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 ethical behavior. The trials make a fun exciting story though, so I don’t mind overlooking the issue, but I could give this series higher marks if the plot held together a little better. Thankfully, toward the end of the story, Darren starts to reconsider the strange vampire traditions.
At the end of Trials of Death, there’s a major plot twist. Though I’ve been able to predict many of the twists in this series so far (I’ve read through book 11), I didn’t see this one coming. Trials of Death also ends on a cliffhanger (kind of literally), so make sure you’ve got the next book, The Vampire Prince, ready to go. I guarantee that you’ll want to open it immediately.
I continue to read this series in audio format. Ralph Lister exuberantly — sometimes too exuberantly — narrates these short novels. Give it a try at Audible or Downpour before committing. Also, notice that most of the books are only 4 or 5 hours long which may factor into your decision about whether it’s worth 12 Audible credits for the entire series on audio. You might want to check to see if your library carries them.
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.