The main character- a fictionalized Darren Shan- lives in a normal town, with a normal family, goes to a normal high school, and has normal friends. Until the Cirque du Freak comes to town, anyway. Steve, Darren’s best friend, accompanies Darren to the illicit entertainment venue, and both are enthralled by Rhamus Two-Bellies, Truska the Bearded Lady, and Mr. Crepsley’s poisonous, exotic spider, Madam Octa, who performs tricks.
When both boys find themselves in dire trouble, the only cure is Darren’s death…or half-death, to be more precise. Mr. Crepsley, who turns out to be a vampire, saves the day by taking Darren’s humanity. Now a half-vampire and full-time vampire’s assistant to Mr. Crepsley, Darren is faced with more of the supernatural than he ever fantasized about.
Simple but descriptive writing make this series entertaining and suspenseful. The reading level floats somewhere near the fourth grade level, though it would hardly be insulting to present to a more advanced or older student as the material is compelling and adventure-filled. All told, the series is a fun escape from the drama-ridden fiction that tends to prevail in adolescent literature. --Julie Weber
Julie Weber recently finished an MFA in non-fiction writing and has been teaching ELA, and assorted other subjects, at Passages Academy since 2006. When not immersed in the world of letters, she can be found either coaching or playing volleyball.