"The balance between humour and danger is well handled in Derek Landy's fun, fast-paced fantasy, Skulduggery Pleasant"
The Guardian, Skulduggery Pleasant
Skulduggery Pleasant


Skulduggery Pleasant cover 2


US Cover


Skulduggery Pleasant
Author Derek Landy
Cover Artist Tom Percival
Date Published 2007
Date Set In June 2007
Publisher HarperCollins
No. of pages 368
ISBN 0-00-724161-5 (Original)

0-00-724162-0 (Paperback)

Publication Order
Preceded by
Followed by
Playing With Fire

Skulduggery Pleasant (re-titled Skulduggery Pleasant: Sceptre Of The Ancients in the 2009 paperback in the US and Canada) is the first book in the nine-book series. It was published in 2007 by HarperCollins and it is written by Derek Landy. It is about a young girl named Stephanie Edgley and a long-dead mage named Skulduggery Pleasant as they try to stop an evil Adept named Nefarian Serpine from getting his hands on the Sceptre of the Ancients and bringing back the Faceless Ones.



Stephanie Edgley's novelist uncle, Gordon Edgley, dies, leaving her his vast mansion and the royalties from his best-selling books. At the reading of the will, a strange man in a tan overcoat, a hat, a frizzy wig, sunglasses and a scarf is present (called Skulduggery Pleasant) along with Fergus and Beryl, Stephanie's none-too-liked aunt and uncle. Stephanie's aunt and uncle are given something: a seemingly useless brooch, a boat, and a car, (which neither want). Stephanie's parents, Desmond and Melissa Edgley, are left a villa in France while Stephanie is left Gordon's mansion along with all his riches and possessions.

Spending a night alone in the mansion due to car troubles and heavy rainfall, Stephanie is attacked by a strange man around midnight demanding she hands over a "key". The man attacks Stephanie when she refuses to let him inside and to give him the "key" and the mysterious Skulduggery Pleasant arrives and saves her, throwing a fireball (which is produced from clicking his fingers) at the man who is discovered to be fire-proof. Upon this discovery Skulduggery Pleasant shoots the attacker in his shoulder with a six-slot revolver and the man is forced to flee from the scene.

During the fight, Skulduggery's disguise of a wide-brimmed hat, wig, scarf and sunglasses fall off to reveal that he is an undead mage, made up of only a skeleton held together by magic.

Upon slowly realizing that her uncle was murdered, Stephanie, wanting to escape her previously boring and tedious life, helps Skulduggery investigate his mysterious death. Skulduggery and Stephanie gradually uncover a greater plot for world domination. Stephanie's uncle discovered an ancient weapon used by the first sorcerers, the Ancients, to defeat their tyrannical gods, the Faceless Ones. He sealed this deadly weapon, the Scepter of the Ancients, in a maze beneath the house Stephanie inherited. The "key" is in fact the old, insignificant-looking brooch left by her uncle to his other brother's wife, Beryl.

Stephanie and Skulduggery, aided by an immensely strong tailor named Ghastly Bespoke, a librarian China Sorrows and an English professional swordswoman Tanith Low attempt to prevent the main antagonist, Nefarian Serpine, from obtaining the Scepter. Serpine once served under the evil wizard Mevolent who waged a secret war on the wizard community. Skulduggery opposed Mevolent in this war four hundred years ago, when he was still alive. He became ensnared in a trap by Serpine, his wife and child murdered before his eyes and himself killed after several days torture by Serpine. He returned from the grave as a bag of bones (literally) and got up to continue the war after putting himself together.

As they are investigating, Serpine and his minions with papery skin known as Hollow Men, attack them, kidnapping Skulduggery. They try to get Stephanie, but she kills the Hollow Man attacking her and is safe. She enters China's library to earn information to obtain and use magic like Skulduggery to save him from Serpine. She doesn't think anybody will help her because everybody seems to dislike Skulduggery, so she plans on rescuing him alone. There she meets Tanith, who tries to aid her. Afterwards, Stephanie finally tells China and the Sanctuary that Skulduggery is captured, and they decide to try to free him with Ghastly and Tanith, along with two Cleavers. They succeed, and Skulduggery is back with the Sanctuary.

Skulduggery and Stephanie go to see Mr Bliss, China's brother, who has been working with both the Sanctuary and with Serpine to see if they can get information about the whereabouts of the Scepter and Serpine. However, Mr. Bliss betrays them and steals the brooch to unlock the caves in Gordon's estate. Upon realizing that Bliss betrays the Sanctuary by relinquishing the brooch to Serpine, Skulduggery fails in stopping him from allowing Serpine to obtain the Scepter. They try to locate Serpine, but discover he has already obtained the Scepter and has left the caves. When revealed, Serpine tries to kill Stephanie and Skulduggery using the Scepter, but they escape. As they leave, Serpine performs on a captured Cleaver. He runs a test which kills the Cleaver, finding the experiment causes him to resurrect. The resurrected Cleaver is addressed as the White Cleaver.

Ghastly, Tanith, Skulduggery and Stephanie head to a warehouse to gain information about the Scepter, only to find that the White Cleaver has found them and is now under instructions from Serpine. The White Cleaver attacks the goup. Forced to retreat after discovering the powerful White Cleaver can't die, Ghastly uses the Earthly Elemental ability to turn himself into a statue to avoid being killed by the White Cleaver. Sagacious Tome, one of the Elders, reveals himself a traitor, and allows the two other Elders, Eachan Meritorious and Morwenna Crow, to be murdered by Serpine. He then invades the Sanctuary and enters the Repository. Serpine's original plan was to use the Book of Names to control the World into submission, not to have the Scepter, but he had not realized that all three Elders' consent was needed to read from it. In a fit of rage, Serpine murders Tome to obtain the book even after Tome betrayed the other Elders.

Now working as a detective and with Stephanie's help, Skulduggery, Tanith and Stephanie raid the Sanctuary. They kill some Hollow Men, but again run into the White Cleaver. Tanith tells Skulduggery and Stephanie to stop Serpine while she buys time. She only partially succeeds for a few minutes, but then the White Cleaver gainsthe upper-hand and nearly kills her, Tanith defends herself in time to avoid being killed. Stephanie and Skulduggery then attack Serpine, and Skulduggery is pulled into the wall and Stephanie is left with a broken leg, but soon looks at the Book of Names and only briefly sees her True Name, although can't remember it clearly. Mr. Bliss then goes to Serpine, and Serpine tells him to kill Stephanie to prove himself and earn credit, but Mr. Bliss betrays him and tries to kill him using his own dagger, revealing his triple-cross, as he never was with Serpine at all. When Serpine avoids the killing blow, Bliss tries to stop him, but his red right hand incapacitates him. Skulduggery soon enters back in through the ceiling and continues fighting Serpine. When Serpine tries to destroy Skulduggery with the Scepter, Skulduggery holds the Book of Names above his face and the Book of Names being destroyed instead with the Scepter in the process. Angered at his loss, and that even the White Cleaver has mysteriously abandoned him, Serpine tortures Stephanie with his Red Hand, but Skulduggery destroys him with the Scepter, breaking the Scepter's power in the process. At the conclusion of the novel, Skulduggery offers to take Stephanie on as his assistant and apprentice in sorcery; Stephanie has discovered through the course of the novel's events that her family are descendants of the Ancients and she herself has magic abilities.

Throughout the plot, Stephanie is told multiple times that she must choose a name should she wish to remain in the magical community for several reasons. At the near end of the book, Stephanie Edgely chooses to leave behind her old self and takes the name of Valkyrie Cain.

This information was taken from Wikipedia

Chapter list


For a full list, see List of Skulduggery Pleasant characters.


Skulduggery Pleasant won the Red House Children's Book Award, the Bolton Children's Book Award and the Staffordshire Young Teen Fiction Award. The book was also recommended for confident readers (9+) by the Richard & Judy Children's Book Club in 2007. It also won the Portsmouth Book Awards in 2008, having been selected by school children in Portsmouth. Also, in 2009 , it won the Kernow Youth and Grampian Book Awards by a majority vote. In 2010, Skulduggery Pleasant was awarded the title of Irish Book Of The Decade, after being up against some of the worlds best sellers.

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