THE LEGION OF THE LOST: ARCHIBALD LOX SERIES, BOOK 9 by Darren Shan
Home of the Damned Ltd, p/b £7.49, eBook £2.49
Reviewed by Dave Jeffery
With THE LEGION OF THE LOST, Darren Shan, the bestselling writer of YA genre epics Cirque Du Freak, The Demonata and Zom-B, brings his ARCHIBALD LOX series to a close. The book is part three in what Shan has revealed exclusively to BFS as THE EXILED KING (due for release in Autumn 2022) and comprises Book 7: The Sinkhole to Hell, Book 8: The Pick of Loxes and, of course, Book 9: The Legion of the Lost. For the purposes of clarity and continuity, this review focuses on books 7, 8 & 9 as a single volume.
For context, orphaned Archibald ‘Archie’ Lox is a teen with the innate ability to locate and unlock boreholes between our world (known as the Born) and another known as the Merge. The Merge is inhabited by the souls of every person who has been murdered in the Born and is split into seven realms named after gemstones, each with a ruling Royal family. Such is the intrinsic link between the royals and their realm, if a final member of a royal house dies, then so does the realm, collapsing in on itself and taking its people with it unless they can migrate before catastrophe strikes. Archie moves between these worlds, getting mixed up in the complexities of inter-realm politics and strife while learning about his fantastic gift from wily old-timer Winston. But there is an undercurrent of mischief as various factions from the SubMerged, that is, those who have been murdered in the Born under nefarious circumstances, plot to bring back Old Man Reap, an exiled king who embroiled the Merge in a near-fatal war in order to grab overall power and was ultimately banished to The Lost Zone, a torrid world from which there is only one way in and one way out.
And it is this narrative thread that is picked up as Archie manages to utilise his exceptional skills to break out from a deadly trap featuring an incredible creature who sustains the lethal blood rivers that move through the realms. Archie migrates through an intricate narrative, uncovering subterfuge and skulduggery from those he thought friends, and delivers some truly shocking revelations and well-conceived action scenes that will, no doubt, have Archibald Lox fans agog – and certainly aghast – as the body count climbs. There are also conclusions amid the mayhem, with story arcs being tenderly and viscerally drawn together. No more so than the showdown with Old Man Reap and his allies and his changed intentions for the Merge should he succeed in breaking free of his exile. Then there is Archie’s jaw-dropping discovery as to why he is such a master Lox. It’s difficult to detail the story without giving out significant spoilers for expectant fans eagerly awaiting THE LEGION OF THE LOST finale, so if this review seems a little vague, that is why.
Speaking of reasons new readers should dive into this, and the other books in the series, for that matter, is the sheer weight of imagination on show throughout. From the conceptualisation of the Merge and the Born, the intricacies and nuance of a plot worthy of Game of Thrones, interlaced with humour and rollicking action scenes, Shan has created a far-reaching multiverse that boggles and beguiles, with characters that cannot fail to endear or revile. Beneath its simple, straightforward narrative is a deceptively complex, immersive experience that captivates the reader in a way only a master storyteller can.
Of the Archibald Lox series, Shan is on record as saying he was unsure of splitting what was originally a trilogy into nine shorter books. As a reviewer, it would be remiss not to say that reading what will eventually become Volume Nine: The Exiled King as three separate books did give the narrative a stilted, expositive feel in places as Shan reminds readers of the ongoing plot. However, this was less of an issue when going into The Legion of the Lost as the reader is already invested and aware the conclusion is near and thus keen to get to those juicy revelations!
Therefore, The Legion of the Lost is a sum of its parts and should be read as one inspired whole. New readers should, of course, start at the very beginning with ARCHIBALD LOX AND THE BRIDGE BETWEEN WORLDS, and those who have come this far, well, you’re in for a treat that is absolutely out-of-this-world.