Plot Outline:Picking up Larten's story several years after "Palace of the Damned," this begins with the vampire in an unusually content place. With a young vampire to mentor, a family of sorts in Paris, and important work as a Vampire General to deal with, he is as happy as he has ever been. Then a name from his trouble past resurfaces and Larten's life is thrown once again into violent chaos. Setting out on a twisted, dangerous path, he crosses the world in search of an elusive foe. His star within the vampire ranks keeps on rising, but he has never felt so lonely and wretched. He thinks he has hit rock-bottom, but what he doesn't know is that the worst is yet to come. His darkest hour still lies ahead of him...
Author Notes:I wrote the first draft of this book in May 2007, shortly after writing the first three in the series. (I would have written it in April, but I had to go on tour to the States that month.) I did my last bit of work on it (and on the entire series) on November 1st 2011.
When Darren first met Gavner in The Vampire's Assistant he was told that Gavner and Larten been on a secret misson together sixty or so years earlier, during which they had been forced to share a coffin. I knew I would have to deal with that in this book. When I put my thinking cap on, and started looking at the timeline, I realise it tied in fairly neatly with the period with the Nazis were on the rise in Europe. Since it's widely known that many Nazis were interested in the supernatural, it seemed natural that they would seek out vampires and try to form an allegiance -- and that gave me my starting point for the book.
We also knew from the original series that Mr Crepsley had almost been appointed a Vampire Prince, but had chosen to break away from the clan, without discussing his reasons with anyone. This for me was the crux of this series -- all four books have been about arriving at the point where Larten abandons his destined path, about explaining why he turned his back on the world of power and respect and happiness. I didn't want it to be over some trivial argument, so this book had to feature the most troubling, gut-wrenching and powerful few chapters of the entire series. I have to be honest -- they were hard (emotionally speaking) to write. I hated hurting Larten so much in this book, but I knew that I had to, in order for his story to all tie together and make sense.
As sad as this book is, I also think that, taken in context, it makes the following chunk of his story (i.e. the sections described Cirque Du Freak and the other books about Darren Shan) all the more empowering. Larten's story has, since the start, been one of overcoming setbacks. Every time that the world kicks him in the teeth, he picks himself up and pushes on. That's what makes him such a fascinating figure. When you put these four books together with my other vampire books, it will show the full picture of how he managed to recover from a tragedy that would have marked the end of most people. So while you might shed a few tears reading this, don't forget what came next in his life -- or, if you haven't read The Saga of Darren Shan, press on and do so as soon as you can!!
There were a few other loose ends that I had to tie up in this book, to link it with the following series, and I had lots of fun doing that. Some of the links were minor in the grand scheme of things -- such as explaining how Larten came to know Jimmy Ovo (how many of you remember HIM?!?). Others were major -- like introduing Madam Octa into the storyline. But the one I had the most fun with was revealing the secret behind Vancha's green hair -- you might never look at him in the same way again once you find out where the "dye" comes from!!!!!