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 from Mr. Crepsley. Then, instead of being grateful for being saved, Steve was jealous that Darren became a half-vampire (Mr. Crepsley said Steve had evil blood and he refused to let Steve become a vampire). Then Steve joined the evil vampaneze and became Darren’s archenemy. It is prophesied that Steve, the new lord of the vampaneze, will destroy the world. It’s up to Darren and his friends to stop him.
Lord of the Shadows begins two years after the events of the previous book, The Lake of Souls. At the end of that book Darren and Harkat had seen a glimpse of a possible frightening future and Darren had heard a new prophecy which says that either he or Steve is the Lord of Shadows — the man who will destroy the Earth. I said in my review of The Lake of Souls that these prophecies are the weakest part of the plot and I feel that even more so in this book. It seems to me that this particular prophecy contradicts earlier prophecies and is here only to increase tension by giving Darren a shade of grayness — like maybe he’s a villain instead of the hero we expected him to be. It didn’t work for me, but I’m not the target audience.
When the Cirque du Freak travels to Darren and Steve’s hometown, Darren must deal with his past. He left because he thought he was dangerous (which, it turns out, he really wasn’t) and his family thinks he’s dead. Should he seek them out? Well, of course he can’t help but look for them and that’s when things get even weirder and more frightening. When Darren finds his beloved sister, author Darren Shan gives the story a big wrenching twist. Kids are going to be shocked.
The CIRQUE DU FREAK series continues to thrill, and Darren is in a no-win situation where he’s dealing with some difficult ethical issues. Will his hatred turn him into a monster?
I continue to listen to Blackstone Audio’s production of the CIRQUE DU FREAK series. As I’ve said before, Ralph Lister’s performance is a little over the top, but kids will probably love it and I’ve gotten used to it.
Cirque Du Freak (The Darren Shan Saga) — (1999-2004) Ages 9-12. Publisher: Darren Shan is just an ordinary schoolboy who enjoys hanging out with his three best friends. Then one day they stumble across as invitation to visit the Cirque du Freak, a mysterious freak show. Only two tickets are available, so they draw straws to see who will go. As if by destiny, Darren wins one, and what follows is his horrifying descent into the dark and bloody world of vampires. This is Darren’s story.
The Saga of Larten Crepsley — (2010-2012) Young adult. Publisher: The highly anticipated prequel to the New York Times bestselling Cirque Du Freak series! Before Cirque Du Freak… Before the war with the vampaneze… Before he was a vampire. Larten Crepsley was a boy. As a child laborer many centuries ago, Larten Crepsley did his job well and without complaint, until the day the foreman killed his brother as an example to the other children. In that moment, young Larten flies into a rage that the foreman wouldn’t survive. Forced on the run, he sleeps in crypts and eats cobwebs to get by. And when a vampire named Seba offers him protection and training as a vampire’s assistant, Larten takes it. This is his story.
Strangely, these sound less appealing to me as the series continues. I guess it’s a good thing I’m not the target audience! I do like that the characters are getting more complex.