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Saturday, October 31, 2009

"Cirque Du Freak" Book One in theThe Darren Shan Saga by Darren Shan (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

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Introduction: My local book store has has a display with all 12 books out ever since the movie trailers have hit the air waves. I was interested to see what all the fuss was about and I figured this was as good of time as any to check out the books.

Summary: Darren Shan has grown up in a world where "freak" shows have been banned due to the horrible conditions that the acts used to have to deal with. Although freak shows are illegal it is rumored that there is an underground freak show that travels around and performs every so often. If you are lucky enough you can get a secret poster that allows you to buy tickets to this event.

Darren's friend is one of those lucky people that by chance came across a poster advertising the "Cirque Du Freak". As a group the friends band together and pull together enough money to afford two tickets to this exclusive show.

While at the show Darren and his friend, Steve become enthralled with all the acts, which include the snake boy, a bearded lady, and a very poisonous spider known as Madam Octa who is controlled by a mysterious man named Mr. Crepsley. Something is very strange about Mr. Crepsley and Steve swears he's seen him somewhere else in which he wishes to confront him after the show.

Meanwhile, Darren has formed an obsession with Mr. Crepsley's pet spider and is forming ways in his head on how he can gain such a rare spider so that he can show off in front of his friends. The only solution to getting this rare spider is by stealing Mr. Crepsley's.

Who would have thought that by visiting an illegal freak show could change Darren's life so drastically?

Cirque Du Freak is the first of twelve books in the Darren Shan Saga. It is also the first book in the Vampire Blood Trilogy which is part of that twelve book set.

Analysis: Cirque Du Freak is filled with all those "horrors" that complete a decent YA read. Many readers will fondly remember the "Goosebumps" series by R. L. Stine. This series is a step up from Goosebumps, with a bit more graphic content and older characters.

The thing that I found out very quickly about Cirque Du Freak is that it's much more then about an illegal freak show. Instead that is just the event that gets the plot line going. Although sadly, in this book just when the events start rolling the book ends in an almost "to be continued" like fashion. This left me with an almost incomplete sense, I wanted to know more about what happens to Darren and how he is going to cope in the world. While it does leave off at an appropriate time, readers should expect all their questions to be answered.

One of the "flaws" that were present within this book were the characters. A lot of the characters came across as flat or uninteresting. Although the last one-fourth of the book really picked up the character of Darren. Part of the reason for this type of characterization could be that this was one of Darren Shan's first books published, so every author is allowed a little leeway to grow and change overtime. There is a definite change in the last few chapters and from reading some of Shan's later works the characters have improved so don't expect a miracle walking into the first book.

I did really enjoy Shan's portrayal of vampires in this book. So many vampires in YA books lately have been romantic and sparkly. They are almost like the teddy bears of the undead lately. Shan takes a different approach and brings them back to the scary, evil, not nice people that these creatures are supposed to be.

Another item to remember is that this is a YA horror book, so what adult readers might come to expect as horrifying and scary won't be present in here. However it's a step up from the talking dummies that appeared in Goosebumps, I have to admit the piano hand cutting did scare me when I was younger.

In the end this is a great series especially for boys because it has all those elements that I'm sure they are looking for in books. The chapters aren't overly long, so when reading and wanting to take a break you aren't glued for lengthy amounts of times. I'll anxiously go and devour the next book in the series! If you aren't going in expecting an adult horror book you just might be surprised with the experience that you'll have!


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