edgeptown.com | 11 May 2005 | Kilian Melloy
Young Master Darren Shan, half-Vampire and Prince among the so-called Undead, walks once more in the pages of Cirque du Freak, Book 9.In earlier books it was revealed that vampires, far from being as nasty as they wanna be, in fact have a code of honor and comprise an long-standing civilization in their own right, centered around an ancient stronghold called Vampire Mountain. It’s the breakaway tribe of purple-skinned Vampaneze who are the bloodthirsty killers, and a war between the two factions, long ago foretold by prophecy, can only be averted if three Vampire hunters succeed in their quest to identify and take out the Vampaneze Lord.Darren Shan the writer puts Darren Shan the character through many difficult, even tragic, events in his books, but nothing so far has come close to the sticky situation Shan and his friends face now. Accused by the Vampaneze of carrying out a terrifying murder spree (a series of killings the Vampaneze themselves committed), Darren and his pals find themselves thrown off the hunt by becoming the hunted: helicopters buzz in the sky, the ground swarms with enraged humans (police and civilian mobs alike), and the underground tunnels of the Vampaneze become the last desperate refuge -- but what a fall-back position to have to take! The Vampaneze and their human collaborators have turned the tunnels into a labyrinth of death, designed by none other than Darren’s boyhood best friend, Steve Leopard. Long ago, the vampire who blooded Darren refused to take on Stgeve as his apprentice, saying that Steve’s blood tasted of pure, innate evil. Blaming Darren for this rejection, Steve has grown up to become a half-Vampaneze, and Darren’s sworn mortal enemy. Now, nine books later, Steve’s revenge is at hand -- and at least ofne of the three Vampire Hunters is never getting out of Steve’s trap alive.Shan, who has already begun a new, demon-centered series of young adult novels, writes h is Darren Shan books as trilogies. With the events in this book, he doesn’t end a trilogy so much as set the stage for the final trio of adventures in the Darren Shan Saga. In each of his books, Shan mixes peril, fate, and consequences -- young Shan still carries scars from previous adventures -- to create deft morality tales that wield a scary edge. The fictional Shan is forever compelled to make impossible moral choices, and he usually finds a way to rise above the least acceptable of his unforgiving options, but there are times in the books -- and such an occasion marks Book 9 -- when the young hero literally falls out of the pan and into the fire. When that happens, Shan’s moral courage never fails him, even though the happy ending he (and we) look for stays well out of reach. Shan the writer knows what he’s doing, though, because even as he’s talking to young adults about the hard spots in life, he refuses to talk down to them -- one more reason why they might actually get something out of these books. (It helps. Of course, that Shan has such a diabolical gift for taking a bad situation and gleefully making it much, much worse.) "Killers of the Dawn" is unusually grim even for a Darren Shan book, but it gathers a momentum that promises to carry through the next trilogy and right to the series’ end.
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