Procession of the Dead has had an interesting publication history. First published in 1999, Procession of the Dead was originally titled Ayuamarca and was intended to be the first novel in The City trilogy. Unfortunately, the series did not find an audience and the third book was never published. The original author, Darren O’Shaughnessy, went on to fame and fortune under a new pen name (Darren Shan) and with a new series (The Saga of Darren Shan). In 2008, Ayuamarca was re-written, re-titled and re-released, and was now written by “D.B. Shan.” It has since been released again with Darren Shan listed as the author.
Procession of the Dead sets its largely amnesiac antihero Capac Raimi loose in a mystical city where blind Incan priests seem to change reality with a green fog. It’s unknown what the priests are doing, but it’s common knowledge that the Cardinal, a ruthless kingpin, runs the City. Capac soon finds himself apprenticed to a few of the Cardinal’s henchmen, though it’s not clear what he’s being groomed for.
Americans love to explore the nature of leadership, and at times Procession of the Dead reads like a corporate lecture circuit on management. However, it’s fun to see Capac being groomed for success as a kingpin rather than a businessman. Or perhaps these two careers are not so different. The Cardinal’s criminal organization has a detailed corporate ladder that Capac and his peers are all racing each other to climb. And we get to go along for the ride, meeting assassins and strongmen along the way.
Although most of Darren Shan’s audience is drawn from his young adult work, Procession of the Dead’s stairway trysts make it clear that the story is written for an adult audience. However, there are some elements to the series that are a little cartoony, particularly the Cardinal’s penchant for puppets (which in all fairness makes sense within the context of the story), his extensive records on every person in the City, and his love of carpets. Additionally, Capac’s “learn the ropes” story feels better suited for the young adult market, which is perhaps why the series has been once again rebranded as the work of Darren Shan.
Perhaps the greatest failing of Procession of the Dead is that its plot is less interesting than its publication and marketing history. On the other hand, Shan has two more novels to flesh out Capac’s corrupt world of criminal leadership.