I was immensely excited when I learnt that there was going to be a four-book prequel to 'The Saga of Darren Shan' (Or SODS, as I like to call it). SODS is my second favourite book series of all time (My ultimate favourite being Harry Potter, of course), so it's great to revisit all those memorable characters again. 'The Saga of Larten Crepsley' follows (Yep, you guessed it!) Larten Crepsley, who, in SODS, was Darren Shan's vampire master.
This book starts in the 19th. Larten is just a child, about the same age as Darren at the start of SODS. Larten is living in the city in which 'The Tunnels of Blood', 'Allies of the Night' and 'Killers of the Dawn' are set in. His family is very large and poor. Larten has many brothers and sisters, but is most friendly with his orphan cousin Vur Horston (SODS' readers may recognise that name... but from where? I'm not saying). Larten, Vur and Larten's siblings are forced to work in a silk factory. Darren Shan is famous for his vile, evil villains, and Traz, who runs the factory, is one of his most disgusting creations yet. Terrible events force the young Larten to flee his home. In a graveyard, he meets Seba Nile, a vampire, who takes Larten under his wing as his assistant.
If you read BOAK (Birth of a Killer) before reading SODS then you may be a little confused. In SODS the ways of the vampires were elaborately explained in great detail. As most people reading BOAK will have already read SODS, it would be boring for them to re-tread all this information again, so the ways of the vampires are only briefly explained. People who read SODS before BOAK won't care about this, but if you're new to Shan, then you'll most probably be left a little confused. I read SODS before reading BOAK, and so this wasn't a problem for me.
It's brilliant seeing SODS characters again. It's been a while since I read SODS, but from what I remember, Seba didn't feature much. Here though he's a main character, meaning we learn much more about him. Of course, the main character who we learn about here is Larten Crepsley. We learn of the many hardships he was forced to endure in his young age. Several SODS characters return, but there are also many new characters. For each new character it gets me thinking: what will happen to this person? Why aren't they in SODS? Will they meet a grisly end? As this is a Darren Shan book, I'm guessing so... one critism people have with prequels is that you know which characters will or won't die. But I didn't find that a problem here: afterall, in every book series you know the main characters won't die. In 'Harry Potter', you know Harry, Ron and Hermione will live to see another day. Does that rob 'Harry Potter' all of it's suspense or excitement? No way!
One critism I did have with this book was that, at times (Although these are few and far between) Shan's characters are a bit generic. In some lines if you swap the name Larten with Darren you'd think this was a SODS book. Seba is also sometimes just a copy of grown-up Mr Crepsley, whilst young Wester could easily be snake-boy Evra. And most of the characters in this book are male, which female readers may not approve of. The only women are: Larten's Mum (Who barely has a page or so of mentions), a few vampires in Vampire Mountain (Who only get a small handful of lines), and some generic (Some might even say sexist) women who's sole job are to flirt with the men and buy drinks for them. But please don't not get BOAK just because of these slips. Most of the time Shan's characters are expertly written with flaire, wit, and are grounded in realism.
I loved this book. I might even say more so than 'Cirque du Freak'. Don't get me wrong, I loved 'Cirque', but it was a bit slow. Some of my friends read 'Cirque' but didn't bother reading the rest of SODS, which is a huge shame, as SODS is such a smashing series.
If you enjoyed SODS, you'll love this, especially the delicious cliffhanger ending! If you've not read SODS but are interested in getting this, but don't want to invest in reading a twelve book series just to read this, then I'd say get BOAK, although you may be left a little confused at times. 5/5.