Valkyrie Cain and company are back for another daring, supernatural adventure in Derek Landy's THE FACELESS ONES. This is the best Skulduggery Pleasant novel I've read so far, with much more development of the characters, their relationships, and higher stakes than we've ever seen before. If you thought life was dangerous for this crowd in the first two books, hold on to you hats 'cause things only get worse from here.
Teleporters across the world are being murdered. Despite the suspension of his official title as Sanctuary's lead investigator, skeleton detective Skulduggery Pleasant and his young protégé, Valkyrie Cain are on the case. It's small wonder then, when they're contacted by the world's last trained teleporter, Emmett Peregrine for protection. But when Peregrine is murdered by members of The Diablerie on ace swordsman Tanith Low's watch, the savvy duo knows the stakes have risen to an all-time high. For this time our heroes aren't just facing a skilled dark sorcerer intent on revenge, but a crazed madman determined to bring back a nearly indestructible force: The Faceless Ones.
What I enjoyed so much this time around was how Mr. Landy maintained the plot's forward charging momentum, while simultaneously deepening the relationships between the main characters. The affection between Valkyrie and her new group of friends grows more apparent with each book, especially the almost parent/child attachment between her and Skulduggery, despite his best efforts to remain aloof. These familial stirrings are further evidenced when both mad scientist Kenspeckle Grouse and ex-boxer-turned-fine-tailor Ghastly Bespoke express deep concern over the increasing risks Valkyrie's new job poses to her life.
There are also wonderful scenes demonstrating how much "life" Valkyrie is missing out on by allowing her mirror self to take over her every day activities. Whether it's her first kiss, the growing distance in the relationship with her parents, or Tanith's tacit agreement with Kenspeckle's belief that Val needs friends her own age. As she sustains one injury after another and multiple near-death encounters, it becomes clear to the reader (if not Valkyrie herself) that this wickedly cool existence comes at a high price.
I applaud Derek Landy for not being afraid of taking the Skulduggery Pleasant novels in an even darker direction and showing the effects such events have on his young heroine's psyche. I'm eagerly anticipating book #4.