You might when reading the book be surprised that the actual oceanic-based parts of the book are at the closing few chapters. Nevertheless, Ocean of Blood is a fitting title for the book. This is perhaps the most bloodiest and gory of all the books in the Vampire sagas written by O’Shaughnessy. As stated, if familiar with the father-figure in the Saga of Darren Shan, you *will * be surprised and shocked to see Larten’s behaviour as a new vampire. He openly enjoys and revels in some sickening behaviour you would not expect of him, and is pone to uncharacteristic bouts of extreme emotional shifts that he himself chides Darren in later times. However, as different and separate this depiction of Larten is, what is absolutely undeniable is how every turn and path he walks along, you see him shape more and more into the man e becomes in Darren’s life. Such crystallising times are evident after Larten’s face is scratched open by Evanna. He refuses to return to Evanna or let Malora repair his face, preferring to keep the scar in order to know better in the future to keep ahold of his self control. I suppose after the first person narrative of the DS saga, wherein Larten is more or less God in the eyes of Darren, unwavering and absolute in his action and thought, it’s novel to see a third-person perspective on how human and fallable Larten really is.
On the note about gore, one thing I was very happy to see was that none of the gore was gratuitous for the sake of it. Every instance of spilt blood seemed to sincerely impact and aid in Larten’s development. It’s through the needless bloodlust with the cubs that shocks Larten and Wester to leave the pack and begin training as committed vampires of the clan - and it is Larten’s homocidal rage on the boat that forces him to take responsibility of others for the first time, as opposed to simply faring on his own, and thus pushes him to grow and accept whatever path is thrown at him, rather than immaturely mope and spend a decade lost and brooding to no avail.
One thing that really struck me was how Larten’s influence seem to directly affect Darren’s future. One of my most favourite scenes was the revealing of the child, Daniel Abrams - a precocious boy who spitshines the ship. It is through personally witnessing Larten’s killing spree on his master’s ship that his mind breaks and deranges, believing himself to also be a vampire, becoming the crazed, cannibal king that Darren and Harkat face in the Lake of Souls. One one hand, it’s exhilarating in itself to show old faces - like Arra Sails, but the fact that the character like Spits Abrams and Murlough in BoaK are given such interesting, purposeful and functional ties and origin stories is another height of awesome entirely. Even more exciting is how Larten encounters them, and both characters change after direct consequence of their meeting, and how the consequences of this are shown in the Saga of Darren Shan, making the two Sagas seem like parts of one, long elaborate mythology. In a sad way, it just about proves that Larten is quite literally to blame for all of the troubles and tragedies that befall Darren later.
Some things I noted though are that, with all respects, while some characters are delightfully written, some fall very flat in comparison to the amount of characterisation other get. An example being Malora. It is said that this series would explore the three loves of Larten’s life. I was not sure whether Malora was or not. In fact, Malora seemed rather undeveloped and a plot device to just quickly further the storyline. One thing Mr. Shan excells in with his books, in my eyes more than any other author, is how painful and powerful the deaths of his characters are. The deaths of characters like Gavner, Kurda and Mr Crepsely and Darren themselves are just beautifully and emotionally written. In OoB, the death of Malora seemed rather without impact. It certainly helped Larten react and advance the story, but her death fell flat due to not really being fleshed out as a character, but more a plot device as stated just now. I tried to ponder on this afterward and simply concluded; Unlike the many books in which Darren got to know and grow with characters like Gavner, and learn to see them (and us through Darren’s eyes) as family, the LC saga is a tapestry of over 200 years of life, and as such, naturally somethings cannot be as drawn out with a four-part series as there would be with a potential twenty books or so - as was the original length of the DS series I believe.
This is also something I’ve picked up on when reading OoB and BoaK - these two books are introductory stories. I would liken them very closely to the first four-to-five of the original Saga books. While there first three had no over-arching storyline, Cirque du Freak, Vampire’s Assistant and Tunnels of blood set up the world and characters of the series, with the fourth and fifth sculpting a darker, more serious and definitive plot. BoaK and OoB in my eyes, very directly and effectively create the characters and context for Larten’s story, setting the scene for a man whose life is being lead down an uncertain path, unsure of himself and frustrated with his drifting lifestyle, thanks to Mr Tiny’s meddling, and preparing the reader with the necessary tools to appreciate the major plot and darker turns of Larten’s life with the final two books. I have the feeling that so far, things have beens steadily building up, with the tension becoming much thicker and visceral to explode into full fruition for the final two books, and this is just a testament to the writing. Unlike many other authors, Mr Shan still knows good pacing and what elements must be laid in as foundation in order to tell a complete and gripping story. This certainly not to the detriment of either BoaK or OoB, they’re stand-alone as they are, but for a complete saga and overall story, I feel that Shan is very carefully and deliberately taking us on a path of a very complex legacy.
On the whole, I really enjoyed this book. The balance of action and plot progression was very well managed, and all uses of violence and bloodshed cleverly directly contribute to the growth of Larten’s character.
As a lover of the original Saga, I was thoroughly pleased by the inclusion and interaction with the older character, however, a lot of these nuances are completely lost on new readers, as is I imagine most of the books if the reader does not have any knowledge of the Shan Saga. This is in my eyes, a book primarily written for the fans of the original series, and that without reading the original saga, this series will not be able to be understood or appreciated properly, as is the case with many of JRR. Tolkien’s works. That, and some of the lesser-developped characters that are used as plot devices are the only drawbacks I have of the book, and otherwise find this an outstanding contribution to fiction. I can’t wait at all until October!