epinions.com | 30 July 2005 | ???
Darren Shan Learns That Fear Has No Place In The “Trials of Death” Jul 30 '05 (Updated Aug 08 '05)Author's Product Rating Product Rating: 5.0Pros Starts out a little slow, abrupt ending.Cons A little more violent than previous installments in the series.The Bottom Line Darren Shan will either earn the respect of his peers or die trying. Full ReviewDarren Shan has a knack for writing compelling stories that are geared towards teens; that didn’t stop me from getting hooked on the “Cirque Du Freak” series. Book five reveals a lot of plot twists, a traitor and Darren Shan’s ultimate test to see if he is truly suited to be a vampire. Darren Shan, the author, puts a lot of vivid imagery into his writing and you get sucked into the book - almost as if you can’t put it down once you start. Curiosity got the best of me when I started reading this so I kept track of how much time it took me to get through the 207 pages. When I looked at the clock I couldn’t believe it, in just under two hours I read the book from cover to cover including the introduction that recaps the previous book and the bonus section that give you a teaser of the next book in the series, “The Vampire Prince”. One word of warning, this is one of the more graphic and violent books in the series and goes into great detail about the pain, suffering and agony that Shan has to endure. Chances are if you made it through the other books without getting grossed out this one shouldn’t be too hard to stomach but if you are sensitive to certain topics, tread lightly when reading this.Cirque Du Freak: The Trials of DeathWhen Larten Crepsley blooded Darren Shan he knew that eventually he would have to present him at the council at Vampire Mountain. He would have to explain why he broke their laws regarding children being bled as well as why he waited until the meeting, held every twelve years, to present Darren to the Vampire Generals and Princes. Little did either of them know that Darren would be put in a very precarious situation, mostly by his own words and his enormous sense of pride. In ”Vampire Mountain” Darren showed that he was stronger, smarter and wiser than most expected but that wasn’t enough. If he wanted to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he was worthy of being treated as an equal, he would have to endure five tests called the “Trials of Death”. If he failed them there were so “do overs”, if he failed he would be taken to the Hall of Death and impaled. There was no room for mistakes, no room for error. Instead of having years to prepare for these tests, Shan had only hours and it truly looked like the odds were doubly stacked against him.He did get some help from some unexpected members of the vampire community; Kurda Smahlt, soon to be appointed as a Prince offered words of wisdom even though he protested Shan having to endure the trials at such a young age and without any time to prepare. Vanez Blain, the games master of Vampire Mountain, tutored him in the first of his trials. Arra Sails, one of the few female vampires, helped him prepare for the “Hall of Flames”. Seba Nile, Crepsley’s mentor, kept a watchful eye on Shan and tossed in his words of wisdom. The trails were chosen by Shan from a bag that contained numbered stones. Kurda and Seba has petitioned the Princes to have some of the more advanced trials removed since Shan was young and only a half vampire. They protested but allowed some of the more difficult ones be taken out of the selection. Shan picked the “Aquatic Maze” as his first trial, “The Path of Needles” as his second, “Hall of Flames” for the third and for the fourth, “The Blooded Boars”. Yes, I did say that Darren had to endure five trials to earn the respect of his peers but something happens in the middle of the fourth that chances everything. This is one of the many plot twists that you come across in the book and it’s best left as a surprise.After the fourth trail is interrupted mass chaos breaks out amongst the Generals, Princes and all the vampires that are in attendance. Most of the people that had been cheering for Darren and hoping that he would make it through all the tests were now calling for his head. Like I said, you have to read that part of the book - I won’t give that away - it’s just too incredible to give it away as a spoiler. There is a constant tension in the book about the vampaneze and why a few of them were spotted outside Vampire Mountain. It isn’t until the last few chapters of the book that you discover who the traitor is as well as the possibility that the ‘Guardians of The Blood’ may be involved in this scheme to kill off all the vampires in attendance and capture the ‘Stone of Blood’. Now, the ‘Guardians of The Blood’ were mentioned in the last book but no real explanation was given, in this installment you learn why they are so important to those who live inside the mountain and the purpose that they serve. You also learn about the “Hall of Final Voyage”, something that plays a part in Darren’s narrow escape from death when he discovers that someone he called a friend turns out to be a traitor.The SeriesThe series is great for teens [and adults] that are into darker titles like Angel or Buffy The Vampire Slayer and adults that are into Anne Rice or vampire related things might get into the series but you have to keep in mind that these are geared towards teens. Even so, Shan does a great job with being descriptive and keeping the stories almost believable. At first I thought that there were only six titles in the series, then ten - now I come to learn that there are an impressive twelve books in the series, several of which are available in sets.The Bottom LineEven though the book deals mostly with Darren’s trials and all the things that he endures during them - you start to see him growing more and more. You see him starting to come into his own, while Crepsley is still teaching him and acting as his mentor, he is choosing his own paths and accepting the consequences, no matter how grim they may be. Some people might read this and think that it is boring or dotes too long on the trials but it’s the small stuff that is added into the story that makes this a compelling read. A few mysteries from other books are cleared up but more than a few more are added to keep you hooked on the story and reading the series. There are more than a few possibilities when it comes to learning how Darren holds the key to Harkat’s true identity before he became one of Mr. Tiny’s minions - as well as who Harket was before he died. Plot twists are numerous in this book but it does start out a little on the slow side; resist the temptation to skip chapters because you will miss out on things that are mentioned in passing. When you get to the ending you sort of feel a little cheated - it ends rather abruptly but it sure makes you run out and get the next one to find out what happens between the vampire and vampaneze, what the deal is with the ‘Guardians of The Blood’ and if Gavner’s death is ever avenged.
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