I began reading The Saga of Darren Shan on the 30th March and was halfway through the series by April 12th. The Darren Shan Saga consists of 12 novels centred in our own world though full of supernatural beings. I started this series as the first novel ‘Cirque du Freak’ was one of the books in my Annual Reading Challenge.
I have not read the series or any of its companion series before. These books were highly recommended to me as they are among Danny’s childhood favourites. The series, as you may expect, is about the life of Darren Shan. Darren Shan tells his readers that this is a true story and that all of the names in his books have been changed for the characters’ and reader’s protection.
‘Cirque Du Freak’ opens with a depiction of Darren’s home and school life. I was surprised by how well written the characters were considering this is book one in a twelve part series. I had expected to fall in love with the characters throughout the numerous instalments but found myself fully invested from the outset. I loved the mystery of the first novel as the very real and relatable friendships and familial relationships coincided with the fantastical, unnerving magic. We are cast into the supernatural world alongside these teenaged characters and our reactions mimic their own. One thing I liked about the first book in particular was that it was in no way patronising as children’s (specifically YA) novels often are. I gave book one a five star rating.
The suspenseful atmosphere continues into book two ‘The Vampire’s Assistant’ as Darren enters a new stage in his life. The second instalment brings new characters that I loved. The magic is a much larger part of the storyline and we are learning a lot more about supernatural beings. I found this novel outstanding for a second book in a series as they are often lacking. It was again fast paced and I loved the ending. The tragedy continues in this novel and the relationships are almost as turbulent. I also gave this book a five star rating.
‘Tunnels of Blood’ is the third book in the series and I was unfortunately disappointed with this one. I could not shake the feeling while reading this instalment that it was nothing more than a ‘filler’ as its main purpose seemed to be to add one new element that can be used in the following books to progress the series. In my opinion, its plot lacked the imagination of the first two. I once again enjoyed the relationships, a strength of this particular instalment is the theme of brotherhood. I also liked the new female character as the series in general is filled with fantastic male characters and there seems to be one central female character in each novel (if even.) The appearance of the enemy in this novel seemed a little far-fetched to me, which is saying a lot due to the fact the pages are filled with fantastical beings of all appearances. My main problem with the enemy was that the descriptions were a little juvenile and lessened the fear Shan could have provoked on his readers. However the new element was interesting (there is a similar element to the world in the Vampire Academy series) and there was an interesting fight scene. I gave this novel a rating of three stars.
The next instalment is ‘Vampire Mountain’ which involved a trek. Darren Shan meets a pack of wolves in this novel and fights a bear. This novel really brought the chilling atmosphere back as there was an added importance to Shan’s movements. Again new characters were introduced and the novel ended on a high. The endings of these novels are done particularly well so that the final chapters of each book read like the final scene of the episodes in Game of Thrones series four. Darren Shan has a way of leaving his readers hungry for the next instalment. By this stage in the series you are so immersed in Shan’s world that you are at once dying to read more while missing the previous books, settings and characters. I gave the fourth book in the series four stars.
The fifth book ‘Trials of Death’ has been one of my favourites so far. Darren Shan goes through a Tri-wizard Tournament-esque challenge aptly named The Trials of Death. This novel is about Darren proving himself to his new found community and learning their ways. What is really cool about this instalment is that we learn the ways of life, beliefs and sayings of these supernatural creatures. Before each stage they make a hand gesture called The Death’s Touch which means “Even in Death, May you be triumphant” it was appropriately eerie. I loved the new characters and despite finding it a little predictable loved the addition of Larten’s back-story. I can’t wait to read his spin-off series! Once again the ending is brilliant and I gave the fifth book a five star rating!
That brings us to the final book in this post, ‘The Vampire Prince.’ The sixth book brings us halfway through the series, for this reason I tried to read it slowly. I was also afraid I would not enjoy it as much as ‘Trials of Death’ which was ultimately the case. The politics of the supernatural world are at the forefront of the novel. Darren Shan is being nursed back to health, things are looking bleak and a character is lost. This book provides for character development in the following instalments. Its plot is very dramatic and at times a little silly. Although it did not live up to its predecessor the main struggle Shan faces is interesting and this novel is again action-packed. I gave this novel three stars.
If you like paranormal books I would definitely recommend this series! Some of the books are better than others as is the case in most series but they are always action-packed, full of wonderful characters and suspenseful endings and you can read a typical instalment in a day. I have since read book seven titled ‘Hunters of the Dusk’ which I hope to include in ‘The Saga of Darren Shan: Part Two’ review-post next week. Until then, happy reading!