Sunday, July 10, 2022

Archibald Lox and the Legion of the Lost by Darren Shan


"I look deep into those eyes--those warm, wise, friendly eyes, which won me over the first day I set foot in the Merge--and can't say no. She's guarded and instructed me to the best of her abilities while I've been here. Inez is the closest friend I've ever had, and I know she wouldn't ask this of me if there was any other choice.

'It's been a ride, hasn't it?' I smile.

'There'll be other rides in spheres beyond this one,' she says."

  Everything from the moment Archie stumbled across the Bridge Between Worlds has led to this point. Every lock he's picked, every friend he's made, every set of walls that have closed in on him--from kidnapped princes to rescued princesses, from mad kings to devious empresses--has led us to this: Archibald Lox and the Legion of the Lost, the ninth and final story in the Archibald Lox series.
  I do not say this lightly... This is one epic book. 
  From the moment we pick up from book 8, the Pick of Loxes, to the moment I tearfully tapped my phone to access the last page, I was enthralled. Utterly and completely enthralled. I was surrendering work, television, socializing time, and other books to just read 
  The brilliance of this conclusion I have no doubt, stems from the attachment Darren Shan has built between his readers and his characters. Like a speeding car desperately slamming on the brakes, I realized too late that there was no stopping. The acceptance that this book was going to end before I was ready was inevitable. I tried to slow down my pace, to savor the story before its end, but I couldn't stop clicking to get to the next page. I was tearing holes in my bottom lip from tension, fretting over just what Darren Shan had in store for these characters I'd grown to consider family. 
  Oh, this book. This book is a masterpiece with a "coming of age, fantasy novel" label. If installments 1-6 are the thrilling anticipation of climbing the long climb up a rollercoaster, 7 & 8 are the twisty, turning (or "Tourney"), speeding, whips and tosses up and down, left and right, and book 9 is the out-of-breath, euphoric, dizzying reminder of why you got on in the first place. Archibald Lox and the Legion of the Lost, in fact, Volume 3 as a whole, is the very epitome of the phrase, "saving the best for last." 
  Darren Shan has, once again, done what he does best; deliver an epic ending to an epic book series.
  Through his words, I was transported into Archie and Inez's shoes, facing the same dangers they were facing. Finding myself in predicaments that only miracles of the Merge can solve. And when his readers reach that all-too-familiar, classically Shan, "aha" climax of the series... Well. Let's just hope they handle it better than me. Darren Shan is notorious for messing with my head and permanently scarring my emotions in the best way possible, and thanks to the Legion of the Lost, the saga of Archibald Lox is no exception. I have a pile of drying, snotty tissues that can attest to this.
  I hope you, whoever's reading this, will take a chance on Archie and his venture into the Merge. I am so grateful I did, and I am even more grateful to Darren Shan for providing this humble reviewer the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a peek through the boreholes before the rest of the world. Archie's story is one that will forever hold a special place in my heart, and hold permanent residence in my head. 
  I won't say goodbye to my fictional friends, because that's not what's done in the Merge. So, here's to this sphere, and, to paraphrase our favorite camel, to the "rides in the spheres beyond this one."

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Archibald Lox and the Pick of Loxes by Darren Shan


"I know you for what you are, prince of locks and lies, and now it's your time of reckoning." 

When we last left the endlessly twisting and disorienting world of princes, princesses, red skies, vines, boreholes, and Lost Zones, we helplessly watched from our paperbacks and ereaders as our Born hero, Archie, dangled like a worm on a fishhook at the edge of pure peril...almost quite literally. As I'm certain it did for everyone eager to see what Darren Shan had in store for our master of locks, Archibald Lox and the Sinkhole to Hell (book 7) had me practically salivating to sink my teeth into the next installment.
  Book 8, Archibald Lox and the Pick of Loxes did not disappoint. Not in the very least. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that this chunk of Archie's story is now my favorite of the series, as it further convinces me that before this fantastical tale comes to an end, it's only going to get better
  Is that even possible? This is a Darren Shan novel. Of course it's possible. 
  Archibald Lox and the Pick of Loxes is an unbridled example of the delight this author feels when he lures his hungry readers down a rabbit hole of magic and mischief, making them realize far too late that they've been trapped in a story that will keep them up until the wee hours of the morning to finish. The time for Darren Shan to hold back is no longer. He is done pulling punches, and that is clear to me now more than ever since it's been just over 12 hours since I finished the book. 
  I feel like I'm repeating myself, but I can't help it when in all honestly, I feel as if I can't praise this book enough. From the moment we're introduced to an unlikely ally of Archie's, to the very last paragraph which, unironically, is the same moment my jaw hit the floor, I was hooked. I was stuck in a purgatorial state of wanting to read another chapter in each and every waking hour of the day, and wanting this book to last ten times longer than it was meant to last. Was it because I know that the end of the story of the Merge is nigh? Or is it because Archibald Lox and the Pick of Loxes is just plain and simple, a very, very good story? I'll let you, readers of The Literary Connoisseur, figure that one out for yourselves. 
  Truth be told, even though it started with undeniably adrenaline-pumping chapters, I grew more and more infatuated with this book as it went on, finding myself lost from the real world and entirely immersed in the sobering, thought-provoking conversations between Archie and the mad King Adil. Of course, it wasn't long after that that I graduated to feeling as if the rug had been pulled out from under me as each loose end began to be tied off and cauterized.
  Who was Stefan? 
  Will King Adil succeed in carrying out his mad plan? 
  Where does Archie's fate lie? Back in the Born where he belongs, or in the Merge with his friends, his destiny...and that strange voice that knows his future better than he knows it himself? 
  Two things are for sure: One, I can't reach the conclusion to this series soon enough. Even now, as I'm sitting here jotting down my thoughts on book 8, I'm wondering how soon in hours it'll be before I can jump into book 9 with both feet. 
  And two, there's no doubt in my mind that Archibald Lox will soon be going back on my "To Be Read" shelf. I would be doing him and Darren Shan a serious disservice if I didn't give this saga a reread. 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Archibald Lox and the Sinkhole to Hell by Darren Shan

"I tried to forget about the Merge after my first visit. I hoped to slip back into my old way of life and put that sphere of wonders behind me, figuring I’d enjoyed my adventures in another universe, but that was that, time to focus again on my foster family, school and the 'real' world. But the Merge had other ideas. It reached out for me and I was dragged back in."

  There's a warm, welcome, and familiar feel to cracking open the first installment of an Archibald Lox trilogy, but proceed with caution, because unlike volumes 1 & 2, volume 3 is accompanied by a sinister shadow.
  As our beloved tale of Archie and the Merge continues on, the stakes grow higher, the price to pay for realm-rescuing, life-threatening adventures becomes more costly, and around every corner, there's an unsettling reminder that Archie and Inez's story is coming to its final conclusion. It's clear to the eyes of both new and seasoned Archibald Lox readers alike that Darren Shan is enjoying teasing his audience with anticipation, playfully dangling the shoe that's inevitably going to drop as we hurdle at Slides-of-Bon-Repell-pace towards the climax of the story. 
  Although every epic saga must come to a close sometime, the fantastical, mind-bending wonders of the Merge are far from over. In Archibald Lox and the Sinkhole to Hell, we are honored with the acquaintances of new royals, we journey to outlandish territories of the Merge like New Agartha (my now favorite capital city, followed closely by Niffelheim), and once again, we are overwhelmed with a seemingly endless supply of enchanting corners of this magical land that we have yet to explore. 
  With an absolutely astonishing sphere like this to call our second home, one can understand why Archie doesn't return to the real world, the world of the born, for long. 
  Whether you're aware of Darren Shan's knack for building worlds in the minds of his readers because you yourself are a fan and can give a firsthand account of his extraordinary ability to weave a tale, or you've witnessed my many, many testimonies through my reviews, it can be said with certainty that this Archibald Lox installment is a clear and simple example of this writer's capabilities. Darren Shan has a way of using words to paint a picture so clearly on paper, it's as if a movie you've seen a hundred times before is playing in your head. 
  Archibald Lox and the Sinkhole to Hell is an emotional, thrilling, and wonderous tale of friendship, adventure, self-discovery, and loyalty prevailing over corruption. With the exhilarating lead-up that we have in this, book one of volume three, there is no doubt that readers will be rabidly scrabbling to get their claws into book two. 

Pssst! Before you go!

Does this reusable shopping bag remind anyone else of the wrap zone? Watch out, Winston! It's not safe anymore!