After 1600 years of imprisonment, Bec MacConn has returned to the world of the living – but it is a strange and unfamiliar world, full of baffling new inventions and unfriendly people. Fearful of the power of the Kah-Gash, Beranabus has separated its three parts, leaving Bec in Carcery Vale to deal with Dervish's endless questions about Bill-E, whose body she now inhabits. Her reprieve, however, will not last long. The Demonata's imminent invasion has merely been delayed, not defeated, and at its helm is a force unlike anything humanity has ever seen before.
When you read a lot of Darren Shan, you learn to cope with the disappointment of having characters you love brutally killed. Indeed, Shan's bestselling children's horror series, The Demonata, has three narrators for this very reason; there is no guarantee that all three will survive to the end of the tenth and final book! To have a deceased narrator come back to life, then, is a decidedly pleasant surprise. Death's Shadow – the seventh and latest instalment – sees the return of Bec MacConn, who was killed off three books ago, (or so we thought,) and her narration makes a welcome change from the usual Grubbs Grady. Shan alters his tone just enough to suit a different narrative voice, without destroying the fast-as-a-movie fluidity that he has become famous for. The change in narration enables Shan to explore new complications and emotional content, making for a particularly enjoyable first third of the novel.
Death's Shadow is a very appropriate name for Shan's latest bloodbath – if you thought he was already killing off characters at top speed, think again. He describes this book as the start of the Demonata's 'real storyline' – a 'new beginning' of sorts which is matched by his writing. His use of Greek myths to provide background for Beranabus' character is especially creative, and adds depth to the story. There are new ideas, new mysteries, new characters, and, just in case demons and werewolves weren't enough, Shan even throws zombies into the mix this time around. (Hey – they work!)
But is it as good as its predecessors? Somehow, I just can't bring myself to say 'yes'. Perhaps I've become desensitised from reading two Demonata books in a row, but Death's Shadow seemed to lack that extra something that the other novels did – be it a great premise, a heartbreaking ending, or an extra splash of creativity, depending on the book. Somehow, this instalment feels like it has been cut just a little too methodically from the Demonata cloth, without that extra burst of inspiration to truly bring it to life.
Regardless; even on a bad day, Darren Shan still beats the vast majority of his competition hands down. Death's Shadow is a pacy and thoroughly enjoyable read that Demonata fans won't be able to put down. I look forward to reading the next instalment.