Friday, March 6, 2009

Cirque du Freak - The Vampire's Assistant by Darren Shan

First published in 2006.

Darren was just an ordinary schoolboy -- until his visit to the Cirque Du Freak. Now Darren joins the powerful vampire Mr. Crepsley. As he struggles with his new life as a vampire's assistant, Darren tries desperately to resist the one temptation that sickens him -- the one thing that can keep him alive. (


Holy crap, is Darren Shan afraid of nothing?

The Vampire’s Assistant continues with the story of Darren Shan as he adjusts to living with Mr. Crepsley as his half-vampire assistant. It’s a difficult ride for him, especially since he really can’t have any friends his age (what with the shin-cracking incident and all) so they decide to join back up with the Cirque so Darren can have friends. Evra Von, the snake boy, becomes one of his closest consorts along with a mere mortal named Sam who is desperate to join the freaks.

Another unlikely and fair-weather friend comes along named Reggie Veggie, or RV as he prefers to be called. He’s an eco-warrior (or environmental terrorist, however you want to put it) that likes the boys but sours when he finds out how the Cirque “treats” animals, especially the wolf man.

RV proves nothing but serious and deadly trouble for everyone at the Cirque, but most especially Sam. Shan isn’t afraid in the slightest to have loss in his books. Real, genuine, gory loss. I’m sure a lot of authors would have shied away from such things, especially in a series that’s geared towards the younger end of YA and the older end of MG. It’s violent but it’s real and most importantly believable. I found myself a bit nauseated a few times throughout the book.

Not only does Darren have to suffer through the loss of yet another friend, he has to make a decision that would allow his friend to live on within him, but it would also entail Darren drink human blood, something he’s been fighting against since Mr. Crepsley turned him. The fight has been progressively detrimental to his health ever since and Darren has been adamant to fight it, and even considers welcoming death for real in order to avoid drinking human blood.

The reality with which these books are written, despite the fantastical creatures in the tales, is a driving point for me. Even though Darren is a half-vampire, he’s still very much a reluctant boy (still not sure just how old he is) and acts as such. I’m glad Shan kept that attitude grounded in reality and it still consistently showing what it could possibly be like for someone to have to deal with being a vampire. It’s not all acceptance and blood drinking and sex. Especially not for Darren. I’m so entranced with the struggle (that’s not pining, long-winded or evokes a feeling of ‘go get a tan already’) that I can’t help but keep reading. I haven’t read anything like this before, not really, and not with a character so young.

I’m sure I’ll end up having this entire series on my shelves because I really can’t get enough of it. Not to mention they’re pretty fast reads. The only thing that kind of irks me are the pseudo-cliff hangers at the ends of the chapters. Not every chapter but I’ve noticed chapters ending in very obvious (I’m thinking intentionally) foreshadowing and dun-dun-dun but there isn't a resolution for a few chapters after that. That was kind of getting on my nerves because it happened a lot. Perhaps it’s just me but when I see a cliff hanger or blatant foreshadowing at the end of one chapter, I expect it to be answered or resolved in the following chapter. Not so here. Granted it only kept me reading on but it was still irksome.

Other than that, I can’t wait to start the third book!


runa said...

Oh, just wait until you really get into the series...look forward to hearing your thoughts about the later books!

Donna said...

OMG you tease! Must pay off credit cards before buy more books . . .

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