VOYA | 03 August 2011 | Ann McDuffie

Before Larten Crepsley was a vampire general and Darren Shan's master in the series Cirque du Freak, he was a newly-blooded vampire youth. Cut loose by his master to explore the world of humans, Larten stumbles into a violent, hedonistic lifestyle, filled with drunken revelry, gambling, and bloody battles. In this gore fest, he wanders aimlessly for years, meets up with various vampire friends, feasts at blood-stained human battlefields, crosses fangs with enemy vampires, and then moves on to his next adventure. Despite enough gruesome suspense to satisfy horror lovers, the plot meanders just as Larten does. Short on character depth and long on exposition, the story skims over huge spans of time, but what are a few decades in vampire years? Characters are briefly introduced and then disappear, presumably to re-emerge in later volumes, making an unsuitable stand-alone title. It is advisable to first read the opening book in the series, Birth of a Killer (Little, Brown, 2010/VOYA February 2011), which explains Larten's vampire beginnings and introduces his master and other important characters. Although the original series was written for middle-school readers, this series targets a somewhat older audience. References to drinking and debauchery may cause objection; however, fans of Cirque du Freak will be sucked into the story of Larten's teen years and the cliff-hanger ending guarantees further adventures.

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