Through the darkness of the past 15 months, one good thing has been introduced to the world: Darren Shan's Archibald Lox series. With stunning covers and equally enticing storylines, this series has been a welcome escape from the real world and is now entering its second volume. In the Missing Princess trilogy, young Londoner Archie discovered the Merge, a whole new world where murdered people go when they die. He also discovered that he was a natural, highly-skilled locksmith, able to unlock portals both to the Merge and within it. Armed with his new skills, Archie becomes involved in a quest to save the Merge from certain destruction.
That should have been the end of it but it clearly wasn't. Welcome to the next story in the Archibald Lox adventures.
When Archie's old nemeses Orlan Stiletto and Argate Axe catch up with him in London, Archie escapes to the Merge once again and travels through it to find himself in a cold and wintery Moscow. With the assassins close on his heels, Archie is rescued by none other than King Hugo, a Merge royal with a love of motorbiking and the Born, the world we know as our own.
Hugo reunites Archie with his old friend Inez, a skilled artisan in her own right, and Cal, former protector to King Lloyd of the Diamond realm of Merge and now Sapphire resident. Hugo, Inez and Cal are about to embark on a new quest in the Merge - one I shall keep secret for fear of spoilers - and they invite Archie to join them again. How can our locksmith possibly refuse?
So the friends return to Cornan, location of their final adventures in the Missing Princess trilogy and they prepare for the Grop tournament of their lives. In the meantime, Archie will hone his already-impressive locksmith skills and discover a secret that has been hidden for 500 years.
Archibald Lox and the Forgotten Crypt is the first book in the second volume of the Archibald Lox series. It starts off a little slowly but really speeds up once Archie makes his big discovery and I suspect the action is going to continue apace into the second and third books of the trilogy. With every page, author Darren Shan weaves a richer and more colourful world in the Merge and he's expanded those possibilities even more in the Forgotten Crypt.
What Shan has done with this series is so interesting. Each book is short, at an average of 200 pages each, aimed at young readers and adults like me who've developed the attention span of a goldfish during the pandemic. In turn, each trilogy forms one story and will be combined into a single volume for readers who prefer a meatier volume.
Once again, Liam Fitzgerald has designed the cover and it's exquisite. I think these might be my favourite series of covers of all time.
Archibald Lox and the Forgotten Crypt is the 500th book I've read since I picked up a book about a boy wizard in 2005 and started reading fiction again. I wouldn't have wanted to celebrate this milestone with any other book and I give it an excellent four out of five stars. Recommended to reluctant readers and anyone else seeking an escape to surreal and magical worlds.
An advance, electronic copy of this book was provided for the purposes of this review. I will always provide an honest review, whether books are provided to me or purchased by me.
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