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SAMUEL'S READING CHAIR - reviewed by Samuel

Following the horrific events of Slawter, Grubbs Grady has managed to settle back into a relatively normal life - hanging out with friends, avoiding the school counsellor, and trying to impress girls. When Uncle Dervish leaves for a weekend to farewell a friend, Grubbs seizes the change to throw a much-needed party. The moon, however, has other plans for him. He has seen his sister and his half-brother both fall victim to the lycanthropic curse that has plagued his bloodline for generations. Now it's Grubbs' turn to experience headaches and nausea around the full moon - symptoms that are just the beginning. Worse still is the fact that Lord Loss will almost certainly refuse to cut a deal. If Grubbs changes, he'll be on his own.

Blood Beast is the fifth brutal instalment in Darren Shan's latest children's horror series The Demonata, and it drips with the same grisly chills, the same unrelenting pace and the same merciless dispatching of characters as its prequels. Fans of the series will be pleased to find that Shan has brought back familiar faces from Slawter, as well as managing to tie in locations from Bec. Once again, his latest novel manages to equal the excitement of the rest of the series, but not quite surpass it. I am still waiting for the one book that will blow all the others away - hopefully the upcoming Demon Apocalypse will be it.

It is interesting to see that Shan has made increasing forays into the world of regular teenage problems. As well as demons and werewolves, Grubbs now has to deal with peer pressure, the opposite sex and choices between social groups at school. This is a difficult task for any adult author to manage, but Shan pulls it off very well. His work isn't the best out there - young readers won't be blown away by how well he understands them - but he does a good enough job to support the novel.

For Demonata-wise readers, the ending of Blood Beast will unfortunately be slightly predictable - but that doesn't make it any less fun! Shan throws everything he has at readers, and then leaves them hanging by ending the novel right in the middle of all the excitement. Some critics may view this as a cheap trick to increase the sales of the next book, but I think it works extremely well. It's yet another way for Shan to build cohesion between novels, and make sure that the pace of the series never slows down for too long. I would definitely buy the next book even if Blood Beast had not ended the way it did - I am a huge fan of all of Shan's writing.

All in all, another triumph from the acclaimed 'Number One Master of Horror'. I couldn't put Blood Beast down! It easily lives up to my expectations, and I'll be counting the days to the release of the next instalment.




© Darren Shan 2005. All rights reserved.