What's the story? This is the prequel to Shan's ace Cirque Du Freak series. This story goes back to the vampire Larten Crepsley's beginnings. As a cash-strapped boy, he works hellishly long hours in a grotty workhouse. Larten lashes out with disastrous consequences when his evil boss decides to make an example of his cousin. He goes on the run and meets a toothy stranger.
How does it read? The pace at the start of this book, leading up to the fate of Larten's cousin, is so relentless that you can't believe that the rest of the story can live up to it. But if you think you know vampires, then these undead are very different from tiresome Twilight toothers. These guys don't bite necks and they don't live forever. Once bitten by the prequel, you'll probably be back for another gnaw at the series.
Flipside's verdict: Vampires don't suck anymore. 5 stars.