I don't expect you to believe me,
but everything I describe in this book
is absolutely true...
Chapters: 33 (Plus an introduction.)
Book Links: Goodreads
Shamefully, as a mega Shan fan, I've not actually completed this series. I'm a failure! But I'm working on it! I remember picking this entry up and giving it a shot, but that was way back when, while I was still in primary school. I picked it up again years later, but The Demonata series stole me away with its promise of magic and demons.
That makes it better, right? Being stolen away from my favourite author by my favourite author? It has to, because that's the only way to ease the guilt of not having read this tremendous start to what will undoubtedly be a fantastic series.
Anyway, it's time to devour The Saga of Darren Shan!
Synopsis (Not a copy from the book, but I always keep my interpretations close.)
Darren Shan is your average, young adult: He loves football, his friends, his life.
So, naturally, the world has to screw that up.
Enticed by some strange force, and his friend Steve's jibes, the two of them visit a freak show.
There they see the fantastic, the impossible, and it's where Darren lays eyes on a beautiful spider by the name of Madam Octa.
And the man that owns Madam Octa?
Well, he's a vampire.
And Darren, infatuated with the mesmerising arachnid, steals the creature of the night's pet...
Plot - 5/5 Stars
Cirque Du Freak has a startling start, and I mean that in a good way. The Introduction is roughly two and a half pages, but the wonders it does amazes me. We're given a good feel for our main character, who just happens to adore spiders, horrors and potentially gruesome deaths. With this, the tone is set. We already have a glimpse at what awaits us, and if you're not biting your nails to continue, then there's something definitely wrong.
Nah, I kid you, but it is masterfully done.
In those same pages, a morbid message is given to the reader, morbid but true. While trying to convince us of the novel's veracity - which I'm not ruling out, Mr Shan could very well have lived this and decided to impart its wisdom onto us lesser mortals - we're told a useful fact: Life is hard. Bad things can happen and there isn't always a happy ending.
I know what you're thinking: What the hell!?
Bear with me, I interpret this message as one that's invaluable. Cirque Du Freak is aimed at young adults, but even for us adults - me? Adult? I use the term loosely - it's not a bad thing to be reminded that we're not invincible. That we won't be here forever.
So, essentially, carpe diem!
I've probably thought way too much into that...
The plot to the novel is hooking. It shapes itself up to be a great start to the series. In this book alone there's such rich and riveting mythology, with the author expertly crafting the story, with balanced exposition which is wholly interesting, and action that has your heart in your mouth.
When Darren left his parents and friends...
Plus, old-school-like vampires!
Pace - 5/5 Stars
Cirque Du Freak isn't a long novel, so no matter what, chances are you'll finish it in one sitting. The fact that the story is awesome, the characters are varied and the book's structure means there's never any monotony, cements that you're going to fly through it.
Characters - 5/5 Stars
As I said above, the cast is diverse and fascinating.
Our main character, named Darren Shan - a fact I love - reminds me a little of Grubbs from The Demonata series. Well, for me anyway, having read the latter series first. The two have very different personalities, but the author's ability to create a character that you enjoy and like, but also dislike, is prevalent. Darren can be selfish, stupid and downright infuriating; yet he can also be kind, compassionate and absolutely selfless.
I mean, he does give up his human life to save his best friend.
Who would never be in a deadly situation if not for Darren...
Then again if Steve had just listened to Darren...
You'll get what I mean.
The 'freak show' gives us a wide range of unforgettable 'freaks', with the standout being Mr Larten Crepsley. His budding relationship with Darren seems quite odd, both warm and cold, and I'm excited to see how it progresses.
Character progression is great, too: Darren learns some valuable lessons through some severe sacrifices, Steve's dark side rises up and Lartin Crepsley is shrouded in mystery.
It's an exciting cast with more than those three, but I cannot wait for the journey about to come.
Writing - 4/5 Stars
Where a lot of us oldies will feel a little hesitant. There's nothing particular wrong with the writing, everything flows and is written so that the pages practically turn themselves, but the voice of the characters, and the novel's intended audience, is clear to interpret.
It sometimes sounds childish - duh, it's a children's book - but all I ask is you persevere, because Mr Shan's stories are awesome.
Overall - 5/5 Stars
Cirque Du Freak has put me in a good mood.
A thrilling start to a series that gets my heart racing.
Next Instalment: The Vampire's Assistant
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