Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare / Darren Shan
A friend recommended this book to me. Actually, she brought it from home and handed it to me. Hard to turn that down. So, I brought it home and it sat next to me for a couple of nights. For someone with not a lot going on in my life, it often feels like I don’t have a lot of free time. Work, hockey games, family stuff, it all makes the evenings disappear. But I had a Saturday night with nothing going on, so I settled down to read.
The up side is that the book reads really fast. It’s clearly written for a younger audience. The writing style is simple, though the content raises some pretty tough realities, so not that young. Mid-teens, though accessible to younger. I didn’t even have to stay up late to finish it!
The story is engaging. I’d seen the movie based on the book a long time ago, so it wasn’t exactly new to me. I’m a strange one who likes to see the movie first, so I didn’t mind knowing what was coming. Still, you get caught up in Darren’s story pretty easily. A teenager in some undisclosed town, hanging with his friends (one of whom, Steve, is obviously pretty disturbed), finds out about a banned freak show that’s in town. They decide to go, but they can only get two tickets. Darren wins the second ticket and accompanies Steve. At the show, Darren’s obsessed with a poisonous spider who performs under Mr Crepsley’s command. Steve’s obsessed with Mr Crepsley, who he recognizes as a vampire. After the show, Steve sends Darren out, but he hides and oversees Steve trying to convince Crepsley to make Steve his assistant, a half-vampire who can go out in the sun and take care of business for a full vampire. Crepsley tests Steve and turns him down because he has bad blood … he’s evil.
With his knowledge of the situation, Darren later returns and steals the spider from the vampire. He learns how to control her and, when Steve finds out, Darren has her perform. Darren’s little sister walks in, causing Darren to lose control of the spider, who bites Steve. The poison paralyzes the boy. Darren knows Steve will die unless he does something. He seeks out Crepsley who says he’s only help save Steve if Darren becomes his assistant. With no other choice to save his friend, Darren agrees. Steve’s not happy when he recovers and finds out that his friend was allowed to become what he himself was denied.
Darren has to fake his own death so he can leave town with Crepsley. Crepsley gives him a drug that feigns death, though Darren is aware of everything going on around him. He’s buried and dug up by Crepsley. At the cemetery, Steve accosts him and swears to hunt down and kill Darren and Crepsley.
So, young kid makes a bad choice, compounds it, and has his life completely changed. Good set up for the continuing Saga of Darren Shan.
My friend said she liked how the vampire mythology differed from the recent vampire craze. It’s not shiny and lovey-dovey, that’s for sure. For all that it’s for kids, it feels grittier, grubby. Vampires for boys, I guess.
Worth a read, if you’re interested in that kind of thing. Assuming you didn’t read them a decade ago.