AWESOME-tober-fest 2011: Review of Darren Shan’s Cirque Du Freak series
Here we are, Week 2 of AWESOME-tober-fest 2011. Last week was comic book week. This week is book week. We’ll start this week’s entries off with a book series I started a few years ago and I’ve talked about on the blog a few times. It’s not about Dracula specifically, but it features a nice twist on vampires and vampire lore. I’m talking about Darren Shan’s Cirque Du Freak series.
I started Shan’s series back in October 2009. I reviewed the first three books here. The first five books even made it into my year end “best of” book report in 2009. And as of April of this year, I finally finished the 12 book series. I was able to finally acquire the last two books with some help from my buddy Rondal Scott over at Strange Kids Club. So thanks for that, Rondal! Anyway, I thought since I’d talked about this series earlier, and I’ve mentioned it since, that I would wrap things up with a final review of the series.
This series has been very good. The world Shan creates is fascinating. His version of vampires is slightly different but it works. In Shan’s world, vampires are not mindless killers. They do drink human blood, but they are able to exhale a “knockout gas” from their mouth to render a human unconscious and then cut a small scratch into their shoulder or arm from which they drink. They only drink what they need then leave the human to resume his life. However, vampires have a more violent cousin called Vampaneze. They are the vicious “drink until humans are dead” monsters that one normally associates with vampires. Both of these factions are at war with each other in what is called The War of the Scars. The main character is Darren Shan, a boy who is blooded by Larten Crepsley, a former Vampire General. Darren becomes a half vampire, then is whisked away into many different adventures with his mentor, Mr Crepsley, and eventually passes the Vampire Trials, becomes a Vampire Prince and takes part in the War of the Scars as one of the chosen warriors who must defeat the rumored Vampaneze Lord.
One of the fascinating things about this book is the social setup of the vampire nation. Much of the higher order vampires live in Vampire Mountain. Vampire Mountain is ruled by the Vampire Princes, who essentially make all the important decisions for the vampire community. There are also Vampire Generals, who are higher level vampires. And when you come of age, like I mentioned earlier, you have to pass the deadly Trials before you are accepted as a full vampire. The world is just deep and endlessly interesting. Some of the most fun and interesting books took place entirely in Vampire Mountain and had nothing to do with the War of the Scars.
The series was 12 books long. Each book had approximately 180-200 pages. They were quick reads. More often than not I could read a book in a day or a day and a half. One of my only problems with this setup was that some of the later books (7-9) could have been combined into some of the earlier books. This really could have been an 8 or 9 book series instead of 12. There just wasn’t enough “meat on the bone” in some of the mid level books. Other than that, I really enjoyed reading the series.
There are some revelations in the last book that took me completely by surprise. The title of the last book especially gives away a giant spoiler. Did I like the way Shan wrapped things up? Yes, I think I did. It was not exactly what I was expecting, and if I think about it too much it would piss me off because it sort of negates the entire series, but I did enjoy how it ended. I think. I may just be glad the 12 book series is finally done as opposed to being happy with the ending. It’s hard to say.
Well, (surprise, surprise) it’s not completely done because Shan started another series focusing on the life and times of Larten Crepsley. It’s called Birth of a Killer and is the beginning of a prequel series. Which, of course, I’ll have to read at some point. But not until the series gets a few more books under its belt and I can take a break.
Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.