thebookbag.co.uk | 01 June 2007 | Jill Murphy
In Blood Beast, the fifth book in Darren Shan's Demonata series, the lycanthropic nightmare continues for teenager Grubbs Grady. He's already lost his parents and his sister to the family werewolf gene and the battle to save his half-brother Bill-E from the same fate has cost Grubbs and his uncle, Dervish, dearly. So now, when the full moon approaches, and Grubbs begins to experience nightmares and fevers, he fears the worst. And it's almost too much to bear. We last saw Grubbs on a demon-ridden film set, rejecting his magical abilities in favour of a normal teenage life, having friends, staying out late, chasing girls. So, like most teenagers would, Grubbs makes a potentially fatal mistake and tries to keep his fears to himself. He doesn't tell Dervish. He tries to cope alone. And it's not easy... Locked inside Dervish's study. Breath coming quickly, raggedly. Trembling wildly. I still feel sick and dizzy, but maybe that's fear. I force myself to breathe normally, evenly. When I'm in control, I study my reflection, looking for telltale signs. Am I turning into a werewolf? I don't know! And away we go for more of the Shan trademark wild ride of tension and horror and blood. But... ... I'll just have to have a slight tantrum. Blood Beast ends on a cliffhanger. I don't like it when children's books end on cliffhangers. While I don't mind series in which overall themes develop, I do like to see resolution for individual episodes, especially when the book is aimed at the early secondary years. So meh. Tut. Tsk. Russnfussn. Moan. And whinge. Having said that, my twelve year old, who haunts Shan's website, was well aware he wasn't going to get a resolution and didn't mind in the least. So perhaps it's just me. I'm still not pleased though. Cliffhangers aside, I don't have a bad word to say about Blood Beast. It's tense and exciting. It's chilling. It's full of betrayals and distrust and fear. However, underneath all the schlock horror, there's a solid base of morality in which friendship and family ties can redeem us all, if only we establish who it is we can trust and then trust them implicitly. Shan seems to understand his audience completely. He knows children are bloodthirsty little beasts. He appreciates that there is no such thing as too much gore. But he also knows when to stop. There's enough camp and enough high-spirited joy in the telling of a story to keep his readers feet (and fears) firmly on the ground. Fans of BecExternal Link, the heroine of the splendiferous fourth Demonata book most shamefully unreviewed by Bookbag, will be glad to know that she makes a mysterious appearance here. The links between the various worlds Shan has created in this series are really beginning to make the kinds of connections that will make it one children will remember long into adulthood. This, like the first four, come highly recommended by Bookbag to all junior horror fans of ten or eleven and up.
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