barnesandnoble.com | 01 September 2001 | Beth Amos
Darren Shan continues the saga of a teenage boy who gets unwittingly drawn into a world of vampires, werewolves, and other freaky creatures with this second installment in his innovative Cirque Du Freak series. Shan's protagonist, who bears the same name as the author, is one of the most complex and innovative characters ever to see the light of day -- a freedom he may soon lose if he gives in to his craving for human blood and becomes a full vampire rather than a mere half-blood. Darren's dilemma is a tough one: Drink the blood of a fellow human -- an act that will cost him the few remaining shreds of his humanity -- or die.Feeling lost, lonely, and at odds with himself, Darren is delighted when his vampiric mentor, Mr. Crepsley, makes the decision to rejoin the traveling freak show. Among the oddball characters who comprise the show's performers, Darren finally makes some friends, most of whom are as weird or weirder than he is. In an effort to regain some semblance of his old life, Darren also befriends two outsiders, normal human beings whose well-intentioned actions will eventually lead to tragic results. As events unfold with the same sense of inevitability as the rising and setting sun, Darren is once again torn between his own needs and those of the others around him. His heroism and self-sacrifice -- all done in the name of friendship -- garner results that are both tragic and rewarding.It's to the author's credit that despite their deformities, strange abilities, and offbeat appearances, most of the oddball characters who populate the Cirque Du Freak come across as refreshingly self-reliant, confident, and...well...normal. This tight-knit community of outcasts, with their strong sense of family and friendship, make for an intriguing supporting cast. And while most YA readers may not be able to relate personally to Darren's moral and ethical struggles with his vampirism, they will undoubtedly connect with his overwhelming desire to fit in somewhere and belong.
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