A Living Nightmare by Darren Shan

(Cirque Du Freak, #1)

Darren Shan and his best friend, Steve, get tickets to the Cirque Du Freak, a wonderfully gothic freak show featuring weird, frightening half human/half animals who interact terrifyingly with the audience. In the midst of the excitement, true terror raises its head when Steve recognizes that one of the performers-- Mr. Crepsley-- is a vampire.

Steve remains after the show finishes to confront the vampire-- but his motives are surprising In the shadows of a crumbling theater, a horrified Darren eavesdrops on his friend and the vampire, and is witness to a monstrous, disturbing plea. As if by destiny, Darren is pulled to Mr. Crepsley and what follows is his horrifying descent into the dark and bloody world of vampires.

This is Darren's story.

“A world of "if"s, but it would make no difference. If I could go back in time... but I couldn't. The past was behind me. The best thing now would be to stop looking over my shoulder. It was time to forget the past and look to the present and future.”

I've now read three of this series. I can't say it's my favorite Young Adult series since I have so many to read still. Based on what I've read so far, if they stay this good or improve, I'd have to answer that question with, "Yes, the Cirque Du Freak collection is my favorite YA".

Really, one owes it to themselves to read this. The protagonist is a young boy and there are no bizarre twisted love stories or love triangles here. There is a touch of youth, the circus, a truly incredible unique world setting, and the tests and bonds of friendship, family, and faith.

At first the plot seemed too young to me, the writing slightly awkward, too childlike and easy to zip through, to where I was wondering that the age was TOO young. However, almost midway through the author picked it up and the tale became absolutely fascinating with improved literary style. Also the author employed too many exclamation marks at first - *shudders* - even in YA and Children's tales this just shouldn't be allowed. After the first chapter or two the author seemed to get more comfortable and settled in with a more relaxed, realistic tone.

Basically, for a book this was good, for it's age group? Exceptional.

Mixed with a fun lightness but also a depressing darkness, the story starts out much simpler than it ends. In fact, there is a heart-wrenching scene for the parents in store, which made me cry, as I couldn't imagine much that would be more awful to endure. Fun lightness comes primarily at the beginning before Darren's life changes forever -- fun with friends, time outside spent playing sports and planning on trips to the "secret circus."

Character wise Darren is a worthy protagonist. He's a teenage boy with the normal sort of angst, a realistic innocence and loyalty to friends, a healthy dose of dread and fear. The vampire in the story may sound unattractive to any who prefer darker themed menaces. Not a menace at all, he's kind enough (although reclusive and not particularly fond of children.) The boy, the vampire, the spider, and the group of circus freaks are all forced together in unusual circumstances which don't end up pleasantly. Steve as the friend was a multi-leveled character, but I was irked at the end with him because I hate misconceptions and miscommunications in stories.

I'm sure many of you have seen the movie. I have also, and way before reading the book. I only purchased the book mainly for my son, Gage, although I was always curious about it myself. It follows the movie faithfully at first, but then twists off in completely different directions. I think perhaps the movie invented many scenes, and took others from novels that are farther down in the series. Since it did not include what's in the second and third book, I'm not really sure. The movie was good, fun for kids, but the book is much better with a richer world.

Ended up slapping on a four star rating for the weak beginning, which was a slight struggle to continue with, the awkwardness as Shan started out with the writing style, and some of the inconsistencies. However, this one ended up being an addiction to be consumed the farther I went, the more I had, and it also ended with a pretty hefty cliffhanger. It's good I had the second ready and rearing to go!

Read and Reviewed Also For:

   Book Quotes:

“If this were a made-up story, it would begin at night, with a storm blowing and owls hooting and rattling noises under the bed.” 

 “An assistant could be just what the witch doctor ordered.”

   Author Extras:

Translated Character Names from Book 1 
An Essay on Vampires by Steve Leopard
DELETED SCENES: The Freakshow (From Book 1)
DELETED SCENES: Early Chapters (From Book 1)

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