Many have entered.
Few have left...
Book Links: Goodreads
After a riveting first two instalments, where Larten Crepsley's life as a vampire faces many hectic pathways, Palace of the Damned returns our hero back to safer, more steady ground.
Well, in a way, I suppose...
Things are never as simple with Mr Shan (and that's a good thing). There are still hardships ahead, despite the increase in maturity of both the story and its cast. This entry, the third and penultimate, morphs from a journey to adulthood, to embracing said adulthood and accepting your place in the world.
But be ready, Palace of the Damned is still a twisted tale of redemption, betrayal and devastation.
Synopsis (Not a copy from the book, but I always keep my interpretations close.)
Isolated on the icy island of Greenland, Larten Crepsley has accepted that he'll die there.
If not for the baby in his arms, and the fact that he is the one who killed the tiny boy's parents, Larten would have already given up.
But destiny has other plans.
Upon finding a palace the vampires thought lost to myth, he deems it a fitting and final resting place for both him and his charge.
Interrupted and saved from his foolishness, Larten sets himself on a path of redemption.
The first stop: Home...
Plot - 5/5 Stars
Palace of the Damned picks up a few hours after Ocean of Blood (the second entry). It's exhilarating in its perfectness. The cold, harsh climate that Larten finds himself in is a great mirror of what plagues the creature of the night inside. The closing events of this book's predecessor leaves a mark on our protagonist's soul, and initially, he sees no way forward, only death.
But, death is not out for young Mr Crepsley yet, and with a brief cameo from the illustrious Desmond Tiny, Larten is set back on a more stable path. I adore how our hero and the baby he's taken as his ward keep each other alive. The baby needs Larten to survive (granted, our vampire first sets out to find a place where he can let the child die undisturbed), and in that need, he keeps going. He finds the will to live.
Plus, there's a fantastic fight with a polar bear, what more could you ask for in the beginning of a novel?
As the story progresses, the immediacy and maturity become far more acute. The illusion and lust of youth finally ebbs, and Larten accepts that his indecision achieves nothing. He's been trying to balance two worlds: The human world (which he no longer belongs to) and the vampire world (which offers him salvation if only he gives it his full attention). But he makes his decision, finally.
And finds his true path.
The redemption qualities of the plot mix well with the coming-of-age traits. We all make mistakes in our youth (although, they hopefully aren't as bad as Larten's, for example, killing an entire group of people) and Darren's stories always manage to strike a cord with the reader. They're relatable, not only to those currently going through their own trials, but for those that have, and succeeded, as well.
A large part of the story preoccupies itself with a major betrayal. On top of everything it's a great and thrilling thread. It also pushes Larten to retrieve some of his lost morality.
Aaaand I'm rambling now.
Pace - 5/5 Stars
The transitions within Palace of the Damned, whether they're time jumps or location changes, are smooth and bleed into one another remarkably well. As Larten sets about piecing himself back together, the author dutifully keeps us entertained and riveted. The end also leaves on a dubious note, and it's one I have to know the resolution to (even though I'm pretty sure I already do).
Characters - 4.5/5 Stars
The cast is out in force in this entry. Speaking as someone who's read The Saga of Darren Shan before this series, there are a plethora of characters both old and new. Everything's shaping up the way it should, beefing up the world for the grand entrance of Darren Shan (the character not the author).
I've waffled on long enough about a lot of stuff, so I'll try keeping things brief. Especially since there are so many cast members, you'll just have to read this series to drink the sweet nectar of nostalgia. Larten's redemptive arc is brilliant, and the more experience he notches, the closer he comes to filling the shoes of the beloved father figure of the parent series.
Speaking of fantastic father figures, the reunion between Larten and mentor Seba Nile brought a tear to my eye. Damn it...
Wester's story picks up speed. The fiery hater of the vampaneze is raring to go to war with the purple-skinned devils, despite the loss of life it would bring. His hatred hasn't abated over the course of the series, and with the next and final entry called Brothers to the Death, I have a hunch we're about to reach breaking point.
I'm a little disappointed Shan didn't bring back the creepy, cannibalistic killer from the previous book, and poor Alicia (a love of Larten's) suffers in the shadow of a far better character (also from the previous book, but no longer alive) Malora. But those are my only misgivings.
Writing - 5/5 Stars
Despite the fast-paced story being targeted at the younger demographic, the darker themes and the growths in maturity really mesh well with the style. Shan creates a wonderfully vibrant world with each and every novel he writes, and the skill of his authorly abilities is undeniable.
Overall - 5/5 Stars
The Saga of Larten Crepsley does a phenomenal job, and completes what it sets out to with gusto. It effectively reveals the past of Larten, while admirably keeping it fresh with revelatory tidbits for those of us who already know a lot of details.
Throw in the way Palace of the Damned uses every opportunity to reaffirm the gift that life is, and you're in for a winner.
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