Friday 24 February 2017

Highly addictive and homegrown

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy (HarperCollins, £12.99)
The Thin Executioner by Darren Shan (HarperCollins, 12.99)

Parents worldwide owe a great debt to both Darren Shan and Derek Landy for keeping their teenagers reading. Two of the most successful children's writers this country has ever produced, along with Eoin Colfer, they have both created their own distinct genres, and continue to fly the flag for highly addictive, internationally successful, home-grown fiction.

Shan has a surprisingly low profile in Ireland considering he has sold over 15 million books in 31 different languages, and has one Hollywood film already under his belt.

His latest novel, The Thin Executioner, doesn't disappoint.

A heady tale, billed as 'One Thousand and One Nightmares', it charts the journey of Jebel Rum, the Executioner's son, from skinny no-hoper to rightful successor to his father's 'crown', via much bloody slaughter and a quest to the faraway lair of a mysterious god.

Subtle it ain't, the book opens with another axed head 'rolling into the dust' but Shan is a consummate storyteller, drawing the reader into his dark, mysterious world and in this book his prose is as sharp and deft as any executioner's axe.

Skulduggery Pleasant: Dark Days, is also deftly written. Book four in the skeleton detective series, it's loaded with Landy's customary witty dialogue, well-named villains like Dreylan Scarab, and slick descriptions.

Landy went from working on his parents' farm in north Co Dublin to becoming an international bestseller, with an initial contract worth a million for the first Skulduggery book. In this one, his teen Lara Croft, Valkyrie, plans to rescue Skulduggery, who was sucked into a parallel dimension in the last book, but she has to avoid those who want to kill her first.

If you want to keep your teens interested in books, look no further. Landy and Shan are your only men.

April/May round up

New Island have launched a new children's imprint with six books, two teenage novels, The Great Rabbit Revenge and Over the Wall, both translated from German by the Little Islands editor, Siobhan Parkinson; two reprints of books published in the 1990s, White Lies by Mark O'Sullivan and The Lantern Moon by Maeve Friel, and two original novels by Irish authors, Old Friends by Tom O'Neill and The Cryptid Files: Lough Ness by Jean Flitcroft.

Of the six, The Crypid Files: Lough Ness (e6.99) has proved to be the favourite among young readers. Set around the world of cryptozoology, the study of animals that may or may not really exist, it introduces teenager Vanessa Day and charts her growing fascination with 'Nessie'. It's deftly plotted and compelling, with lots of facts about Lough Ness.

From Lough Ness to Ireland for Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick's Timecatcher (Orion, £6.99), a Dublin-rooted ghostly adventure story.

When Jessie meets ghost boy, G, in an old button factory, she gets caught up in the happenings from another dimension. And to London. In 2009 The Times Children's Fiction Award went to Sophia Bennett and her second book, Beads, Boys and Bangles is a magical tale of four best friends and their adventures in the fashion world.

Sounds pink and fluffy, well it's not. The girls travel to Mumbai and find their collection is being produced in child labour camps, so they vow to return to London and take on the fashion mavens. Ideal for socially aware teens.

Irish Independent

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