Introducing Archibald Lox
A Major New Fantasy Series From
Internationally Bestselling Author Darren Shan
Darren Shan, beloved and bestselling creator of Cirque Du Freak, The Demonata, and Zom-B series, has announced the launch of Archibald Lox, his new fantasy adventure months ahead of schedule. While many publishers are delaying or outright cancelling new publications, and while supply-chain issues and school and bookstore closures are disrupting the course of traditional publishing, Darren Shan decided to release the e-book editions of his new novels all at once offering readers around the globe a literary escape from the Coronavirus lockdown.
“I am trying to bring a bit of cheer and levity into the lives of young readers,” said Shan. “I’ve been working on the new Archibald Lox series for a few years and had intended to launch it in Fall 2020. As the world has been forced to hole up due to Coronavirus, I thought I’d release the books sooner and give readers something to enjoy in their quarantine time.”
The Archibald Lox series begins with a scary chance encounter on a London bridge between a tween in foster care who is mourning the accidental death of his closest friend and a girl his own age who is being pursued by some menacing men before vanishing into a seemingly conjured hole in the sidewalk. The book’s hero Archie soon finds the fate of his world and the magical world of the Merge depending on him!
Content/trigger warnings at the end of my review may contain spoilers.
“I wrote Archibald Lox because I wanted to create a world entirely alien to-yet intertwined with–our own, a world in which everything is weird yet familiar and where adventure and unexpected twists are always lurking just around the corner,” said Darren Shan. “What I love most about reading is escaping to fantastical worlds. There are echoes in Archibald Lox of many of the books that have set my mind spinning over the years, such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the books of Diana Wynne Jones and Neil Gaiman.”
Volume One of the Archibald Lox series is broken into three books designed to be read in quick succession as a trilogy, Archibald Lox and the Bridge Between Worlds, Archibald Lox and the Empress of Suanpan, and Archibald Lox and the Vote of Alignment. Book One is free for download. Each of the three books are available for purchase and download now as e-books on all major online platforms.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for reviewing purposes. This does not influence my opinions in any way.
My 3.5 star rating reflects my average rating of the whole series.
“The end of this life will be nothing more than the start of the next,” he says.
I was initially a bit hesitant going into this series because there’s three whole books in it and that fact intimidates me. Fortunately, Archibald Lox is really easy series to get into and before I knew it, the story was coming to an end.
This fantasy series took me in for a fun journey with Archie as he discovers a world beyond his own! From the start, the story is consistently action-packed which I appreciate since I rarely get bored.
The world-building in this was okay all throughout, but it took until the third book to answer some of my other questions. With that said, I do like the uniqueness of the different realms. The author did a great job in giving life to the Merge.
“There’s a saying in the Merge — don’t let tomorrow’s sorrows sour today’s pleasures.”
However, there were some aspects to the books that I couldn’t bring myself to care about. I tried really hard to connect with the main characters, or any of the other characters for that matter but unfortunately, that never happened. And I’m really sad about it because if it did, it would make my reading experience a whole lot better.
Also, I think that it could have done with more background on Archie so readers could have gotten to know him more before plunging into the action. On the other hand, Inez particularly, I did not like. I felt like she was too selfish and thinks only of herself. I don’t think she got much character development either, and that’s one of the things I really dislike in books. Too bad, she had potential to be a resonant character for me.
I should also point out that this book series may be intended for a younger audience than I expected. Although there were some gory details in the book so I can understand why this one is marketed as Young Adult instead of Middle Grade.
Overall, the Archibald Lox series is an enjoyable one, perfect for fans of adventurous fantasy stories! Personally, the second book is my favorite as I think it was clever and had a very interesting plot twist. It was so much fun to read and explore the Merge with Archie while facing life-or-death situations head on!
Click to reveal content warnings which may contain spoilers for the book.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Darren Shan is the globally bestselling author whose breakthrough debut novel, Cirque Du Freak, the first book in the 12-book series, was released in January 2000. Since then, he has published more than fifty books for both children and adults including the 10-book Demonata series and 12-book Zom-B series. Cirque Du Freak was adapted into a major Hollywood movie and it was recently announced that his Zom-B series was bought to be adapted for television. Shan’s books have sold in excess of twenty-five million copies worldwide, in 40 countries and 32 languages. He has made bestseller charts in the USA, UK, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, and elsewhere. He lives in a small village in Limerick, Ireland, with his wife and children.
Darren Shan is available for interviews from home and other content.
From Darren Shan:
ARCHIE’S DREAM — In Book 2, Archibald Lox and the Empress of Suanpan, Archie ends up spending some time alone on an island full of statues shaped like pineapples. One night he falls asleep atop one of the tallest statues, and has a frightening dream. I really like this chapter, and it foreshadows events to come in Volumes 2 and 3 of the series, so I was loathe to let it go, but in the end I felt it didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the book, and also it was giving readers a bit too much information too far ahead of when that info would be relevant. Sometimes an author can be too clever for their own good, and this was one of those occasions, so as much as I wanted to keep it, I wielded the editorial axe and cut it from the final draft in its entirety.
My sleep is troubled from the start. I keep stirring and moaning, beset by bad dreams. I wake several times and think about climbing down from the statue, but fall back asleep each time before I can descend.
Then, deep into the stop-start sleep cycle, a nightmare catches me full blast.
In the dream I wake up. I’m still on top of the pineapple, and everything looks the way it did when I drifted off, except the night is several shades darker and I can’t see very far in any given direction.
Lightning suddenly rents the sky and rips to the earth right before my eyes. I feel the heat from it and the hair along my fringe frizzles. Another lightning bolt streaks through the air in front of me, smashing into the ground at the base of the statue. Then another.
Darkness closes around me after the third strike. Now I can see nothing at all. It’s as if I’ve been plunged into the middle of a cave deep beneath the earth.
I wait for thunder to sound, although the hammering of my heart is almost as loud as any roll of thunder. I start counting inside my head, the way I do in the Born if there’s a storm, to gauge how far off it is. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Sev—
A noise halts the count, but it’s not the roar of thunder that I was expecting.
It’s a low, sadistic chuckle.
“Who’s there?” I gasp.
In answer, a glow forms around a figure hanging in the space ahead of me. It’s neither a man nor a woman, but instead a figure created entirely from locks. There are all different makes and sizes, loosely connected together to form legs, a torso, arms, and a sinister, mechanical-looking face.
“Who are you?” I whisper, not trying to shrink away from the metallic figure, not trying to move at all, movement not something I even consider in the nightmare.
“Kkkk,” the person (and despite its inhuman characteristics, in the dream I do consider it a person) crackles.
Fingers made out of tiny locks move at the figure’s sides and stretch towards me, stopping just a few centimetres shy of my chest. I think they’re going to grab me, but then they withdraw slightly and I see that they’re holding a free-standing lock.
Even in the nightmare, the lock that’s being held by the creature of locks fascinates me. It’s shaped like an S, and I wonder what its function is.
“Locksmith,” the figure growls, and it sounds like a man when it speaks, albeit a very robotic man. “Open your eyes and see.”
“What do you mean?” I frown.
The man’s fingers slip into the lock – there are openings in both the upper and lower curves of the S – and he starts to play with it. The noise made by the metallic fingers scraping across the metal inside the lock is the sound of an army of cockroaches scuttling across the crumbling remains of a dried out skeleton. A sense of dread forms within me. I’ve no idea what this lock is, but I get the feeling that I’m not going to like what it reveals.
“Stop,” I croak, but the facsimile man pays no attention.
“Who are you?” I cry, but again he ignores me.
“What are you?” I scream, and this time he pauses and his head tilts to the left like a puppet’s. I get a glimpse of dark red lights flashing somewhere deep within the locks of the creature’s eye sockets.
“I am the lost,” the man hisses. “I am the past and I am the future. I am what you run from and what awaits you if you continue on this path.”
“You’re not making sense,” I weep.
“It will all make terrible sense soon, unless you stop and abandon the girl,” he promises, and his fingers fly inside the lock, the clicking sounds filling the air, and now it’s as if that army of invisible cockroaches is swimming through the air and encircling my head. “Go home,” he says as he continues to work on the lock.
“Leave this sphere. Forget you ever came here. Stay in the Born till the end of your day. Or I will be lying in wait for you up ahead, and you will be utterly destroyed.”
The man’s fingers stop moving. He extracts his makeshift hands and hangs in the air a moment longer, then falls to the ground and explodes into thousands of unlinked locks, the connections severing in an instant, coming apart and dispersing across the floor around the statue.
Although the figure no longer exists to hold it, the suspended S-shaped lock remains close in front of me, commanding my attention. It pulses a couple of times, then shimmers.
And suddenly it’s a metallic snake, a silver, jewel-eyed, metal-fanged cobra, that comes flying at my face almost as soon as it forms. It wraps around my head, hissing and snapping, its needle-like fangs jabbing into my scalp.
I rediscover movement and hurl myself from the top of the statue. I land hard on the ground but that doesn’t bother me, because the snake’s metal coils have tightened around my face and throat. I rip at them, trying to scream, but they press into my mouth. The taste of oil and scales is disgusting.
I spit and cough, slapping feebly at the unnatural snake, hearing its coils click as they tighten even further round my windpipe. This is the end, and I start to think about Inez and how sorry I am that I won’t be able to help her. I try to moan her name, wanting it to be the last thing I utter.
And then… I jolt awake.
I’ve fallen off the statue in reality as well as the dream, and I’m writhing on the ground, slapping at a snake that no longer exists now that I’ve woken up.
But I can still taste its silver coils on my tongue.
Spitting with revulsion, I stagger to my feet and reel away from the statue. It hasn’t yet dawned here, but the world seems bright around me after the darkness of the nightmare.
I hurry to the lake and take mouthfuls of water, sloshing them around behind my lips, then spitting them out, desperate to rid myself of that metallic, reptilian tang.
My heart is still beating fast, but starts to slow as the dream slips further behind me. Leaving the lake, I go pick a couple of mushrooms and stuff my mouth with them, working them around my tongue. They help dispel the imagined taste of the mechanical snake, and I spit out the crumbs, then return to the beach and lie on the sand, waiting for daylight.
I continue to lie on the beach long after the sunless dawn, eyes closed, shivering every now and then as I recall the nightmare. I don’t know what prompted such a horrible scene. I’m normally a sweet sleeper. I have the occasional weird dream, but I can’t recall the last time I bolted awake in response to a feverish vision.
Not only did I bolt awake — I toppled from the pineapple. That was dangerous. If I’d landed awkwardly, I could have snapped my neck. My right shoulder feels bruised, so I guess that’s where I landed, but it could have been a lot worse.
After a late breakfast – more mushrooms – I make my way back to the large statue where I fell asleep last night. Part of me doesn’t want to return, worried by what I might find there, but that’s all the more reason to go back. I don’t believe in running from my fears, especially not imaginary fears.
I’m smiling grimly as I stroll up to the statue, preparing myself to playfully admonish it for the part it played in my nightmare, but as I draw close, the smile fades and all elements of play are swiftly drained away.
A large, ragged S has been scrawled in the earth near the statue’s base. I stare at it, astonished and afraid, certain it wasn’t there yesterday. So where can it have come from? I’m all alone on this island. Even if I wasn’t – if somebody had been hiding behind the pineapples and observing me – how would anyone know what I’d dreamed, and that a simple S could cause my knees to shake so badly?
I walk slowly around the S, studying it warily, as I might a poisonous scorpion. (Or snake.) The line of the S is quite wide, about the same width as the heels of my shoes, and in the absence of any other explanation, I guess I must have dragged one of those heels through the loose earth.
But why? And when? I assumed I’d woken when I fell off the statue and hit the ground, but did I actually get to my feet before waking and give life to the S of my nightmare, prompted by some inner urging?
I continue to stare at the S, puzzling over it, remembering the figure made of locks, its crackling voice, the metal snake it launched at me.
Then, in a rush, I attack the S, scraping my heels across it, obscuring it, wiping it out. Caught up in the moment, I get down on my knees and claw at the remains of the sibilant letter, obliterating it, snarling as I tear at the earth.