"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.