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Playing with Fire (Skulduggery Pleasant Series #2)

Playing with Fire (Skulduggery Pleasant Series #2)

4.8 86
by Derek Landy

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Skulduggery and Valkyrie are facing a new enemy: Baron Vengeous, who is determined to bring back the terrifying Faceless Ones and is crafting an army of evil to help him. Added to that, Vengeous is about to enlist a new ally (if he can raise it from the dead): the horrible Grotesquery, a very unlikable monster of legend.

Once Vengeous is on


Skulduggery and Valkyrie are facing a new enemy: Baron Vengeous, who is determined to bring back the terrifying Faceless Ones and is crafting an army of evil to help him. Added to that, Vengeous is about to enlist a new ally (if he can raise it from the dead): the horrible Grotesquery, a very unlikable monster of legend.

Once Vengeous is on the loose, dead bodies and vampires start showing up all over Ireland. Now pretty much everybody is out to kill Valkyrie, and the daring detective duo faces its biggest challenge yet.

But what if the greatest threat to Valkyrie is just a little closer to home?

Look for Scepter of the Ancients

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Judy Crowder
When it comes to a character like Skulduggery Pleasant, one has to look past the "skeleton in a suit" and take note of his intelligence, wit and certain "skills" that few possess. If you're a villain, take note or be destroyed. If you are Mr. Pleasant's 12-year-old apprentice, your education and very life may depend on what you learn about and from him. Valkyrie Cain, once known as Stephanie Edgley, is a direct ascendant of the Ancients, a people who know about the secret world of sorcerers and midges in the normal-seeming small-town world of Haggard, Ireland. Unfortunately, an evil element exists as well—The Faceless Ones, who were once exiled from this world?and the evil ones who want these beings to return. When Skulduggery takes Valkyrie under his bony wing, Valkyrie must learn to live two lives: her "reflection," a sort of double, wears the school uniform and attends school as Stephanie, not only filling in, but absorbing a sound education, news and gossip which Valkyrie gains. As the rookie apprentice to the living-dead-wizard detective, Valkyrie is on her way to becoming an elemental and learning magic. Apprentice means hands-on experience: combating villains who are not of this world—vampire Dusk, Scapegrace, Baron Vengeous, disciples of Lord Vile, and so on. So far, Skulduggery has been there when Valkyrie has needed help, but what happens when he doesn't appear in time? Valkyrie fears this will one day be a "pop quiz" she must pass. Author Landy writes a compelling fantasy/futuristic mystery that is certain to keep young readers' attention and imagination. He ups the suspense with characters such as Tannith, an able female who can hold her own anywhere, villainousTorment, the scientist, Kenspeckle, Valkyrie/Stephanie's annoying family members, plus China Sorrows, beautiful and charming but trustworthy? This a great read, with some potential vocabulary building built in. Reviewer: Judy Crowder
Children's Literature - Leah Hanson
Thirteen-year old Valkyrie Cain's second magical adventure begins with a cliffhanger—quite literally! In the process of trying to arrest another lowlife magic criminal, her new skills are tested to the edge, and then she falls off. Luckily, her partner skeleton detective, Skulduggery Pleasant, comes in at the last second, and together they finish off another day's work in keeping the world safe. But the peace does not last for long. The two soon learn that Baron Vengeous has escaped from his secret prison cell and is on a mission to reawaken the powerful gods known as the Faceless Ones by using a legendary monster, the Grotesquery. Valkyrie unknowingly becomes a pawn of the evil Baron because of her connection to a line of magic known as the Ancients, and must fight not only to protect the world, but to save her own life. Full of twists and turns, and action-packed, this story is the perfect blend of fantasy and action. As Valkyrie says, ". . . vampires are just part of the problem!" Landy weaves a succinct summary of the previous adventure's plot into the first few chapters of the book so that readers can jump into this installment without reading the prequel. Valkyrie's determination to do something meaningful and Skulduggery's persistent protection of her will quickly win readers over. However, this story is not for the faint of heart—minor characters rarely live longer than a few pages, and some of the creatures and deaths are perfectly gory. Book 2 in the "Skulduggery Pleasant" series. Reviewer: Leah Hanson

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Skulduggery Pleasant Series , #2
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File size:
851 KB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Playing with Fire

Chapter One

Hanging Around

Alkyrie Cain hit the parapet and tumbled, unable to stop herself, and with a panicked gasp she disappeared off the edge. The church tower stood high and proud, looking out over Dublin City. The night breeze was brisk and carried snatches of laughter from the street below. It was a long way down. A man in a tattered coat walked up to the edge and peered over. He smirked.

"This is insulting," he said. "Don't they know how dangerous I am? I am very, very dangerous. I'm a killer. I'm a trained killing machine. And still, they send you. A child."

Valkyrie felt her grip on the ledge loosen. She ignored the goading of the man standing above her and looked around for something else to grab on to. She looked everywhere but down. Down was where the street was, where the long drop and the sudden stop was. She didn't want to look down. She didn't want anything to do with down right now.

"What age are you?" the man continued. "Thirteen? What kind of responsible adult sends a thirteen-year-old child to stop me? What kind of thinking is that?"

Valkyrie swung herself gently toward the tower, planting her feet against a small buttress. The fear started to work through her, and she felt herself freeze up. She closed her eyes against the oncoming wave of paralysis.

The man was Vaurien Scapegrace, currently wanted in five countries for various counts of attempted murder. He hunkered down at the edge and smiled happily.

"I am turning murder into an art form. When I—when I kill, I'm actually painting a big, big picture, using bloodand, and . . . messiness. You know?"

Below Valkyrie, the city twinkled.

"I'm an artist," Scapegrace continued. "Some people don't appreciate that. Some people don't recognize true talent when they see it. And that's fine. I'm not bitter. My time will come."

"Serpine tried to bring the Faceless Ones back," Valkyrie managed to say. Her fingers were burning, and the muscles in her legs were screaming at her. "We stopped him. We'll stop you, too."

He laughed. "What, you think I want the old gods to walk the Earth once again? Is that it? You think Nefarian Serpine was my leader? I'm not one of those nut-bag disciples, all right? I'm my own man."

Valkyrie had one chance, but she needed to be calm to take advantage of it. Her powers, limited though they were, were Elemental—the manipulation of earth, air, fire, and water. But at this stage of her training they didn't work when she was panicking.

"So if you don't want the Faceless Ones to return," she said, "what do you want? Why are you doing this?"

He shook his head. "You wouldn't understand. It's grown-up stuff. I just want a little appreciation for who I am, that's all. That's not much to ask, is it? But of course, you wouldn't know. You're just a kid." He shrugged. "Oh well. Time to die."

He reached down to shove her.

"Have you killed anyone?" she asked quickly.

"What? Did you miss what I said, about turning murder into an art form?"

"But you haven't actually killed anyone yet, have you? I read your file."

He glowered. "Technically, yeah, all right, maybe I haven't, but tonight's the night. You're going to be my first."

She readied herself, controlled her breathing. "Find the space where everything connects," she murmured.

Scapegrace frowned. "What?"

Valkyrie kicked upward, taking her right hand from the outcrop and feeling the air against her palm. She pushed at it the way she'd been taught, and it shimmered and hit Scapegrace, throwing him off his feet. Valkyrie clutched at the edge of the parapet, her legs swinging in open air. She grunted and pulled herself up, then flung her left arm across the edge and hauled herself the rest of the way.

Valkyrie got to her feet, her arms and legs trembling after the strain, and moved away from the edge. The wind whipped her dark hair across her face.

Scapegrace was already getting up, and she saw anger seep into his features. She clicked her fingers, generating a spark that she caught in her hand. She tried to focus, tried to build it into a flame, but Scapegrace was coming at her like a freight train.

She jumped and thrust out both feet. Her boots slammed into his chest, and he hit the ground again and went sprawling.

He turned to her just as she lashed a kick into his jaw. His body twisted and he tumbled back, came up to his feet, then lost his balance, fell again. He spat blood and glared.

"You little brat," he snarled. "You uppity, sneaky little brat. You don't know who you're messing with, do you? I am going to be the greatest killer the world has ever known." He stood up slowly, wiping his sleeve across his burst lip. "When I'm finished with you, I'm going to deliver your mutilated, bloody corpse to your masters, as a warning. They sent you up against me, alone. Next time they're going to have to send a battalion."

Valkyrie smiled, and Scapegrace's anger flared. "What the hell is so funny?"

"First of all," she said, her confidence growing, "they're not my masters. I don't have a master. Second, they don't need a battalion to take you down. And third—and this really is the most important point—whoever said I came alone?"

Scapegrace frowned, turned, saw someone walking up behind him—a skeleton in a black suit—and he tried to attack, but a gloved fist hit his face, a foot hit his shin, and an elbow slammed into his chest. He fell in an awkward heap.

Skulduggery Pleasant turned to Valkyrie. "You all right?"

"I'll kill you both!" Scapegrace howled.

"Hush," Skulduggery said.

Scapegrace launched himself forward and Skulduggery moved in to him, grabbed his outstretched arm, and spun him around, then abruptly cut him off by slamming a forearm into his throat. Scapegrace flipped in midair, landed painfully.

Playing with Fire. Copyright (c) by Derek Landy . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Derek Landy lives near Dublin. Before writing his children's story about a sharply dressed skeleton detective, he wrote the screenplays for a zombie movie and a little thriller in which everybody dies.

As a blackbelt in Kenpo Karate, he has taught countless children how to defend themselves, in the hopes of one day building his own private munchkin army. He firmly believes that they await his call to strike against his enemies (he doesn't actually have any enemies but he's assuming they'll show up sooner or later).

The reason Derek writes his own biographical blurb is so that he can finally refer to himself in the third person without looking pompous or insane.

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Playing with Fire (Skulduggery Pleasant Series #2) 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 86 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book i ever read!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
They should make movies out of this series like harry potter. It is awesome read it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I ususally do not buy books over $5 but this was definitely worth it. The authors wording as well as the characters hook you and you simply cannot put this book down. A quite humourous book and i have reread probably 3 times. This is BY FAR my favorite book and i consider myself quite the bookworm. I hope my review has helped.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
These books are absolutely awesome. They blend humor with a dark tone and epic battles into a very well-written series. Read them; you won't regret it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read the frst one and i thought it was amazing but the second one is OUTRAGEOUSLY AWESOME im not finished but ive got 30 more pages and i cant wait to buy the 3rd one Best book ever!! :)
skulduggerypleasantfan3 More than 1 year ago
It was amazingly awesome I loved it skulduggery rocks
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved it from the first page. The witted humor, the fighting, the witted humor while fighting, the darkness, and even some light gore with just a sprinkle of magic. Skuldugger is my altime favorite charater. Hope that little comment didn't florish his huge ego more so. Sometimes, i think he and my dad are twins. Something in the apperance makes them diffrent through. Is it the eyes? Yeah, thats it.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Stephanie Edgely never could have predicted the death of her beloved Uncle Gordon would lead to her rebirth as Valkyrie Cain, magical apprentice to the world famous skeleton detective Skulduggery Pleasant. Instead of attending school, doing homework, and spending time with her family like other thirteen-year-old girls, Valkyrie sends her reflection to carry out the mundane duties of everyday life, while she prowls the streets of Dublin with Skulduggery, honing her abilities and hunting down villains by order of The Elders back at Sanctuary. Skulduggery harbors suspicions about head and (presently) sole council member Thurid Guild, suspicions that only increase when one of the Malevolent's most fanatical, intelligent, and powerful generals, Baron Vengeous, escapes from his secretly located prison. Aided by the vampire Dusk and razor-blade wielding U.S. import Billy-Ray Sanguine, Vengeous plans to complete a mission Lord Vile set in motion years ago. With the help of China Sorrows and Tanith Low, Skulduggery and Valkyrie must put together the various pieces of the Baron's plot before he resurrects the Grotesquery (a monster assembled from the most fearsome beasts of legend) and brings the Faceless Ones back to life. PLAYING WITH FIRE is a swiftly paced novel that delivers adventure and suspense without sacrificing character and relationship development. The relationships between Valkyrie and her mentors have deepened in this second novel, yet we also see a distance being created from her family and old life. Readers will be satisfied with the novel's plot wrap-up, yet still hunger for the next installment thanks to Derek Landy's overarching hints and teases of a much larger conspiracy. To sum up, PLAYING WITH FIRE is a clever, snarky, satisfying read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Talking skelitons, lightning canes and magic: oh my!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book i ever read i want there to be a movie about it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome cant even describe it! Skullduggery Pleasent combines all the traits i look for in a book: humor, crimefighting, suspense, and non-stp action! Add in a fearless heroien with an awesome name ( Valkyrie Cain! How is that not cool?) a crack wit detective and a list of nefarious, vile and vengeous villians and you cant help being on the edge of your seat!
Heidi Rosenleaf More than 1 year ago
what more cann i say?
Guest More than 1 year ago
Playing with fire is the second book of skulduggery pleasant. It was amazing and i highly recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is there going to be a moive there has to be a moive !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a really good action packed story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was fantastic. I stayed up till past eleven finishing the third. I recomend this book for anyone who likes magic, mystery, danger, someone who dosnt mind bad words, and expect some pretty unexpected events. I think a lot of you out there will really like these books. ------ I CANT FIND THE FOURTH IN ENGLISH!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Shadowjakk More than 1 year ago
First, this is a review of not only this book, but this series as well. While many people will see this as a variation of the Harry Potter series, they are extremely well written and fun to read. T There is world saving and villains to be defeated, and the heroes do NOT always win the day, or even survive. Bad things happen to good people, and some bad people do not get punished. And a LOT of snark, especially between Pleasant and Valkyrie, which really helps the tone and fun of these book. Engaging subplots and some extremely scary and gory scenes give the book a seriousness that haunts the entire series. The first book, you meet Skulduggery and Step for the first time), this expands on the events that started in that book, and concludes them in #3 of the series, but each book is self contained and can be read solo. This volume, the evil Baron Vengeous is trying to bring back to life a creature that will help bring about the return of a race of ancient gods called the Faceless Ones. Do the heroes win? That would be telling... Read Book 1 first(called Staff of the Ancients in USA, but known simply as Skulduggery Pleasant in the UK and AUS. I guess the best way to describe this series is if Harry Potter and Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files got together, this would be the result. Outstanding fun.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love ur books they are cool and funny while being intertaning ar
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Who should play skulduggery? Johnny depp or benedict cumberbatch? If u dont kno who benedict cumberbatch is ur life sucks. Watch Sherlock and decide