The Archibald Lox series

Fans of master storyteller, Darren Shan, will be delighted to hear that the second volume in
his major new fantasy series is coming this summer. Comprised of three novels, the second
volume in the Archibald Lox series takes readers further into the Merge and the adventures
of locksmith, Archie.
Shan, known for his globally successful series The Saga of Darren Shan, The Demonata and
Zom-B, published the first volume in the Archibald Lox series as three ebooks in April 2020,
earlier than originally planned to bring some relief to fans during the first national Covid-19
lockdown. Paperback editions followed, along with a combined paperback of the first three
books entitled The Missing Princess. As with the first volume, the three novels comprising
Volume Two are designed to be read in quick succession as a trilogy.
Readers should prepare to pick up the pace as book 4 continues the action. Archibald Lox
and the Forgotten Crypt sees a couple of assassins catch up with Archie, and he’s forced to
flee to the Merge in search of friendship and safety. As his skills develop, he opens a
gateway to a long-forgotten crypt, where ancient secrets are revealed. In a city of ice, the
greatest gropsters of the six realms have assembled for a legendary Tourney, but a small
group of plotters are more interested in kidnapping…
Travel with Archie through books 5, Archibald Lox and the Slides of Bon Repell, and six,
Archibald Lox and the Rubicon Dictate, as he faces further challenges and grave danger,
including a fight for his freedom – and his sanity. What will the fates have in store, and can
Archie defeat some of the most powerful and merciless rulers of the realms…?

Darren Shan

I read the first of the Archibald Fox trilogy last summer and really enjoyed it, I can’t believe book 4 is already here! Here’s an interview with Darren Shan by Catherine Ward, in anticipation:

For those who haven’t started this new series yet, can you give us a quick overview?

A boy called Archie spotted a girl on a bridge in London, being chased by a pair of killers. She pulled some strange faces and opened a doorway to another dimension, called the Merge. When the killers had departed, Archie found he had the power to reopen the door, and followed the girl to the universe of the Merge, where he got involved in a quest to save a realm from falling under the control of the villainous SubMerged.

Why did you structure this series as Volumes comprising 3 books each? Is that something you planned from the beginning?

I actually planned the Volumes as very long single books, and wrote them that way. But I’d been considering breaking them down into shorter books and serialising them from the start, as that’s the way I’ve released all my other lengthy series. (The Saga of Darren Shan, The Demonata, Zom-B.) I hummed and hawed over the decision for ages, and still wasn’t 100% sure when it came time to release them! In the end I decided that I would break the volumes down into trilogies, but also then do omnibus edition bind-ups several months after the release of the shorter books, offering people the chance to read the stories as they were originally composed, if that was their preference.

Your Zom-B series was designed as a serial, with shorter books being released more often. What is it you like about this formula?

I’ve always loved a good cliff-hanger! I grew up as an avid reader of comics – for many years I never missed an issue of The Eagle and 2000AD – and I loved how stories would unreel over the space of several weeks or months. The gap between instalments added to the pleasure of the reading experience. It’s how books used to be published in the past — for instance, Charles Dickens released all of his books in serialised chunks. It was largely a forgotten art for many decades, but I was interested in reviving it almost from the very beginning of my career, and internet publishing has seen serial books enjoy a real surge since the turn of the millennium — I guess I was just a few steps ahead of the curve!

Although your main character, Archie comes from our world – known as the Born – most of Volume 1 takes place in the ‘other’ world he accesses via a hidden portal. Will we revisit the Born in Volume 2? Will we learn more about how the two worlds coexist? 

Oh yes! Some of the action takes place in our world – there are important scenes set in London, Moscow and New York – but the bulk of the story is set in the Merge. I don’t think there’s much point in creating a huge fantastical universe and not spending most of your story time there. Readers would quite rightly be up in arms if I told them “I’ve created this really cool parallel universe, but I’m not going to show much of it to you!” We’ll learn more about the Merge in this Volume, as well as in the third set of books next year. As a fish out of water, Archie is learning new things each time round — and discovering new things about himself each time as well.

 We first meet Archie when he’s in a bad place but we see him gain self-belief and confidence and intuition as he gets to grips with his locksmith abilities and the ways of the Merge. I would say he’s a pretty relatable and inspiring character for children & young adults, especially at a time when a lot of us are feeling a bit derailed by the pandemic – was that intentional?

I can’t say it was, as I started this series several years before most of us had ever even heard of a coronavirus! But I think childhood and our teens can be a confusing, alienating time for many of us, even when the world is operating as normal, and I’ve always tried to use my YA books to give readers hope that all obstacles in life can be overcome. The world can often seem like a weird, hostile place when you’re growing up, and I think fantasy and horror books can help kids come to understand that they can triumph no matter how weird and dark things get.

We journey through a variety of incredible realms and zones in the Merge, featuring all manner of societies and dwellings and inhabitants. Did these evolve in your imagination as you were writing, or did you develop much of the Merge in the planning stages of this series?

I spent a lot of time planning the books before I started writing them, far more than I ever did on any of my other series. Most of the action in my other long series took place on our world, so I was able to pretty much dive straight into them and flesh things out as I went along. With the Merge, I knew most of the story would take place in these parallel worlds, so I had to put a lot of thought and work into what those worlds would be like, and how they’d function. I also wrote far more than I needed in my first drafts, especially Volume 1, packing in loads of extraneous details that I would go on to cut as I edited the books, but which I needed to inform myself about the Merge. The first drafts were almost like travelogues, which I then set about converting into action-packed stories.

Will we visit new realms in Volume 2?

Absolutely! We’ll revisit some familiar places in Volume 2 and Volume 3, but each time round we’ll also venture into new realms and settings. I want to show readers as many different facets of the Merge as I can before Archie’s story concludes, so each time round we’re going to be hitting for pastures new.

In Volume 1 we have a few brushes with dangerous locations and beings in the Merge – will we see more of that in Volume 2?

I think, given my track record, that’s a safe assumption to make! I left the horror genre behind with these books, to focus on the fantasy elements, but I don’t think it would be a proper Darren Shan series if it didn’t have a strong dark strain to it.

You’ve mentioned in a previous interview that you have planned three volumes of Archibald Lox at least… any more news on that?!

Yes, there will be three Volumes in total. My plan is to release the final Volume (again, made up of three books) in 2022, and I’m looking good to hit that target. Touch wood!

Are you working on anything else besides this Archibald Lox series?

Bizarrely enough, I’m currently trying my hand at a few picture books! I have two young children, so I’ve been reading a lot of picture books over the last several years, and I started having ideas for some of my own. I don’t know if those ideas will ultimately lead to anything, but watch this space…

Have you missed being able to do live events over this past 18 months? Do you miss touring?

I’d actually stepped back from touring since I finished my Zom-B series. After many years on the road, I wanted to spend more time at home, especially since Mrs Shan and I had decided to go into the baby-making business! So I wouldn’t have been out on the road regardless of the lockdowns. That said, I have started to miss that side of things now — I’ve always enjoyed a close relationship with my fans, and I love meeting them at events, chatting with them and signing their books. Hopefully, over the next few years, I’ll be able to get back out on tour.

Were you a keen reader throughout your teen years, or did your interest wane at all? Were you drawn to fantasy worlds as a young reader?

I actually read more in my teens than I’ve read at any other time of my life. I was a voracious reader, ploughing through a couple of books a week in my prime, as well as reading loads of comics and graphic novels. And yes, I was always a big fan of fantasy, horror and sci-fi. I read all sorts of other genres too, but those were my favourites as a child and teenager.

Did you have a library and/or school librarian at Secondary School? If so, did it/they influence your reading habits at all?

Sadly, no. But I’ve visited loads of schools and libraries on tour, and been amazed by the knowledge and enthusiasm of the librarians I’ve met. I thought I knew a lot about books until I started talking to those guys and gals — then I quickly came to realise I was an amateur! I think a good librarian is a real treasure, especially in a library that is either part of a school or closely linked with schools. I got really angry when I was on tour with Zom-B, because it was during the time when the Conservatives in the UK were shutting a lot of libraries, and telling full-time librarians in those that survived the cull that they were going to be replaced with well-meaning part-timers, as basically anyone could run a library, right? Their ignorance of what a librarian does, and how important they can be – especially where children are involved – astonished and disgusted me. And still does.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m currently working my way through a book called Harbour, by John Ajvide Lindqvist, the guy who wrote a brilliant vampire book called Let The Right One In.

As you conjure such vivid and original worlds in your books, I wondered if you have vivid dreams in strange worlds?! Do you ever dream that you’re inhabiting one of your own worlds or characters?

Short answer — nope! My ideas tend to be fairly mundane affairs. I guess I spend so much time in weird worlds in my waking hours, that my brain enjoys some boring down time when I sleep!

The three books comprising Volume 2 of the Archibald Lox series will be released this summer, in ebook and paperback:

Book 4: Archibald Lox and the Forgotten Crypt – 1st July 2021

Book 5: Archibald Lox and the Slides of Bon Repell – 3rd August 2021

Book 6: Archibald Lox and the Rubicon Dictate – 1st September 2021

For more information visit

About Caroline Fielding

Chartered School Librarian, CILIP YLG London Chair, Bea-keeper

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