a way to stop Darquesse from murdering her family, bring Valkyrie back and once again save the world.

I had a lot of problems with this book, because it just felt so incoherent and overworked and underworked in all the wrong places. But the number one most confusing issue is: how are Valkyrie and Darquesse different? How can they be more than one person? As far as I’ve always been concerned a “true name” is the essence of oneself – the quintessential part of a person. If Darquesse is what makes Valkyrie Valkyrie, then how is one an almost god, and the other just a regular, if somewhat more magical, human being?

So how would I have spun it? Well, I would have liked it better if it was indeed Valkyrie doing what Darquesse did, where Darquesse is just the ruthless part of Valkyrie that thought she was doing something right, that somehow events had gotten to a point where she’d have to make hard decisions. Or even if Darquesse was a future narrowly avoided, such as in the movie Looper, where the good guy goes bad as a defence response. Either way, it felt cheap for Valkyrie to face her possible destiny as a killer and then for her to be absolved of all blame, because she was pushed aside by herself as Darquesse.

While Valkyrie does shoulder the blame for killing Alice in order to lay claim to the Sceptre of the Ancients, that also felt ineffectual. I mean, who actually thought Alice was going to die? Magic is, well, magic, and I was under the impression that the Sunburst was highly unlikely to fail. I’m sure it’s hard killing your baby sister, but there was a foolproof way to bring her back. This is what Valkyrie spent five years in exile for.

I’m not advocating killing characters to force a bittersweet ending (à la Hunger Games and the Dustlands trilogy), but no one important died at all (well, aside from Erskine Ravel)! I guess Landy decided he was too trigger happy in Last Stand of Dead Men and pulled back. She spent five years in self-exile, until two random characters, Gant and Jeremiah, decided to look for her (for reasons unknown). This is the catalyst for her returning home to her family and Skulduggery. This felt lazy, like Landy didn’t know how or didn’t want to deal with the immediate aftermath of Darquesse’s defeat. So hey, let’s skip to five years later and say Valkyrie is very sorry for the bad things she’s done but she’s had enough time to think now and she is ready to go back.

Now let’s touch one more time on Valkyrie and her weird magic. I thought Valkyrie losing her magic was a great twist, but because Valkyrie has to be oh so special, she gets a new cool magic throwing energy white lightning talent now! How does it work? We’re not meant to care, but simply understand Valkyrie is stronger and unique now.

We can’t mention Valkyrie and Darquesse without touching on Stephanie, the reflection. I honestly did not like or sympathise with her, but I did understand her at least. There couldn’t be two Valkyries, so it was no surprise that Steph had to go.

The supporting characters were brought in to strut the stage for five minutes, before being relegated to the dusty basement inhabited by the massive numbers of characters.

Tanith Low. Darquesse separates the remnant from Tanith. Hey, she’s back! Let’s move on. Wait, no. Tanith was an amazing character and she felt like she was one of Landy’s notes to self: don’t forget to bring Tanith back in The Dying of the Light. This is another example where a character could have died, but good always triumphs in an almost sickly way.

Melancholia. Oh wait, she does die, but who really cares? Was she important? Not really. Argeddion. He dies too. But we don’t care either. And there was a vampire here and there and they did enough things to remind us that vampires do exist in that world. The once villains but now good guys were the most amusing characters. I’m talking about Scapegrace, Thrasher and Billy-Ray. The first two are just plain hilarious, while I really felt for the latter. I thought it was quite heartbreaking, how he had the girl of his dreams (but did he ever really have her?), and then for her to not remember anything, much less that he loved her.

As for the plot, the pacing was all over the place. Wow, look how strong and clever Darquesse is! She’s so difficult to defeat! She keeps foiling all our plans! The plot just dragged on, and on, and on, with the gang just hopping from one plan to another. There was no sense of buildup, there was no momentum for the final battle. In one word, the plot was boring.

There were also many irrelevant, bizarre plot lines which were picked up and left off. For example, the magic sucker in the alternate realm was being geared up to be the essential weapon against Darquesse, before never being mentioned again. The challenges in Necropolis were boring – ghosts from your past coming back to life? Never saw that coming. Plus Valkyrie’s invulnerability was squandered and rather irrelevant. Skulduggery’s “sacrifice” was predictable.

I wanted to love this book, I really did. I wanted to cry as I left the world of Skulduggery Pleasant, leaving the amazing characters to live on their lives outside my view. The Dying of the Light tried hard, but it tackled too much (in terms of plot lines and characters) and so ultimately fell flat.

Skulduggery Pleasant
Skulduggery Pleasant (2007)
Playing with Fire (2008)
The Faceless Ones (2008)
Dark Days (2010)
Mortal Coil (2010)
Death Bringer (2011)
Kingdom of the Wicked (2012)
Last Stand of Dead Men (2013)
The Dying of the Light (2014)

*The Maleficent Seven is set between Kingdom of the Wicked and Last Stand of Dead Men.


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