The Bookbag | 30 April 2011 | Jill Murphy

In book two of this prequel series about the beloved orange-haired vampire from Darren Shan's Cirque du Freak series, we find Larten Crepsley and his friend Wester Flack finally free of the restrictions and privations imposed upon them by their master, Seba Nile. The young vampires have joined the Cubs, and are wandering the world enjoying all the "pleasures" human life can give them - wine, women, song, and a ringside seat at as many bloody wars as they could shake a stick at (plus a good supply of fresh blood in the aftermath of battle).


Larten is far from Vampire Mountain and its rules and regulations, but he still can't settle. He abandons the Cubs, and Wester, and sets out on his own. But even this doesn't give him the sense of purpose or freedom he longs for and his life takes its usual dark turn... far from his mentor, rejected and scarred by a powerful sorceress, Larten must decide what kind of vampire he wants to be.


Scary though it is to breathe even a word of criticism of the main man lest I am murderised to death by one of his legions of fans (including both my sons), I gotsta say... Ocean of Blood is a book for the Shan acolyte. It's not particularly tense. In fact, it's all a bit Larten did this for a decade or two and moped. Then Larten did that for a decade or two and moped. Then Larten...


However, it does get going with a superb Frankenstein-style frozen voyage at the end, and Shan doesn't forget to kill off a cool character, which is practically a tradition. But it's primarily a story of Crepsley's wandering years. So for fans, it's interesting and completist, and it will fill out the complicated, conflicted character they first met in the Cirque du Freak series. For the uninitiated, it will be less interesting. But really, what does that matter? Point the unititiated in the direction of Cirque du Freak and by the time they've finished that, they'll be thirsting for Ocean of Blood.


Duty done with regards to warnings about late books in long series, I also gotsta say... I loved it! I love the character of Larten Crepsley. I love Shan's fearless nihilism even though he's writing for children. I love it that he's not afraid to make an adult his central character even though he's writing for children. I love the combination of matter-of-factness and horrific gore in his books.


I'll be waiting for book three with bated breath and a weather eye on things that go bump in the night. As my press sheet says, Shan's vampires do not sparkle. And we thank all things bitey for that. And him.


My thanks to the good people at Harper Collins for sending the book.

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