Book Review: "Skulduggery Pleasant 2: Playing With Fire" by Derek Landy.

When I first got the book, I didn't want to put it down. Yet there was something different about it… something I couldn’t put my finger on. But we’ll get to that. First, the summary: Playing With Fire picks up one year after the first book, with Stephanie (now going by her taken name, which I won’t spoil for those who haven’t read the first yet) becoming better and better at what she does (though still the rookie). But Baron Vengeous, one of Mevolent’s top three soldiers (next to Serpine and Lord Vile) has somehow escaped from an inescapable prison cell. And everybody knows exactly what he’s up to: He’s going to hunt down Lord Vile’s body armor, which will give him the power of necromancy, and use it to help bring back to life the Grotesquery, a hybrid monster that will open a portal so that the Faceless Ones can come back to Earth once again.

The book is a whole lot darker than the first one. The bad guys are more hardcore, the violence is more violent-y, the gore is more splattery, and everything is just on a whole other level. The book still has the funny wit that the first one had, and I did find myself laughing aloud a couple of times. However, as previously stated, there was just something bugging me that I couldn’t put my finger on. And then, toward the end of the book, I realized what it was. Like the first book, there’s almost no character growth. It teases you, especially with Stephanie, but never follows through (at least in this book). I thought the book was really gonna go somewhere with the growth of the 'reflection' and possibly how it affects Stephanie, but it never did… but I figure that’s being saved for possibly the next book. Overall, the characters are flat. And while the humor is still very much there, it’s not as strong as it was in the first book (and the humor in the first is what really kept the book going). Instead, it was replaced mostly with the much darker tone. If you’re a fan of Harry Potter (and you should be), imagine starting off with book 1, but then the next book you read is 4 or 5 (but without the deeply involved characters).

Now I didn’t hate the book; far from it. I loved the book, its humor, its darkness. It just always felt like there was something missing. But the action was awesome. It really was a step up from the previous. And China Sorrows is much, much cooler this time around. There were some new characters with some cool action or funny scenes, too; though, like the others, they were mostly flat.

So yeah, if you were a fan of the first book, I’d definitely recommend this one. It’s darker, with cooler action, and still really funny. It’s not a masterpiece by any means, but it’ll entertain. And that’s what books (like movies) are meant to do.

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