I also have to say that I have been quite saddened lately by the fact that the author struggles with cancer. Despite being under, from what I understand, heavy treatment he is still able to churn out books at a respectable rate. I wish him all the best. The book world would be lesser without him.
With this book we jump 500 years in the future. The old characters are gone except from being referenced (and revered) throughout the book. Obviously new ones are introduced and some of them, in particular the main protagonist, are descendants of the original heroin.