epinions.com | 01 August 2005 | ???
The Death of One Prince Makes Way For The Appointing of Another .... Aug 01 '05 (Updated Aug 08 '05)Author's Product Rating Product Rating: 5.0Pros Wow, what an incredible ending - you will never believe what happens!Cons Might be a little too violent for some people.The Bottom Line Darren Shan braved the “Trials of Initiation”, “The Hall of Final Voyage” and being betrayed but will his life be spared or will he face the “Hall of Death”? Full Review I never expected to be so engrossed in the Cirque Du Freak series by Darren Shan. After all, these are books that are written in the ‘teen fiction’ spectrum but when I received the second book, ”The Vampire’s Assistant”, from a friend as a gift, I was really interested in reading the rest of them. Darren Shan, the author, is also the lead character in the book - this is something that I should have mentioned in previous reviews to avoid confusion. The series started out with Darren and Mr. Crepsley touring with Mr. Tall and his Cirque Du Freak but they broke away from it in the ”Tunnels of Blood”. When they did return to the Cirque for a few months they left again to make their way to the vampire council for their meeting that happened every twelve years. At this point in the series it doesn’t look like the pair will be going back to the Cirque any time soon but you never know what might happen. That’s one of the appeals to Shan’s books, some of the stuff is predictable but there are some definite surprises in store for you.Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire PrinceIn the last book a traitor was discovered amongst those attending the vampire council at Vampire Mountain. Most disbelieved that Kurda Smahlt, someone who was hours away from being appointed as a Prince, could have betrayed his blood brothers in such a way. Darren was the only person that knew that Kurda was in with the vampaneze - moreover - that there were vampaneze, the sworn enemies of the vampires, hiding in the base of the mountain. When Gavner Purl was murdered by the hand of Kurda, Darren swore revenge but in order to get that, he had to beat insurmountable odds as well as escape Kurda and the vampaneze. Taking the only option available to him, he jumped into the river that flowed through the Hall of Final Voyage, the place where vampire bodies were disposed of after the Guardians of The Blood drained them and removed their vital organs. Surviving the flow of the river was one thing but Shan had been through four of the Trials of Initiation; his body was burned, ripped to shreds and he was a breath away from death. After drifting for what seemed like hours he was finally able to pull himself from the water only then did he realize how far he’d gotten from Vampire Mountain.Darren’s recovery was in part thanks to a young wolf cub he named Rudi and his father, Streak. They provided him with warmth, the female wolves offered him their food and within a few days he was starting to feel human again, well as human as he could feel considering he is a half vampire. Knowing that time was of the essence he started to make his way back to Vampire Mountain to try and warn the others of the vampaneze that were hiding, waiting to attack. But his return would certainly mean his death; after the fiasco at the fourth trial and facing a certain death because of it, he knew that there was almost no chance of making it back out of the mountain once he entered. This is where you start to see a real change in Darren. He was starting to show true signs of being a vampire by exhibiting loyalty to the clan even if it meant his own death. That is the fear that looms over you when you read this book; you already know how dead set [no pun intended] the vampires are in their ways and if anyone fails the trials, they are sent to the Hall of Death. Knowing that he ran when he should have stayed and faced the music, Darren made his way to Vampire Mountain prepared to die but hoping that he would be able to get his message about the traitor Kurda to someone before he expired.Seba Nile, former mentor to Larten Crepsley [Darren’s mentor] was the most obvious choice. He would listen to Darren and hopefully be able to make his way to the Hall of Princes before Kurda was made a Prince. If Kurda was allowed to carry the title of prince then he would be able to open the doors to the hall and allow the vampaneze to gain control over the Stone of Blood. This is something that is disclosed in a previous book - that the doors can only be opened by a prince, the stone has great power, a vampaneze lord is in the making - all the clues are there and when it is finally unveiled in this book you feel like slapping yourself for not picking up on the ‘hints’ in other books. This is another reason why I like Shan’s style of writing, he never gives you 100% of the story right away, he leaves some of it up in the air. Another twist is the disclosure of the Coffin of Fire. This is something that ties in with the legend of the Vampaneze Lord. A coffin was given to them by My. Tiny many years ago and it was the one way to see if someone was worthy to be called Lord. Lay in it and flames engulfed the inside, if you lived, you were Lord, if not, you were toasted beyond belief. Kurda said only this, that a human, not a vampaneze, laid in it and didn’t die. I am betting money that this human was none other than Steve Leopard, Shan’s best friend who swore he’d one day hunt him down and kill him.There is a war between the vampires and the vampaneze and Darren’s suggestion helped to save many of the vampires lives. Through the book you start to see even the most hardened Generals and Princes warming up to Darren. They realize that it took a brave soul to return to the mountain after fleeing from a most certain death, pointing the finger at an exalted one and accusing him of being a traitor and standing side by side with them as they battled the vampaneze. Still, it was their law that if someone failed the trials, they were to die. Seeing as how he knew that his death was inevitable and he fled, now he faced death and a shameful cremation [where the soul is bound to the earth so it can never reach Paradise, the vampire version of heaven]. That is where the huge shock comes in. There were no true loopholes that they could use to spare his life; they could let him leave as if he escaped again but there would be no dignity in that. What the Princes came up with was something that I never, ever expected and if you think I am going to give it away .. you must be as insane as a maddened vampaneze!The SeriesEven though some of the books in the series are violent they are a compelling read for anyone that is into vampires or dark comics. When I got into the series I didn’t think that I would get this enthused and feel so compelled to read each and every one of them. If someone would drop the entire stack of them in front of me - all twelve books so far - chances are I would sit there and read the remaining ones back to back. Shan is an awesome story teller and puts a lot of detail into his writing. Even though he is dealing with vampires and things that aren’t “real” he makes things reality based so you are often left wondering .. “what if ...”. If you are interested in the series, please, start with the first one and read them in order. They might start off slow or seem to have no purpose but once you start reading the others, you will pick up on things that were mentioned in earlier installments.The Bottom LineWow. The ending to this is something that really, really shocked me. I never expected the twist that Shan threw into things but it only helps to intensify things for future installments. It’s sort of like you know that he isn’t going to get killed or die because there are more books in the series but the series could have continued on without him - it could be about the war between the vampaneze or how the vampires rebounded from their war. That is what keeps you turning the pages and seeking out the next book in the series. The ending to the book leaves a lot of things open and you start to think of what could happen with Shan in such a situation. There are some parts of the book that seem to drag on a little here and there but those parts are there for a reason - a good example of this is the beginning when you are reading the thoughts of Shan as he is seconds from death in the river. Everything - is - broken up - into small - fragments - like this. It makes it hard to read but it gives you a sense of what the character is feeling. If you read any of the other books in the series and haven’t made it to this one yet - I can guarantee - without a doubt that your jaw will hit the floor when you get to the last few pages.
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