Vampires have been a part of human literature for centuries. from the normal vampire bat to the Chinese jiangshi you’ll see vampires everywhere. of course, some modern vampire stories range from classic (The Strain) to oh my god, kill it with fire (Twilight. Don’t worry, I’ll get to that later.) Today We’ll look at one series that takes a different spin on vampires while managing to create a worthwhile story. Ladies and gentlemen, enter the Cirque du Freak.
This series is about Darren Shan (wait, the author’s name is Darren Shan. And the books are written in first person. Clever.) who one day attends a freak show with his friend, Steve, called Cirque du Freak. There, Steve recognizes one of the performers as the vampire Larten Crepsley. He asks to become his assistant but is denied because he has “bad blood.” When an accident happens Darren asks for Crepsely’s help. he says yes under one condition: Darren must become his assistant. Darren agrees, becomes a half vampire and now must live his life as a half vampire.
Many people dismiss this series as pure crap based on the movie (I’ll get to that another time.) Once they actually read the books they’ll see that it is filled with plenty of action, drama, suspense and some really likable characters. It brings up some new ideas about vampires that make them just a bit more believable and more like actual characters. Before anyone says that these are not real vampires, remember that vampires don’t exist and they can be/do whatever the writer wants (don’t worry, I’ll bring that up again with Twilight.) One of the more interesting ideas is that sunlight does not automatically kill them. It’s a slow, painful process. Again, this may go against “traditional” vampires, but remember in the book version of Dracula Count Dracula walked around in the daylight perfectly fine. Something a LOT of people forget.
Crepslely is one by far the best character in the series. He has this demeanor about this that says he’s a badass with a hint of “upper class dignitary” dignity about him. He can be called a 19th century gentleman who will rip your throat out. He may come off as mean to Darren, but when you think about it he’s just being tough on him because he’s showing him that you have to be tough in order to survive as a vampire.
Now let’s talk about the two elephants in the room. First is the name of the evil vampires. Yes, vampaneze is a stupid name. Yes, Shan could’ve come up with a better name. Despite that, they’re actually some pretty badass villains. Think about it: they hire humans to hunt after vampires, they don’t follow the same laws as the good vampires and are not afraid of modifying their own kind to make them deadlier *MAJOR SPOILER: Reggie Veggie MAJOR SPOILER*
The second is the ending. While it does hell how the reader was able to get Darren’s journal, the ending feels like a cop out. It’s something that Marve/DC would use when they have written themselves in the corner and can’t come up with a creative way to deal with it. It does leave the reader with a bad taste in their mouths after. think about it: you read twelve books in an awesome series over the course of ten years and then you get a very disappointing ending. While some do enjoy the ending, I’m in the hate it camp.
Besides the terrible ending, I still recommend this series if you want a YA vampire story that takes liberties with what vampires are. While the writing is typical YA fare, the story, setting and characters more than make up for it.