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Sunday, 14 June 2015

Allies of the Night by Darren Shan (Saga of Darren Shan, #8) - Book Review

5/5 Stars

The past is catching up with me...

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Edition: Paperback
Pages: 186
Chapters: 21 (Plus a prologue.)
Publisher: HarperCollins

Book Links: Goodreads
                      Amazon
                      Author's Website

Review

Allies of the Night is full of twists, turns, doubt and confusion; all blended together to make a phenomenal imagination soup. It's also the entry of reunions, and trust me, they're awesome! The blurb came at me from the side. Darren, back at school? It filled me with both anticipation and hesitation. The latter because plunging the story back into a normalised setting could slow down the pace, and the former because, if it works, it could be a cutting contrast to what the story and its characters have progressed to. In essence, it could highlight just how different the two worlds - the vampires' and the humans' - are.

Luckily, and not really surprising, there's nothing to worry about.

SPOILER WARNING

Synopsis (Not a copy from the book, but I always keep my interpretations close.)

Darren Shan is a half-vampire, a Prince, a being of immense strength who has surpassed more than any average guy or gal could ever comprehend.
He's in the middle of a war he's destined to stop.
So how come he ended up back at school?
Darren's thinking that himself as he slips back into a strange and normal life.
The bodies of innocent men and women are piling up.
And odd occurrences are too...

Plot - 5/5 Stars

If you think Mr Shan can no longer surprise you, think again. Allies of the Night's story plunges Darren back into the ordinary, human world of secondary school, and despite the blurb's warning, it still kinda comes as a surprise. It does a great job of being completely outlandish, while being conflictingly normal. It's, as I said, a cutting contrast. Darren's vampiric world is far different from the human one, highlighted by Darren's first day when he meets and is shunned by his fellow classmates. Vampires live with impervious honour, and Darren's complete shock and confusion shows how much he's missed.

It adds an interesting element to the formula, without knocking the plot off its legs. And in true Shan style, Darren's return to school is a suitably suspicious mystery.

But the school, while a small and intriguing part of the story, is nothing compared to what comes after. There are three massive reunions in Allies of the Night, and each of them are punches to the gut. One I hoped would happen (Debbie), one I knew would happen (Steve), and one I didn't even see coming(R.V.!). 

All in all, a fantastic addition to the series; with adrenaline galore, an imagination on overdrive and new developments that shake up the characters' world.

Pace - 5/5 Stars

Thanks to the formula shake and evenly spaced reunions, Allies of the Night is a quick and easy read. It's enjoyable at all times and short enough to be finished within a few hours.

There's really no wonder this series is a big hit with children and adults alike. 

Characters - 5/5 Stars

Perhaps the book's biggest focus. The story is twisty and turny and all of the things we love about the series, with a few added spices, but it's the cast you can't help be most attentive to. With the return of previous characters, especially ones that haven't been seen in quite a bit, relationships, emotions, plans etc., are all tested and stretched. 

Debbie Hemlock, Darren's ex-girlfriend from Tunnels of Blood, reappears as a strong, young woman. I was almost in tears when she and Darren collided, quite hilariously, and couldn't believe it. It brings back around, and in line with the theme, Darren's human side. Debbie had been his first girlfriend, his first real human friend since becoming Larten's vampire assistant. She represents fond memories, which could be dashed with her return, as it places her in immense danger.

If she's not the real enemy herself...

Next up comes Steve Leopard (real last name Leonard). This was the reunion I'd been waiting for. Despite my previous prediction - Steve being the Vampaneze Lord - being false, so far as I can see anyway, I'm still ecstatic at his return. It's made bittersweet by his betrayal, which cuts the group deeply. I wanted so bad for Steve to be good, despite Larten's concerns and talk of 'evil blood', but while the suspicions are all there, the author does a stellar job of lulling you into a false sense of security. We feel the same as our eyes into the story does: Darren trusts Steve, and so do we.

Damn us!

The cherry on top, and the return I didn't see coming, or had any inclination to predict, is R.V.'s. The last time we saw the eco-warrior was in The Vampire's Assistant, and while I thought about a return then, I haven't really thought of it since. 

The rest of our cast continue on their respective progressions: Darren, ever the hero, is doing his best to do the right thing, while human and vampire parts conflict within him; Larten - who we learn cannot read or write and proves to be a heartbreaking but excellent look at just how much a privilege those two things are - is ever the fatherly figure, guiding and fighting; and Harkat, our little person who's thrown himself into the fight to save an entire species despite the ticking clock hanging above him.

The dynamics and diversity make this series an even bigger joy to read.

Writing - 4.5/5 Stars

I'm linking again to my previous review, where my short summary of the writing applies to this instalment as well. Check out Hunters of the Dusk.

Overall - 5/5 Stars

Allies of the Night describes itself perfectly: 'The past is catching up with me.'


Previous Instalment: Hunters of the Dusk
Next Instalment: Killers of the Dawn


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