Birth of a Killer is the first in Shan’s new four book series The Saga of Larten Crepsley. The new series is a prequel to the Cirque du Freak series. Tracing the early years of Larten Crepsley this first book introduces us to him as a young boy working in a silk factory with his cousin. After a terrible incident, you g Larten kills the abusive factory foreman. Forced to flee, a young, poor boy in the early 1800s has just killed his boss, Larten seeks refuge in a cemetery crypt. Only to find it occupied. It’s here that he meets vampire Seba Nile, already 500-years-old. Seba explains to Larten, who already believes in witches and other supernatural beings, that vampires are, in fact, real. He also explains how vampires, such as him, differ from the vampires of legend. Readers of the Cirque du Freak series possibly already know more of what transpires after this, but for those that have not, I’m going to stop the summary there ….
While I would imagine a reader would get more out of the Larten Crepsley books if they’d already read the Cirque du Freak series (knowing some of the characters, etc), it’s more than possible to read and enjoy Birth of a Killer with no previous knowledge of the characters, world or author (I did). Birth of a Killer covers about twenty years and has a lot of explanation of the vampire world, rules and introduces a lot of characters. There is very, very little blood or gore (or even mention of it). There is violence—usually in fisticuffs or other fighting, but it’s all very middle grade suitable. Most of the book is really about getting to know the character and where he came from—the title of the book is not at all misleading.
It’s too early to say if this series will lead readers to Ciruqe du Freak books but I know (from being told emphatically) that lovers of the Cirque du Freak series love this series as well and are awaiting the future books.