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Darren Shan

Darren Shan(1972- )
Darren Shan
is the penname of Irish author Darren O’Shaughnessy and the name of the hero of his Cirque Du Freak series. Darren was raised and lives in Ireland. Darren always wanted to be a writer. He bought his first typewriter when he was fourteen and never looked back. He enjoyed his first taste of literary success at fifteen, as a runner-up in a television script-writing competition for RTE in Ireland, with a dark comedy script titled A Day in the Morgue. A big film buff, with a collection of more than four thousand movies at home, Darren also reads lots of comics and books, and likes to study and collect original artwork, especially comic art and impressionist and post-impressionist art. Other interests include long walks, watching soccer (he’s a Tottenham Hotspur and Ireland fan), listening to pop and rock music, theatre, worldwide travel, sampling the delights of both gourmet cuisine and finger-licking junk food, and dreaming up new ways to terrify his readers! Darren spends most of his time in Limerick, Ireland, with his wife Bas and son Dante. You can read more about him at Darren Shan’s website.

A Living Nightmare: Horror for children

A Living Nightmare by Darren Shan

“Only the world’s dumbest person would run a risk like that again. Step forward — Darren Shan!”

Darren Shan (which is the name of the author and the protagonist of the CIRQUE DU FREAK series) was having a pretty normal life until one of his best friends finds an advertisement for the Cirque du Freak. After they “borrow” some money from their parents and sneak out at night, Darren and Steve discover a weird world that they never could have dreamed of. Darren is particularly enchanted by Mr. Crepsley and his performing spider, Madam Octa. This spider kills a goat on stage and then obeys Mr. Crepsley’s commands. When they stay after the show, Darren and Steve discover that Mr. Crepsley is a vampire!

Darren should have left well enough alone, but, unfortunately, he makes another crucial error in judgment. And another, and another. Horror is heaped upon horror... Read More

The Vampire’s Assistant: Tense, exciting, gross

The Vampire's Assistant by Darren Shan

Warning: This is the second book in the CIRQUE DU FREAK series, so this review necessarily contains spoilers for Book 1.

Darren Shan’s life is officially a mess after several monumental screw-ups which were detailed in the previous appropriately named book, A Living Nightmare. He has left home and joined the Cirque du Freak as Mr. Crepsley’s assistant. Mr. Crepsley is a vampire and Darren is now a half-vampire. Darren has super strength and speed and, he discovers, he’s dangerous to humans. He’s bummed out because not only has he left his family and friends (who think he’s dead), but he now worries that he’ll never be able to have any friends at all. He also despairs because he knows that, eventually, he’ll have to start drinking human blood.... or die.

Darren’s a sweet kid, despite his mistakes, so readers will be pleased to see Darren m... Read More

Tunnels of Blood: A high-stress scary story

Tunnels of Blood by Darren Shan

Warning: This is the third book in the CIRQUE DU FREAK series, so this review will contain spoilers for the previous books. You don’t have to read the previous books because author Darren Shan gives a short but sufficient recap, but starting at the beginning would be ideal.

Mr. Crepsley is the only full vampire that Darren had ever met until Gavner Purl, Vampire General, shows up at the Cirque du Freak. After Purl meets with Mr. Crepsley, Darren is told that he and his mentor will be taking a little break from the freak show and going to live in a city while Crepsley takes care of some business there. Darren is allowed to bring his friend Evra the snake-boy.

At first the city is fun and Darren even meets a girl who becomes his first girlfriend. But then things start going badly, as they always do. Darren and Evra see a news report which says that corpses have been showing up ... Read More

Vampire Mountain: Still compelling

Vampire Mountain by Darren Shan

It’s been six years since the events of the previous book, Tunnels of Blood. Darren and Mr. Crepsley have been travelling with the Cirque du Freak, but this is the year that the Vampire Council meets in Vampire Mountain and so it’s time for Mr. Crepsley to present Darren to the other vampires. Thus they set off on the long and perilous journey to Vampire Mountain, bringing with them two of the mysterious Little People who belong to the even more mysterious Mr. Tiny. Along the way they encounter a friendly wolf pack and we learn that wolves are cousins to vampires and that Mr. Tiny has something to do with the breeding program. The travelers also encounter various frightening and foreboding signs that the vampaneze are getting ready to attack and it turns out that Harkat, one of the Little People traveling with them, is bringing a warning message from Mr. Tiny for the vampire princes. According to... Read More

Trials of Death: Make sure you’ve got the next book

Trials of Death by Darren Shan

In Vampire Mountain, the previous book of Darren Shan’s CIRQUE DU FREAK series, Darren was asked to prove himself worthy of being a vampire by surviving a series of trials. If he fails, he dies. These trials will remind many readers of the tests Harry Potter endured in The Goblet of Fire. For example, for the first trial he must escape from a maze that’s filling with water. As the tasks go on, Darren becomes increasingly injured and fatigued and it seems likely that he’ll fail and be killed.

In my review of Vampire Mountain, I complained about the premise of this novel. I think most thoughtful readers will agree that making Darren undergo the trials is a little silly, not to mention ethically unsound, which is surprising since the vampire princes seem to be concerned with ethica... Read More

The Vampire Prince: Intense and emotional

The Vampire Prince by Darren Shan

Warning: This review contains spoilers for the previous books.

In the previous book, Trials of Death, author Darren Shan left us on a cliffhanger and I’m pretty sure that most readers will be running out to pick up this book, The Vampire Prince, no matter what anybody says. Still, it’s my job to say something about it, so I’ll do that.

OK, it’s no big surprise, I guess, that Darren survived the events of Trials of Death. When he recovers, he has a big decision to make. He managed to escape from Vampire Mountain, but now he has learned that the vampaneze are hiding in the caves in the mountain and that Kurda, who’s about to become a vampire prince, is a traitor. Kurda plans to let their enemies in as soon as he’s crowned. If Darren doesn’t tell the other princes in time, all the vampires in the mountain will be wiped out. But he... Read More

Hunters of the Dusk: Exciting despite a couple of problems

Hunters of the Dusk by Darren Shan

Hunters of the Dusk is the seventh book in Darren Shan’s CIRQUE DU FREAK series. Though Shan always does a nice job of quickly and sufficiently recapping the plot, it’d be best not to start here. Go back and begin with A Living Nightmare. And be warned that this review will contain spoilers for previous books.

It’s been six years since the events of The Vampire Prince. Young Darren Shan is now one of the leaders of the vampires because making him a prince was the only way that the other princes could legally excuse him for failing to pass the trials. Frankly, this part of the plot is disappointing. It’s hard to believe, first, that Darren had to do the trials at all, and second, that the vampire princes can’t manage to change or otherwise get around the ancient rules. And, if making Darren a prince gets him above the law so that he doesn... Read More

Allies of the Night: We meet old friends and enemies

Allies of the Night by Darren Shan

In Allies of the Night, the eighth book in Darren Shan’s CIRQUE DU FREAK series, Darren, Mr. Crepsley and Harkat return to Mr. Crepsley’s hometown to investigate the vampaneze activity there. This is the city we visited many years ago in the third book, Tunnels of Blood, where Darren met his first and only girlfriend, Debbie. Darren still has the body of a young teenager so when he gets to the city, he is discovered by the authorities and forced to go to school (Very Unlikely Event #1). He agrees to go (Very Unlikely Event #2). His English teacher is Debbie (VUE #3). As much as this made me roll my eyes, I was really happy that Debbie corrected Darren’s bad grammar.

Romance between Darren and Debbie is a little difficult right now because 1. The teacher-student relationship t... Read More

Killers of the Dawn: This is a good series for brave reluctant readers

Killers of the Dawn by Darren Shan

Killers of the Dawn, the ninth of Darren Shan’s CIRQUE DU FREAK books, continues right where Allies of the Night left off. The vampaneze have taken Debbie hostage in the tunnels under the city, but they’ve let Darren, Mr. Crepsley, and Vancha go. After escaping, Darren and company decide (not too smartly) to go back to the apartment they’ve been staying in where they have a run-in with the police. The rest of the plot involves captures, escapes, rescues, hiding, poor decisions, battles, death, and a couple of big surprises. At the end of Killers of the Dawn, life has changed for Darren and there’s a huge twist. Many readers will have seen this coming, but it’s still a major turning point in the story.

These CIRQUE DU FREAK books are very short (around 4 to 5 hours on audio). The twelve books could have easily been combined into half as many. A... Read More

The Lake of Souls: A side-quest

The Lake of Souls by Darren Shan

In The Lake of Souls, the tenth book in Darren Shan’s CIRQUE DU FREAK series, we take a little breather after the horrid events at the end of the previous novel, Killers of the Dawn. Darren has just lost someone who’s really important to him and he’s grieving. So, when Mr. Tiny shows up and tells Harkat it’s time to find out who Harkat really is, Darren wants to go with him. They embark on a quest where they cross weird landscapes, meet weird people, and complete weird tasks. Some of it is like a scavenger hunt.

We do, indeed find out who Harkat is, and the answer will almost certainly surprise you. It shows that author Darren Shan has been careful with his plotting so far and it will be interesting to see what role Harkat plays in the future. The little guy is growing on me and I appreciate his developing sense of humor.

Personally, I don’t particula... Read More

Lord of the Shadows: Continues to thrill

Lord of the Shadows by Darren Shan

Lord of the Shadows is the penultimate book in Darren Shan’s CIRQUE DU FREAK series. If you haven’t read the previous books, but plan to, I recommend that you don’t read this review until you’ve read them, for I will certainly spoil the plot for you.

Darren Shan’s adventures in the vampire world began when he made a series of bad mistakes. First he stole money from his parents and snuck out of the house to visit the Cirque du Freak, an illegal traveling circus. Then he stole a poisonous spider from the show and kept it in his bedroom. Then the spider bit Steve, Darren’s best friend. Then, while Steve lay dying in the hospital, instead of ‘fessing up and telling the adults what happened to Steve, so that perhaps they could have found an antidote, Darren made a deal with Mr. Crepsley, the vampire who owned the spider: Darren had to become a half-vampire to get the antidote fr... Read More

Sons of Destiny: Disappointing finale

Sons of Destiny by Darren Shan

Sons of Destiny is the twelfth and final (finally!) book in Darren Shan’s CIRQUE DU FREAK horror series for children. If you haven’t read the previous volumes, but you intend to, you have no business being here. Go away. If you have read them, you probably don’t care at all what I think about Sons of Destiny. It’s not like you’re NOT going to read it, right? But, since I’ve reviewed all the novels so far, I’ll talk about this one a bit, just for a sense of closure.

We know what needs to happen in this final volume: Darren must kill Steve, his former best friend but current archnemesis. One of them must die. The other will become the dreaded Lord of the Shadows who will bring chaos to the world and destroy it. Why must it be this way? Because that’s what Mr. Des Tiny (get it?) says.

At first, the plot begins to fall out like anyone would expect it ... Read More

Procession of the Dead: Its publication history is more interesting than its plot

Procession of the Dead by Darren Shan

Procession of the Dead has had an interesting publication history. First published in 1999, Procession of the Dead was originally titled Ayuamarca and was intended to be the first novel in The City trilogy. Unfortunately, the series did not find an audience and the third book was never published. The original author, Darren O’Shaughnessy, went on to fame and fortune under a new pen name (Darren Shan) and with a new series (The Saga of Darren Shan). In 2008, Ayuamarca was re-written, re-titled and re-released, and was now written by “D.B. Shan.” It has since been released again with Darren Shan listed as the author.


Procession of the Dead sets its largely amnesiac antihero Capac Raimi loose in a mystical city where blind In... Read More

Hell’s Horizon: A weird sequel

Hell’s Horizon by Darren Shan

Darren Shan’s Hell’s Horizon is a weird sequel — if you think it’s weird to completely ignore the hero of the first novel in a trilogy. After describing the mysterious and mystical rise of Capac Raimi in Procession of the Dead, Shan turns his attentions to Al Jeery, a random soldier in the Cardinal’s army known as Troops. Al doesn’t realize it, but he’s about to be promoted. His new job, believe it or not, is to develop some ambition in life by investigating and solving a murder.

It turns out that a woman was killed in the Cardinal’s tower, Party Central. No one messes with the Cardinal… until now. Shockingly, the killer not only murdered someone in the Cardinal’s backyard, but he also got away. The Cardinal demands answers, but the police aren’t finding anything, so the kingpin of the City turns to Al Jeery. ... Read More

City of the Snakes: Early Darren Shan

City of the Snakes by Darren Shan

City of the Snakes is the final entry in Darren Shan’s The City trilogy. The City is so corrupt that it should have fallen to pieces when its criminal overlord, the Cardinal, died. However, Ferdinand Dorak made careful plans for his successor, preventing the gang war that everyone was expecting. Dorak made a deal with the villacs, blind Mayan priests, and together they created human puppets known as the Ayuamarcans. Over the years, the Cardinal made many Ayuamarcans, but the Cardinal’s masterpiece was his successor Capac Raimi.

Raimi is calculating, ruthless, and immortal. He can die, and does many times, but after each horrifying death, he returns to the City on a train three days later, young and unharmed. This is what Raimi was designed to do. Although he will die if he leaves the City for more than a day or two, Raimi’s goal is to expand his sphere of i... Read More

Magazine Monday: Nightmare Magazine, April 2014

“Sleep Paralysis” by Dale Bailey is the opening story of the April 2014 issue of Nightmare, getting things off to a fine start. Bailey’s first person narrator, a skilled undertaker, has found comfort in his wife, beautiful and young, while he is plain and in the autumn of his years. The wife is extremely active in charity work, gone most days and many evenings, leaving her husband to work and spend nights at his club — a situation that has caused rumors that she married him solely for his money, and is engaged in rather more private charity than she admits to. The narrator refuses to give the rumors any credence, but they begin to weigh heavily upon him despite his resolve. Bailey writes in a formal style appropriate to the narrator’s profession and the time in which his story is set (which is never explicitly stated, but appears to be around the turn of the last century), setting the tone for a classic story with a fine twist at the... Read More

More books by Darren Shan

The Demonata — (2005-2010) Young adult. Publisher: “The door feels red hot, as though a fire is burning behind it. I press an ear to the wood — but there’s no crackle. No smoke. Just deep, heavy breathing… and a curious dripping sound. My hand’s on the door knob. Inside the room, somebody giggles — low, throaty, sadistic. There’s a ripping sound, followed by snaps and crunches. My hand turns. The door opens. Hell is revealed.” When Grubbs Grady first encounters Lord Loss and his evil minions, he learns three things: * the world is vicious, * magic is possible, * demons are real. He thinks that he will never again witness such a terrible night of death and darkness… He is wrong.

book reviews Darren Shan The Demonata 1. Lord Loss 2. Demon Thief 3. Slawter 4. Bec 5. Blood Beast 6. Demon Apocalypse 7. Death's Shadow (fall 2008)book reviews Darren Shan The Demonata 1. Lord Loss 2. Demon Thief 3. Slawter 4. Bec 5. Blood Beast 6. Demon Apocalypse 7. Death's Shadow (fall 2008)book reviews Darren Shan The Demonata 1. Lord Loss 2. Demon Thief 3. Slawter 4. Bec 5. Blood Beast 6. Demon Apocalypse 7. Death's Shadow (fall 2008)book reviews Darren Shan The Demonata 1. Lord Loss 2. Demon Thief 3. Slawter 4. Bec 5. Blood Beast 6. Demon Apocalypse 7. Death's Shadow (fall 2008)book reviews Darren Shan The Demonata 1. Lord Loss 2. Demon Thief 3. Slawter 4. Bec 5. Blood Beast 6. Demon Apocalypse 7. Death's Shadow (fall 2008)book reviews Darren Shan The Demonata 1. Lord Loss 2. Demon Thief 3. Slawter 4. Bec 5. Blood Beast 6. Demon Apocalypse 7. Death's Shadow (fall 2008)book reviews Darren Shan The Demonata 1. Lord Loss 2. Demon Thief 3. Slawter 4. Bec 5. Blood Beast 6. Demon Apocalypse 7. Death's Shadow 8. Wolf Island 9. Dark Calling 10. Hell's Heroesbook reviews Darren Shan The Demonata 1. Lord Loss 2. Demon Thief 3. Slawter 4. Bec 5. Blood Beast 6. Demon Apocalypse 7. Death's Shadow 8. Wolf Island 9. Dark Calling 10. Hell's Heroesbook reviews Darren Shan The Demonata 1. Lord Loss 2. Demon Thief 3. Slawter 4. Bec 5. Blood Beast 6. Demon Apocalypse 7. Death's Shadow 8. Wolf Island 9. Dark Calling 10. Hell's Heroesbook reviews Darren Shan The Demonata 1. Lord Loss 2. Demon Thief 3. Slawter 4. Bec 5. Blood Beast 6. Demon Apocalypse 7. Death's Shadow 8. Wolf Island 9. Dark Calling 10. Hell's Heroes

Zom-B — (2012-2016) Young adult. Publisher: When news reports start appearing of a zombie outbreak in Ireland, B’s racist father thinks it’s a joke — but even if it isn’t, he figures, it’s ok to lose a few Irish. B doesn’t fully buy into Dad’s racism, but figures it’s easier to go along with it than to risk the fights and abuse that will surely follow sticking up for Muslims, blacks, or immigrants. And when dodging his fists doesn’t work, B doesn’t hesitate to take the piss out of kids at school with a few slaps or cruel remarks. That is, until zombies attack the school. B is forced on a mad dash through the serpentine corridors of high school, making allegiances with anyone with enough gall to fight off their pursuers.

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Stand-alone novels:

Darren Shan Koyasan, The Thin ExecutionerKoyasan — (2006) Ages 9-12. Publisher: Prepare to be spooked in this spine-tingling new story from the master of horror, Darren Shan! “The boys and girls in the graveyard were shouting, but Koyasan no longer heard them. The world had become a wide, grey void. She could hear deep rasping sounds, the breath of creatures which had been human once, but weren’t any more…” All of the children like to play in the graveyard, except Koyasan, who is too afraid to cross the bridge to play. But when her sister’s soul is stolen, she must find the courage to enter a realm of evil, where she knows the spirits are waiting…

Darren Shan Koyasan, The Thin ExecutionerThe Thin Executioner — (2010) Young adult. Publisher: In a kingdom of merciless tyrants, Jebel Rum’s family is honored as royalty because his father is the executioner. But Rashed Rum is near retirement. And when he goes, there will be a contest to determine his successor. It is a contest that thin, puny Jebel has no chance of winning. Humiliated and ashamed, Jebel sets out on a quest to the faraway home of a legendary fire god to beg for inhuman powers so that he can become the most lethal of men. He must take with him a slave, named Tel Hesani, to be sacrificed to the god. It will be a dark and brutal journey filled with lynch mobs, suicide cults, terrible monsters, and worse, monstrous men. But to Jebel, the risk is worth it. To retrieve his honor… To wield unimaginable power… To become… The thin executioner. Inspired by the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, international bestselling master of horror Darren Shan takes readers on a thrilling, fast-paced journey into a nightmarish world where compassion and kindness are the greatest crimes of all.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsLady of the Shades — (2012) Publisher: Ed, an American author on the hunt for a story for his next book, arrives in London looking for inspiration. A stranger in a strange city, he’s haunted by a deadly secret that refuses to stay buried, and no matter how hard he tries he cannot escape the manifest sins of his past.What Ed wants is answers, what he finds is something he definitely didn’t bargain for: the beautiful and untouchable Andeanna Menderes. Andeanna is a woman who is dangerously bound to one of London’s most notorious crime lords, and if they are caught together it could mean death for them both. Ensnared in an illicit affair that can only be conducted in the shadows, Ed’s world is turned upside down as a series of shattering revelations blurs the line between what’s real and what’s not…