I have seriously seen all of these covers one place or another.
Meet Skulduggery Pleasant. Sure, he may lose his head now and again (in fact, he won his current skull in a poker match), but he is much more than he appears to be—which is good, considering that he is, basically, a skeleton. Skulduggery may be long dead, but he is also a mage who dodged the grave so that he could save the world from an ancient evil. But to defeat it, he'll need the help of a new partner: a not so innocent twelve-year-old girl named Stephanie. That's right, they're the heroes.
Stephanie and Skulduggery are quickly caught up in a battle to stop evil forces from acquiring her recently deceased uncle's most prized possession—the Sceptre of the Ancients. The Ancients were the good guys, an extinct race of uber-magicians from the early days of the earth, and the scepter is their most dangerous weapon, one capable of killing anyone and destroying anything. Back in the day, they used it to banish the bad guys, the evil Faceless Ones. Unfortunately, in the way of bad guys everywhere, the Faceless Ones are staging a comeback and no one besides our two heroes believes in the Faceless Ones, or even that the Sceptre is real.
So Stephanie and Skulduggery set off to find the Sceptre, fend off the minions of the bad guys, beat down vampires and the undead, prove the existence of the Ancients and the Faceless Ones, all while trading snappy, snippy banter worthy of the best screwball comedies.
Oh man... How do I begin to describe why I love this series, especially after a description like that. I can, and will, talk to you until the cows come home as to why I love it, but why you should love it too is another matter entirely.
For starters, to call it crazy is an understatement. In the first three books alone we have talking skeletons, little girls that do magic, killers for hire, teleporters, bumbling killer-wannabes, swordswomen, allies who can't be trusted, enemies who can be trusted, Frankenstein-like monsters, suits that can protect you from injury, vampires who change by peeling their skin off, sorcerers with every kind of magic under the sun, evil gods, powerful ancestors, very normal parents, obnoxious relatives, and an assortment of other beings both mystifying and horrifying alike. If I has a nickel for every sarcastic or witty comment uttered, or every time I have laughed out loud, I'd be pretty freakin' rich at this point.
I've been putting off this series to review for a while now, and I guess it's mostly because I wasn't certain how to approach it. There are six books out so far (nine planned), but only three have been released in the U.S. They're popular overseas, but never caught on here for some reason. I've read and own all six, but they haven't been easy to get: I live in the northeastern United States, and to buy and ship three books at a time from Amazon U.K. has cost me around $50*, but actually buying them was really hassle-free. Of course, I think the series is worth it, but other people may not.
My best tip to you is to find the first three, either from the library or buy them on the Internet, and give them a try. I prefer books four, five, and six and their story, but the first three will get you a good feel for the series.
Title (book one): Skulduggery Pleasant: Scepter of the Ancients\
Author: Derek Landy
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books (U.K.); Harper Trophy (U.S.)
Publication Date: 2007- 2008 (U.K./ U.S.)
Pages: 371 (my U.K. copy)
Goodreads, Amazon U.S., Amazon U.K.