Book: Seasons of War (Skulduggery Pleasant #13)
Author: Derek Landy
BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Valkyrie and her mum talk about her sister, Alice.
Content Warnings: Death, violence, war, transphobia, PTSD, blood, gore, torture, mutilation, grief, addiction, imprisonment
SPOILER ALERT: There will be some major spoilers for Book 12 in this review, and for other books in the series. If you are not caught up, stop reading now.
I was really excited for the latest Skulduggery Pleasant book, after really enjoying the 12th book last year. Sadly, it was unlucky number 13 for Skulduggery, as this 13th outing fell considerably short of my expectations. It was a rather messy book, with too many plot threads crammed in, slow pacing and one of the main plot threads of this new arc of the series being resolved far too easily. I still love Skulduggery but this was definitely one of weaker instalments of the series. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
The thirteenth thrilling novel in the internationally bestselling Skulduggery Pleasant series, SEASONS OF WAR will test the Skeleton Detective and Valkyrie like never before…
War is coming. To avert catastrophe, Skulduggery and Valkyrie are sent on a secret mission that takes them away from everything they know, to a forsaken land of magic and grim, unrelenting terror. It is here that Valkyrie will have to fight the hardest ― not only against the enemies who want her dead, but also against her own self-destructive impulses. It’s only by crawling through darkness that she’ll be able to once again stand in the light…
So I’ll start off with my biggest problem with this book, our old friend pacing rears its ugly head again! This is a super thick book, and it’s not very well paced at all. A lot of this book is JOURNEYING, which is never my favourite thing in the first place and here it really ground things to a snail’s pace. All the excitement really happens in the last 200 odd pages. The chapters are really short which helps, but I think it still could have used some trimming off the page count.
There’s also a lot of subplots in this that add very little to the overall story. The Flanery subplot, which has been fairly weak throughout Phase 2 of the series, has very little impact here, he’s only present for two or three chapters and since his plot to expose magic was foiled in the last book, I don’t really understand why he’s still present at all. The Sebastian and Darquesse subplot is JUST WEIRD, I don’t want to go to far into it because it would be super spoilery, but yeah….wasn’t a fan.
I also didn’t think the Temper Fray plot added a lot? I reckon had the book simply focused on Omen and Skulduggery and Val’s adventures in the Leibniz Universe, then it would probably have had a better focus and would have been a more enjoyable read.
However, there were things I did enjoy in this book. One of the highlights of this whole Phase 2 of the series has been Valkyrie’s journey with her mental health, YA fantasy books have a tendency to not really explore the impact that traumatic events have on their teenage characters and Val has dealt with A LOT over the years, so it was really cool to see that journey come to a head in this book, and for her to acknowledge that her coping mechanisms have been unhealthy and that she needs therapy was really great. I hope we get to see more of Val working through her trauma in the next two books.
Saracen’s power reveal! We waited years for it and it was hilarious! I’d always figured that some sorcerers must pick a fairly limited use power that seems super cool at the time but turns out not to be and it was so funny to see that with Saracen. Like if you give an 18 year old free reign to pick any magic they want, chances are some of them are going to pick something that’s really only appealing when you’re that age and get stuck with it for hundreds of years!
I’ve been watching Heroes over the past few months (I know, super late to the party, but in my defence, I was like 10 when it first came out, so it wasn’t really suitable!) and Valkyrie’s ability to be able to mimic other people’s powers in this really reminded me of Peter Petrelli in that series. I look forward to seeing more of it, because I think it’s pretty cool.
The whole Last of The Faceless Ones thing that was a super big reveal in the last book? I was really disappointed that hardly anything was done with it in this book. I mean I get that Mevolent is a big deal and they needed to get rid of him, but Valkyrie learned a huge new thing about herself and she barely spends any time digesting it? As a reader, I just wanted more to be done with that.
It was really nice to see the whole group of Val, Tanith, Skulduggery, Saracen and Dexter back together in this book, I think this series really thrives off the group dynamics and I was kind of sad that they got split up for most of the book because the series really thrives on that dynamic.
I was especially sad that we didn’t get as many Val and Skulduggery scenes in this book because I loved that they were finally getting closer again in the last book. Having said that, the ones we did get: GOLDEN. They definitely seem to be getting back into their old rhythms now, which I love.
The dialogue is still great, all the sarcasm and wit that we know and love from this series is definitely still a firm feature. I will say though that I’m not sure this was Derek Landy’s best written book? A lot of the sentences seemed kind of clunky, and I know that this has never been a particularly description heavy series, but this book in particular, they seemed very sparse! I will admit though, some of this may come from the fact that I was editing my own novel whilst reading this and I have some similar issues with description!
It was nice to see Val’s whole family back in this book, it’s been ages since we’ve had a whole family get together!
Also can we talk about Serpine for a second? I was not expecting to enjoy him as much as I did, but he was one of the highlights of this book for me! He was a really entertaining addition to this book and his dynamic with Valkyrie was strangely charming!
The fact that the Leibniz Universe has the same name as a biscuit makes me laugh every time.
It was nice that Omen had more to do in this book, though his storyline had very little to do with what was going on with Val and Skulduggery. I am a little peeved that Landy had to introduce Omen having feelings for Never, WHY CAN WE NEVER HAVE PLATONIC FRIENDSHIPS?????? I mean I’m glad he doesn’t seem to want to act on it, and at least Omen and Axelia seem to have found their platonic friendship groove, but it would be nice if Omen didn’t have to have romantic feelings for all his friends!
Landy always does really great action scenes, though I will admit, a lot of the tension was kind of drained from the final battle with Mevolent because we take a big break in between the first wave of the battle and then the second one. There’s also a lot of deus ex machinery bits with Valkyrie’s injuries in this one as she always seems to be easily able to find a doctor whose powers she can use to heal herself.
It does seem really convenient that Landy has brought back pretty much all of the main villains from the series now! I mean don’t get me wrong, he has had some great villains over the years, but it would be nice if we got to see some new ones rather than Val and Skulduggery defeating the same big bads over and over again. I also felt that Mevolent felt kind of flat as supposedly the biggest bad of the big bads? He could have been way more scary!
I was really disappointed by how the whole King of The Darklands thing was handled, that’s been a plotline that’s been building up throughout the series and I wasn’t expecting it to be resolved as easily as it was.
I’m really interested in Crepuscular, he definitely seems like he’s being set up to be a villain but in this book he’s fairly helpful to Omen, so I’m still kind of wondering what side he’s going to be on? He was actually way more interesting than Mevolent, and his backstory with Skulduggery is really cool, so I hope that gets explored more instead of some of the other weird series subplots in the next book.
I was really sad with the way Saracen’s story was handled in this book, I think it could have been done so much better and I didn’t really feel enough of the emotional impact from it.
The whole Religious Freedom Act was an interesting addition to this book, I look forward to seeing how this is explored in the upcoming two books, this series has kind of touched on religion before but never really gone deeply into it, so it would be nice to see that explored more.
Overall, this book was definitely a pretty messy instalment of the series, it did have some good aspects but it’s definitely not amongst my favourites of the books. I hope that the next book is better and I look forward to seeing what adventures Val and Skulduggery have next.
My Rating: 3/5
My next review will be of Rory Power’s Burn Our Bodies Down.