A Re-Read of “The Saga of Darren Shan” Horror Series

While I was waiting for my copy of Insurgent to arrive, I delved back into a classic series that all ’90s kids should know: The Saga of Darren Shan.

The Saga of Darren Shan is made out of twelve books, each relatively short at about two hours per book. Every three books serves as a “trilogy” and  They carry on from each other and cover a span of about eighteen years. *Please bear in mind that this article contains spoilers.

The First Trilogy: Vampire Blood (Cirque Du Freak, The Vampire’s Assistant, Tunnels of Blood)

Still one of my top books of the series, the first story, Cirque Du Freak, kicks off with Darren as a child, around twelve years old. Enough completely original things happen in this story to suck you in – an enthralling freak show, vampire lore that challenges the stereotypes, odd creatures, and a venomous spider that Darren can’t resist stealing, which is where it all begins.

I remember reading this book when I was around eleven years old and loving it, but didn’t have access to the rest of them. A few years later, a friend let me borrow the rest of the books in the series. We learn a bit about the world in which Darren lives and learn about him as the flawed yet likable character he is.

We follow Darren as he follows Mr. Crepsley through adventures involving monsters and death. The author, the real Darren Shan, said that he wanted to deliver something as chilling to read as a Stephen King novel but as easy to read as Goosebumps. I think he did really well with that. The first three books are just fantastic and we get to know more about Darren, Mr. Crepsley, and other characters who make appearances.

The Second Trilogy: Vampire Rites (Vampire Mountain, Trials of Death, The Vampire Prince)

Darren leaves his humanity behind and his relationship with Mr. Crepsley also improves. We find out a lot more about vampire culture and customs, and are introduced to more brutal twists. I personally think that Trials of Death is one of the best books of the series – Darren faces challenges involving escaping a maze flooding with water, crawling through a cave filled with spiked rocks, and, most memorably, a room filled with fire.

He is traumatised by his near-death in a room of flames which really stuck with me for a long time. We see Darren grow into a warrior, and although his vampire blood makes him still look like a child, he is an adult on the inside who has seen and experienced too much in his young life. New friendships are made and when he brings to light a betrayal, he is made into a Vampire Prince.

The Third Trilogy: Vampire War (Hunters of the Dusk, Allies of the Night, Killers of the Dawn)

Although action-packed and essential to the story, I feel like this is the weakest of the four trilogies. We visit the city in which we spent a lot of time in Tunnels of Blood, reunite with old characters, and chase the Lord of the Vampaneze. However, I found myself quickly reading through them, eager to reach the final trilogy. Killers of the Dawn is also the book in which Mr. Crepsley, now Darren’s dear friend and father figure, dies, which devastated fans!

The Fourth Trilogy: Vampire Destiny (The Lake of Souls, Lord of the Shadows, Sons of Destiny)

The Lake of Souls is arguably the most memorable book in the whole saga. We finally find out the identity of Harkat, Darren’s friend and one of Mr. Tiny’s Little People. To do this, they venture into a dangerous world full of monsters.

The beasts and the world itself are impossible to forget and completely blew the minds of children and adults alike. Even years later, I could still remember the Grotesque! Re-reading it was just as enjoyable as the first time and I could really appreciate Shan’s talent for the original and the shocking.

We also see the fate of the Lord of the Vampaneze (Steve, Darren’s best childhood friend turned insane evil psychopath) and Darren. Upon warnings that Darren would be the one to destroy the world even if he managed to defeat Steve, he rejects his destiny to become the Lord of the Shadows and lets Steve kill him. They die together, severing the destiny that was tied to them since birth.

I really liked how the series ended. Darren becomes a Little Person and travels back through time to stop his childhood self from ever stealing Mr. Crepsley’s spider, thus making it so that he never became a half-vampire. His diaries, which were cleverly mentioned throughout the saga, are then given to Mr. Tall, who then agrees to send them to the child Shan when he grows up. The way the last few pages are written, it is made to sound as though all of the events really did happen with Darren speculating whether his story will be fictionalised and sold around the world. Although some fans said they were disappointed with the “it was all a dream” style ending, I thought it was delivered beautifully and tied everything up really well.

This series is a must for teenagers who love horror. The prose is a little choppy – there are long paragraphs of action-interrupting description, a lot of adverbs, and over-explaining (things that would never be allowed if he had written them now). However, the book was perfect for its time and a great read for my twelve-year-old self. It is still a great read for kids today and a fond throwback for adults who read it in the early 2000s. There is also a movie, but it wasn’t good at all. There is a petition for a Netflix series, which would be great! I give the series five stars for entertainment, originality, and nostalgia.

Get the first book, Cirque Du Freak, on Amazon US
Get Cirque Du Freak on Amazon UK

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Spoiler-Free Book Review: “Insurgent” by Veronica Roth

Following the enjoyable dystopian YA novel Divergent, I picked up the second of the trilogy. Things were getting exciting, and I had high hopes for what Tris and her love interest were going to do next now their world had fallen apart.

insurgent“As war surges in the factions of dystopian Chicago all around her, Tris attempts to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.”

I actually found the second book to be a bit disappointing. I thought the first book was great; although sometimes dripping with YA cliches (such as falling for the first handsome guy she meets), I thought the world was original and I enjoy exploring the factions.

I lost interest about halfway through because Tris started to become really annoying. She was increasingly reckless, and I was glad Tobias caught on this as well, so it suggests that the writer was aware of this character flaw. “Playing the hero” all the time could have been forgiven, except when she did it again, she lied to her boyfriend… again, even though he worried so much about her and almost got himself killed trying to save her the last time.

The story circled several times in the first half of the book. They think they’re safe, until they’re attacked and have to run. They find a new place to hide, get attacked, and have to run. It only got interesting about 60% of the way through. The novelty of exploring this dystopian world had worn off by now, and there wasn’t much more to discover. They didn’t see anything new, only the same city and the train and buildings. Arguably the Amity headquarters was new, but it wasn’t that interesting.

Characters were also tough to keep track of. Jeanine, Tori, Tobias, Marcus, and Tris were easy enough, but other characters seemed to sort of blend together. I needed reminding when names like Edward, Lynn, and Shauna came up, and ended up remembering Edward for his eyepatch and Lynn for her shaved head rather than any defining personality traits.

This book wasn’t horrible, by any means. I wanted to know the all-important “truth” that became the main focus of the second half of the story, which drove me to keep reading. I was prepared for some mind-blowing news that “changed everything,” as the writer said. The information was… meh. It kind of annoys me this has 44,000 reviews on Amazon and three movies, yet no one really talks about it.

I’ve already bought the last in the series, Allegiant, so it might wrap up the story nicely and develop Tris’ character a bit. I hope to see an awesome final installment. I’ll let you guys know if it’s worth it!

I give this book in the Divergent series two stars out of five.

2stars

Video Games, Music, and Ramen in Tokyo

There’s a ramen restaurant near our house. Because of its location, it’s almost unknown, but it’s really trendy. It’s somewhere between a bar and a restaurant and has a theme that’s sort of a mix between music and surfing.

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This time, the owner got out his old SNES console and asked us if we wanted to have a go. Food and games?? I’d just spent the past nine hours on the PlayStation 4 but nobody needed to know.

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He set it up and we had enormous fun playing Super Mario, Tetris, and Street Fighter 2.

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On top of that, we of course got to eat yummy ramen! I like this place because although there isn’t as much variety as other ramen restaurants, the guy can make killer tonkotsu (pork) ramen.

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We also had some gyoza dumplings and it was yummy. What a nice evening!

If you find yourself in Meguro, definitely give this place a try. It is right next to Kushi-Katsu Tanaka and it’s called Iki. Here’s the location on Google Maps.

Spoiler-Free Book Review: “Divergent” by Veronica Roth

Netflix is a goldmine of great movies, as many of us know. I watched a dystopian science-fiction movie called Divergent and within about five minutes, I just knew it was a novel first. The way the world was introduced and the sixteen-year-old character was a dead giveaway. I enjoyed the movie, and immediately ordered the book.

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“One choice can transform you. Beatrice Prior’s society is divided into five factions—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent).

Beatrice must choose between staying with her Abnegation family and transferring factions. Her choice will shock her community and herself. But the newly christened Tris also has a secret, one she’s determined to keep hidden, because in this world, what makes you different makes you dangerous.”

I jumped right into this compelling YA! We see the story from the eyes of Beatrice – or Tris, as she’s later called – and we see her faults as well as her strengths, which was refreshing. She talks about her faults without needlessly putting herself down. She knows she is brave, but also knows that she is too selfish for her parents’ faction, and is very likable.

I try not to compare movies with their books (The Vampire’s Assistant, a crappy film based on an incredible horror series, was torturous enough), but I much preferred the book to the movie. More of what Tris did and said made sense, as most of the logic happened in her head and was difficult to portray on screen.

The world was original. It was set at some point in the future in a city, presumably in the United States, after a war has torn the world apart. Instead of the overused post-apocalyptic scenario, Beatrice lives in a fairly peaceful city where society has been divided into factions based on personality and tendencies. A society that is threatened to be broken by conspiracy.

There are some clichés in the story – no book is free of them – such as training and falling in love with basically the first guy she meets (although in the writer’s defense, she doesn’t fall for him right away). However, I don’t like to pick at clichés in stories if the story itself is true and the characters are likable, which they were.

In short, I really enjoyed this book! I was entertained from beginning to end and immediately ordered the other two in the trilogy. I will avoid the other movies for now (which I never saw advertised or talked about; are they relatively unknown?) so nothing is spoiled, but I’m very much looking forward to the rest of Tris’s story. I’m awarding this book four stars out of five, but it’s more like 4.5/5.

4stars

Get Divergent on Amazon US
Get Divergent on Amazon UK