At a point in the past where child labor was the norm, Larten and his cousin Vur are sent to labor endlessly in a silk factory under the eye of the evil Traz. When Vur is killed by Traz, Larten is enraged and kills the man in retribution. Knowing he cannot return home, he tries to spend the night in a crypt, where he meets Sepa, a vampire. He apprentices himself to the vampire, because he sees no other option for his life and is intrigued by the power he might one day obtain. The two go about their vampire business, going ot councils at Vampire Mountain, and also pick up Wester, a boy who is orphaned when a vampaneze kills his entire family. The sequel to this back story of Cirque du Freak, Oceans of Blood, comes out in the spring.
Strengths: Shan's writing is oddly enthralling. I don't normally like creepy stuff, but after several Cirque du Freak books, I had to read them all, and this is an interesting approach to continue the series even after it has been concluded. If Shan's books are popular at your library, this book is a MUST.
Weaknesses: Some of the premises seem forced; Larten's orange hair being caused by a foreman at the factory using dye, for example. Students will probably not notice this.