Fantasy Literature | 25 February 2014 | Kat Hooper

In Vampire Mountain, the previous book of Darren Shan’s CIRQUE DU FREAK series, Darren was asked to prove himself worthy of being a vampire by surviving a series of trials. If he fails, he dies. These trials will remind many readers of the tests Harry Potter endured in The Goblet of Fire. For example, for the first trial he must escape from a maze that’s filling with water. As the tasks go on, Darren becomes increasingly injured and fatigued and it seems likely that he’ll fail and be killed.


In my review of Vampire Mountain, I complained about the premise of this novel. I think most thoughtful readers will agree that making Darren undergo the trials is a little silly, not to mention ethically unsound, which is surprising since the vampire princes seem to be concerned with ethical behavior. The trials make a fun exciting story though, so I don’t mind overlooking the issue, but I could give this series higher marks if the plot held together a little better. Thankfully, toward the end of the story, Darren starts to reconsider the strange vampire traditions.


At the end of Trials of Death, there’s a major plot twist. Though I’ve been able to predict many of the twists in this series so far (I’ve read through book 11), I didn’t see this one coming. Trials of Death also ends on a cliffhanger (kind of literally), so make sure you’ve got the next book, The Vampire Prince, ready to go. I guarantee that you’ll want to open it immediately.


I continue to read this series in audio format. Ralph Lister exuberantly — sometimes too exuberantly — narrates these short novels. Give it a try at Audible or Downpour before committing. Also, notice that most of the books are only 4 or 5 hours long which may factor into your decision about whether it’s worth 12 Audible credits for the entire series on audio. You might want to check to see if your library carries them.

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