Plot Outline:Book 10 of The Saga Of Darren Shan. It's time for Harkat to learn the truth about who he used to be ...
To unlock the mysteries of his past, he and Darren must place themselves in the hands of Mr Tiny and leave the world of humanity behind. Can they survive in a place of savage killer animals, monstrous mutants, and fiery winged beasts of lore? And even if they do, will they unravel the riddle of Harkat's identity before they are destroyed?
Find out by taking a dip in The Lake Of Souls, the first book of the "Destiny Trilogy", the final, shocking story-arc of The Saga of Darren Shan!
Author Notes:!!!PLOT SPOILERS!!!
MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS!!! DO NOT READ THIS UNLESS YOU HAVE READ BOOK 10!!!!! YOU'LL MISS OUT ON A LOT OF SURPRISES AND TWISTS IN THE BOOK IF YOU IGNORE THIS WARNING!!!! LAST CHANCE!!!!! TURN BACK NOW!!!!!!!!!
I knew this book would divide readers. It was a break into total fantasy, and I knew that people who don't like fantasy books might not like it. I think some of the criticisms of fans about the book are fair enough, but others come largely from people who just don't like fantasy. (And the book DOES have readers who love it! From what I've gathered from letters, e-mails and chatting to fans during tours, a small percentage of readers hated it, a similar percentage loved it, and the majority just thought it was good, neither bad nor great.)
For those who hated it because of the out-and-out fantasy elements -- Tough!! This was my series, and I wrote it my way. I wanted to do a fantasy book at this point of the saga, so I did.
Yes, it would have made more sense in the overall story arc if I had gone on past book 12, as I intended to when I wrote it. It does stand alone as an oddity this way. Of course if I ever go on to do a follow-up series set in the future, this issue will be resolved -- but as things currently stand, that's a shortcoming that I have to admit to.
That said, it's not quite as stand alone as it might appear. And it's not just about finding out who Harkat used to be. (And the VAST majority of readers didn't know he was XXXcensoredXXX. And most of those who did, did so because others spoilt it for them on the Shanville message board. Only a few worked it out for themselves.)
Primarily this is a book about showing Darren being able to survive on his own. I wanted an action-packed book to show how he's developed and toughened. He couldn't have survived in this world if he'd gone there earlier. Now he's almost a full vampire, he's strong and mentally tough, and able to take on just about anything.
It also cements the friendship between Darren and Harkat, which becomes more important now that they're alone. Long-time, vocal Saga fan Nate thinks they're the two weakest characters in the series, but he's in a minority on that one -- most readers cite Darren and Harkat as two of their fave characters.
The book shows us what the world of the future is destined to be like. Of course I could have done this in a few pages, just had Darren have a dream or vision, but I don't think that would have driven the point home, or given Darren a strong enough reason to fight against it. Because he's experienced the wasteworld of the future in this book, it gives him more of a reason to fight to prevent it in books 11 and 12.
Speaking of destiny ... I think a point Nate and other critics missed is that this book is DELIBERATELY game-like -- because it's all been set up by Mr Tiny!!!! He's pulling the strings here more than ever before. Yes, the panther, giant toad and Grotesque are unbelievable, colourful, ridiculous foes -- but that's because Mr Tiny chose them!!! And a net has to be used to fish for the dead because that's something that would tickle the wellied one's fancy! This is Mr Tiny's world -- so his warped sense of humour shines through. Nate's read the book too straight -- you're supposed to have a bit of a chuckle at these creatures, not treat them like something out of the Iliad!!!!!!
The same goes for Spits Abrams. Mr Tiny placed him in this world, which is why he's a drunk, foolish, piratical cannibal. He's not a REAL, developed character. He wasn't meant to be. Mr Tiny wouldn't have chosen him if he was.
I've developed characters very carefully in all the other books of the series -- compare Murlough to Spits, for example. The reason I "went off the rails" in this one was because I wanted to have some O.T.T. fun as seen through the eyes of Des Tiny. Yes, I had serious points to make, and I had to set up the very serious business of the next couple of books -- but this one was never meant to be taken too seriously (apart from the first few chapters). Killing XXXcensoredXXX in book 9 took the series to a very dark place, and I knew it would get even darker in book 11 -- this was my chance to let readers catch their breath and have a bit of a giggle before the action heated up again and everything went to hell.
When book 10 is read as just another chapter of the Saga, it should be able to be seen in context. It's the light relief after the death of a major character. The pause before the storm of book 11. A fun way of making some important points and setting up certain scenes in the last two books. Not the best of the series, I agree, but I still stand by it and think it does the job I wanted it to. Ultimately it's just one-twelfth of the Saga, and if it's not quite the same as the rest ... if it's a bit different and the difference doesn't sit easily with certain readers ... well, there are eleven other books to enjoy! I think 11 out of 12 is good going by any standards!!!!!!!
Originally book 10 was going to be 2 books (horror of horrors!!). In the end I decided to streamline it and just make one book out of it.
A point lots of readers seemed to miss is that this is a post-nuclear world. When the War of the Scars spins out of control, nuclear and chemical warfare result, almost wiping out mankind.
The dragons WILL be explained in book 12!!!
If I'd gone beyond 12 books, as I'd originally intended -- or if I write a follow-up series in the future -- the Kulashkas would have returned, along with the dragons. And we'd have seen that the world isn't entirely desolate -- there WERE survivors, and a semblance of society, ruled over by the Lord of the Shadows.
Spits is one of my personal faves. I always chuckle when I read his lines. Yes, he's a ludicrous walking cliche, but what the hell -- he hits MY funny-bone just right!!!!!!