Waterstones Magazine (UK) | 29 April 2010 | Damian Kelleher
It's seven years since Darren Shan's novel Cirque du Freak made its debut on the boookshelves. In that time, he's clocked up sales of ten million, built up a loyal and bloodthirsty fan base and earned himself the title Number One Master of Horror in children's books. It's no wonder then that Shan fans have their own name — Shansters — to flaunt their demonic devotion to the master of the macabre. Blood Beast is the fifth book in his second series, and while his first series of twelve books was primarily concerned with vampires, this second series, The Demonata, is all about demons in their various forms, and more specifically as the series progresses, werewolves. In the fourth book of The Demonata sequence, Bec, Shan moved into uncharted territory, flexing his writing muscles and focusing on a female narrator for the first time, a twice-cursed teen priestess in fifth-century Ireland. It was a book that showed a new side to Shan (real name O'Shaughnessy) beyond the murder and mayhem, weaving historical fact and folklore into a convincing and compulsive tale. Book five sees Darren Shan returning to familiar territory, and fans won't be disappointed. Set one year on from book three, Slawter, our hero Grubbs Grady is settling into life with his mysterious and solitary Uncle Dervish at his palatial home. Grubbs is growing up but still haunted by nightmares following the horrendous slaughter of his family - mother, father and sister - at the beginning of book one, Lord Loss. He's beginning to take an interest in girls, and his friend Loch's sister Reni in particular, and finds he has less in common with his young friend Bill-E (yes, he's also his brother, but Bill-E doesn't know that). The only thing getting in the way of Grubbs's new-found party lifestyle is the fear that, like other members of his family, he's a werewolf in the making. Scared and desperate, Grubbs shares his fears with his uncle, but later overhears him on the phone to a group of assassins, the Lambs. If he is indeed, a werewolf, it appears that Uncle Dervish has no qualms about cutting his nephew loose, and throwing him to the ruthless Lambs. Unlike other children's authors who fret over the death of a single character, Shan is an indiscriminate killer. He needs to sacrifice plenty of victims, and as his compulsive narratives unfold, the body count inevitably rises. Shan knows his audience is baying for blood, and as the title of the book implies, there's more gore than at your average blood bank. Yes, Shansters may have to wait till the bitter end to satisfy their lust for blood-letting on a grand scale, but they won't love this book any the less for that. I heard Shan give an exclusive reading of the book's gruesome climax to a packed house at the South Bank's Imagine festival of literature in the spring. He held the audience so rapt, you could almost hear the blood drip.
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