curledupkids.com | 01 May 2006 | Sabrina Williams
Unlikely heroes return in the eighth installment of the bestselling young reader/young adult horror series Cirque Du Freak. In Allies of the Night, the misfit trio of half-vampire Darren Shan, his vampire guide, Mr. Crepsley, and disfigured ex-ghost cohort Harkat are on the hunt for the vampaneze, who are the unmistakable culprits behind the serial murders of humans in Mr. Crepsley's hometown. They are hopeful that perhaps they’ll capture the Lord of the Vampanese in the process. Just when the trio thinks they have the edge in the pursuit, a confusing roadblock falls into their path. Someone has enrolled the eternally youthful Darren in high school, and there is no avoiding the vigilant school inspector. The group agrees that Darren should begin classes to protect their cover, even if it means that he is walking into a trap. Darren finds that the danger he is in is the least of his concerns: he has to find a way to fit in with suspicious classmates. Facing the uncertainty of adolescence once again, he struggles against his own maturity as he tries to pass for a fifteen-year-old human boy. Darren gets jarred back into his teen years when he discovers one of his teachers is also a former high school flame. While he’s been out battling the vampaneze, Debbie has been working her way through college to become a teacher. Now he has to come up with an additional cover story for the fact that she’s grown up and he hasn’t aged a bit – and why he’s back in school as a student in her English class. Meanwhile, time is running out and the vampaneze are closing in. Steve, Darren’s friend from the beginning of the series, is also reintroduced in Allies of the Night. During his absence, Steve has been researching the vampaneze and training himself to become an expert hunter. After saving Darren from the clutches of a hook-handed vampaneze, he joins the group in their nightly quest. But can Steve be trusted despite his evil blood? Shan cleverly introduces new readers to the series through a prologue and a selection of mock newspaper articles chronicling the local police department’s investigation into the murders. Faces from past installments resurface periodically, providing Shan with more opportunities to familiarize the reader with the storyline. None of these flashbacks interrupts the pace of the novel, however, as Shan keeps the reader intrigued with constant twists and turns in the plot. Shan teases the reader with a cliffhanger at the end, followed by an excerpt from the ninth book in the series. Following R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps legacy with monsters that are more amusing than menacing, the Cirque Du Freak series contains just enough gore and action to satisfy the adolescent reader without invoking nightmares. Unlike teen horror collections of the past, Cirque Du Freak lacks the sugar-coated “Leave It to Beaver” detachment from reality, which makes it all the more appealing to modern readers. The intended audience is aged nine to twelve. Darren Shan’s official website is www.darrenshan.com, which contains a host of ghastly goodies. Cirque du Freak: Allies of the Night is published by Little Brown and Company, part of Hachette Book Group USA, a worldwide company that brings Cirque Du Freak to the United States from Great Britain. Cirque Du Freak, the movie, is currently in production and slated to be released in 2008.
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