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WIGGLEFISH -- reviewed by Kilian Melloy

Six years have passed since Darren Shan, half-vampire assistant to the forbidding Mr. Crepsley, led the defense of Vampire Mountain against the Vampaneze and was elected one of the Vampire Princes. The war between the Vampires and the Vampaneze has been boiling away for all that time, and Darren has been busy charting out strategy — but a visit from the dreaded Mr. Tiny results in Darren undertaking a new quest in the company of Crepsley and the mysterious "Little Person," Harkat Mulds. The Vampaneze Lord has been blooded (turned into a supernatural Vampaneze) and the end of the Vampire race is at hand unless Darren and his friends can find, and take advantage of, four occasions foreseen in the future by Mr. Tiny when the Vampaneze Lord will be theirs for the killing. Thus begins a new trilogy in the Saga of Darren Shan.

Along the way, Darren's group meet up with another Vampire Prince, a rough-living character with dyed green hair named Vancha March who takes the Vampire penchant for simplicity and hardship to unusual extremes even by creature-of-the-night standards. Vancha accompanies Darren's group to the lair of an enchantress (never call her a witch!) named Evanna, who is an ancient and powerful old friend of Mr. Crepsley, but a neutral observer in the war between Vampires and Vampaneze.

The mysterious Mr. Tiny (his first name is Desmond; shorten the first half of his name and run both parts together and you have, ta da!, Mr. Destiny) has instructed Darren and his traveling companions to follow their hearts. So where better for a heartfelt return than to the traveling Cirque du Freak? Darren and his friends have a ball catching up with their old mates, but just beyond the comforts of the big top there are dangers and surprises waiting in the falling dark.

Darren Shan the author has a wonderful time launching his literary namesake into a new and perilous chapter. When Mr. Tiny expresses a hope that Darren will somehow miss killing the Vampaneze Lord on three of the future occasions when they are destined to meet in order to bring things to the wire in dramatic fashion, you can easily picture Shan grinning over his laptop, plotting out his trademark twists and turns to ensure that Destiny gets his wish. As with all of the Darren Shan books, this one too features a compelling dichotomy, for in order to follow Mr. Tiny's instructions and let their hearts guide them, our heroes have to step back and tune out the seemingly more sensible demands of their heads — except, perhaps, for wild-man Vancha, who appears to relish even the most disheartening challenges and who declares, "I've always preferred a stirring good legend to boring old facts." Hunters of the Dusk is nothing if not stirring, and if Shan keeps the adventure at this level of breakneck inventiveness, his saga is sure to win a place of legend in the annals of young adult literature.

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