epinions.com | 31 October 2005 | Freak 369
* * * * * After getting into the insanely popular ‘Cirque Du Freak” series by Darren Shan I was dead set on getting my hands on the first book in “The Demonata” series. At the end of ”The Lake of Souls” there was a twenty four page teaser that really got me interested in learning more about the series. One of the things that I love about Shan’s writing is that it doesn’t get clouded with a lot of verbosity; there is a ton of detail to his writing but you don’t have to drag out the dictionary in order to understand what he is saying. One thing that drove me insane with the Cirque series was the grammar mistake of “She and me went to the store” instead of “She and I” that was cleared up somewhere around book five or six when Darren met up with his first love Debbie who was now a teacher. That might sound completely confusing but I am using that as an example - Shan puts a lot of detail into his books - things that might seem rather irrelevant at the time but a few chapters [or books] later, you understand why something was said or done in a certain manner. ”Demonata I: Lord Loss” “Lord Loss” is the first book in the Shan “Demonata” series and just like ”The Saga of Darren Shan”, the first book of the Cirque Du Freak series, it gives you a lot of the background that you will need when later volumes are released. If you are expecting this to be like Cirque Du Freak you are going to be a little disappointed but if you are into horror and darker reads then this should be right up your alley. From this book you’ll learn about the very interesting Grady family; the typical parental unit that wants nothing best for their child, Grubitsch [Grubbs] and Gretelda {Gret]. From the start of the book there is a lot of mystery building up; everyone but Grubbs knows what is going on and it is eating him alive, so much so that when the rest of the family leaves for an out of town ballet performance he sneaks away from his aunts house to get to the bottom of things. More than a few times you catch yourself thinking, “Ok Grubbs, remember the old saying that curiosity killed the cat ...” because you know that whatever they are keeping a secret isn’t good. After the introductions and setting the stage, Grubbs is shipped off to his aunt’s house to stay for the night while the rest of the family goes to the ballet. Curiosity gets the best of Grubbs and he heads back to the house to find out what is going on. When he arrives there he knows, in an instant, that something isn’t right. The whole house is ice cold, the chess boards are destroyed with pieces scattered everywhere and no one in his family is around. making his way upstairs he unlocks one mystery but ten more spring up in his path. His family, as much as he despised them at times, were all dead. Killed by demons that resemble humans to a certain extent but are definately not of this world. That is when he has his first encounter with Lord Loss, one that will haunt him for the rest of his days. He manages to escape the house after being taunted by his tormentors but was it worth it? He’s taken to the police station and grilled hard about what they found at the house. Walls covered with blood, his father hanging from the ceiling with his head sliced away and his sister split in two from head to toe. I was half expecting the story to go with him being the killer but Shan kept things on an even keel - Grubbs did have some blood on him but not enough to make him look like he could have committed the murders. Confined to a ‘institute’, Grubbs is haunted by what he saw left of his family, the regrets of never telling them how much he loved them and all the pranks he pulled on his sister. More over, the demons that did this - how could he ever get someone to believe him? No one did. Not the family members that visited, not the doctors, the nurses or other people there. He did get permission to go and stay with his mothers brother but that ended badly when he blurted out that his family was killed by demons; who wants a houseguest like that? Back to the institute and it sort of looks like his fate is sealed to spend the rest of his life there. Drifting in and out of consciousness, never being able to get rid of the visions of the demons or Lord Loss. Help came in the form of a blood relative; his fathers younger brother Dervish came to visit and with him brought some very interesting drawings. They were of Vein and Artery, two of the demons that killed his family. Grubbs things that it is a trick, that the doctors put him up to it but when he turns over the last page and sees Lord Loss he realizes that he never told them his name, when Dervish says it, Grubbs is all ears. In order to get out of that place he has to lie, something that is isn’t all that good at but when Dervish explains the situation and that if he does come to live with him, no harm can or will come to him - it gives him the motivation he needs. The saying “out of the frying pan and into the first” would work well here - when you get to the crossover of the book you start to think that maybe he would have been better off staying put with medication to make him sleep, taking his mind off of everything it seemed to dwell on. Once they arrive at Dervish’s house he has a new sense of freedom; his uncle is very restrictive and he has the entire house to roam free. He makes friends with a rather strange boy named Billy Spleen [although he likes to be called Bill-E]. It isn’t until half way through the book that you learn one of his many secrets, but the biggest one happens about 140 pages into it and trust me - you are not going to believe the plot twist that Shan throws at you but you will be slapping your head saying “Why didn’t I see that coming? There were clues all over the place about it!”. That’s one of the things that I love about Shan’s writing style, there are clues all over the place but you are so engrossed in what you are reading that you don’t start to add things up until he lays the twist on you. You are introduced to Merra Flame, someone that could be a possible love interest for Dervish but she is an incurable flirt, making both Billy and Grubbs blush every chance she gets. You don’t get much on her at first but as the story progresses small things about here are dropped here and there. The one thing that you really have to keep in mind when you are reading this is that it is part of a series and this is the first book so if things don’t seem to go fast there is a reason, you are getting some history to work with. Since this is the first book it is hard to say whether or not the characters will remain the same in upcoming installments. The teaser at the end of the book [for the next story, “Demon Thief”] left me thoroughly confused since it has nothing to do with what is in this book. since the next book doesn’t come out until next year, I am going to have to really pray that the next book in the Cirque Du Freak series comes out early. To me the last third of the book is where all the action happens, there’s talk of Dervish being a werewolf, the mysterious underground room that Meera and Dervish flee to at night, the battle with Lord Loss and Grubbs uncle vowing to fight him to the death. Shan put a lot of thought into this book, he may be a young writer but he has a real talent for taking something as outlandish as monsters and demons and writing about them on a believable plain. He could have gone over the top with this story and had all sorts of bizarre things in it but he kept things somewhat grounded - so, just like the Crique Du Freak series, you find yourself saying ... “What if this could happen?”. There are some swear words here and there but nothing more than what you would hear on basic cable - meaning no “F” words. This is suitable for teens who are into dark stories, have read other Shan books or like horror stories. There are no illustrations in to book so you’ll have to conjure up what Vein and Artery look like ... but Shan does a great job of describing them. The Bottom Line When I hit the last page of the book I was more than a little upset - I’d managed to whip through the entire thing in less than three hours, huddled under my blanket with a huge mug of hot tea ... I swore I’d pace myself and try to get the most from it. The second book in Demonata doesn’t come out until April of 2006 and the next book in Cirque Du Freak, Lord of The Shadows, isn’t due until May of 2006. I really enjoy reading Shan’s stuff and even though it is classified as teen fiction, it is some of the best stuff I have come across in a long time. This is nothing like the Cirque series so if you are expecting it to read like that, you might be disappointed. It’s dark, filled with plot twists and undeniably bloody but it’s well written and keeps you flipping the pages until you reach the end.
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