The final twist is a killer...
Book Links: Goodreads
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we have reached a momentous occasion.
A momentously heartbreaking occasion...
With the completion of Brothers to the Death, I have completely caught up with Darren Shan's available works, and have no more to read until another is released.
[Insert the most devastated emoticon you can find, here]
What is life? What did I do before I had Shan books on my shelf I hadn't read?
And Brothers to the Death, the final instalment to The Saga of Larten Crepsley, only serves to heighten my torment by being a damned good book...
Synopsis (Not a copy from the book, but I always keep my interpretations close.)
Larten Crepsley has some semblance of serenity in his life.
His youth is behind him, his mistakes can never be forgotten, but time and the will to atone have offered him a form of closure.
His life is finally his own.
Until the love of his life is brutally murdered in a game Larten never wanted to be part of.
Reeling and out for revenge, our hero thinks he's faced the worst the world can offer.
But destiny has a crueler fate in store.
One that, despite Larten's resilience, he might never recover from...
Plot - 5/5 Stars
Brothers to the Death kicks us off in the 1920s or 30s (it's around then, I'm not 100% on the exact date), and Larten has been spared by Gavner, who held Mr Crepsley's life in his hands at the end of Palace of the Damned. After a quick recap of that, where Gavner connects with Larten, understands even, his past mistakes, our red-haired hero is pleasantly living his vampiric life. As an adult now, his duty to the clan is strong, and his love for Alicia (a human that for all intents and purposes is his soulmate) is unbreakable.
But, of course, we're not naive enough to think that this time of peace will last. Hell, this is the final entry in Larten's series and destiny still isn't done with him (see The Saga of Darren Shan if you haven't already).
I was surprised by the inclusion of the Nazis, but then again, Shan has never shied away from using terrible tragedies to highlight a phenomenal point. The parallels he draws between the Nazis and Larten's blood-brother Wester's group of anti-vampaneze are really something. Something that this novel focuses on heavily: Hate. Both groups above have an unflinching hate for certain individuals with certain backgrounds. The point that rings through loud and clear is that hate is an emotion that only ever brings pain and suffering. Mostly to the innocent...
We then move on to the 'precipitating event' of Brothers to the Death, and that's the murder of Alicia at the supposed hands of a spiteful vampaneze. Now, if the title of the book and the many hints throughout the series don't clue you in to the final twist, reaching these events will. Yep, that's right, I predicted the outcome. Wester's betrayal and killing of Alicia are all choices he makes to manipulate Larten into despising the creatures Wester himself has hated for the entirety of his vampire life.
Despite the foresight, it's still a powerfully potent emotional ride. And although I've seen a few reviewers who aren't so keen because they saw it coming, I have a sneaking suspicion that Shan has played us. I think our understanding is deliberate. Why? Well, having the strong suspicions of what is to come really goes a long way. Especially as Larten and Wester's bond is reinforced throughout the story. There's something bittersweet and heartbreaking about their interactions when you 'know' what the future holds. It makes you sick, broken and hoping like hell you're wrong.
It's a major plus in my eyes for the story's superb suspense.
We also see Larten pick up Madam Octa, and the end of the book is a great lead-in for those who haven't read The Saga of Darren Shan. Even if you have, you'll want to jump right back in again.
Pace - 4.5/5 Stars
For the most part it follows in its predecessors' footsteps: Fast-paced with nice sprinklings of action to keep the exposition balanced. My only little miff is the fact there's a lot of moving around, and sometimes not a lot going on. It's not a big deal, just something I felt while racing to see if my predictions were correct.
Characters - 5/5 Stars
Old and new come together to set the stage for the parent series. We're treated to a myriad of unique creatures, all of which make for a magical world. Shan's casts are always fantastic in their portrayal.
Larten himself reaches the maturity we see him embody in the beginning of The Saga of Darren Shan: The cool, composed creature of the night we fell, or fall if you haven't got that far, in love with. After much loss, much indecision and wandering, Larten finally finds his home; he finally accepts whatever destiny has for him. But don't fret, he still has a good amount of cheekiness and wit.
One of the biggest highlights for me is his stint with, and return to, the Cirque Du Freak. In my opinion, it's Larten's true home. His contentment and enjoyment are clear signs of this. Our hero has always struggled with where he's supposed to be. He's no longer human and can never truly be a part of that world, and while he finds some comfort in the vampire clan, he still feels out of place. The Cirque is a staggering balance of both that Larten never thought he'd find. It's a world not quite human, but not fully supernatural.
Plus, we all know he needs to be at the Cirque, it's destiny...
Writing - 5/5 Stars
Shan conveys his scenes, themes and messages with masterful prowess. His works aimed at younger children are must haves. The morality they impart, the way they engage and invoke even an adult's imagination is beyond impressive. I am, and always will be, a massive fan. (Don't want to offend anyone by saying #1 fan, but...)
Overall - 5/5 Stars
Now, Mr Shan, if you could only write twenty books in the next few days and have them released I would be heavily in your debt.
Previous Instalment: Palace of the Damned
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