Book Review: “The Rats” (The Rats Trilogy Book 1) by James Herbert

I am all about horror at the moment!

After finishing Nobody True, my mum recommended I read The Rats, James Herbert’s debut novel. I had a faint memory of my dad saying he’d read it and it had “scared the crap” out of him. And my dad’s a big man who doesn’t scare easily.

I bought The Rats. As you might imagine, it’s about rats. The original cover just screams ’70s, don’t you think?

*Note: this review contains minor spoilers.

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“It was only when the bones of the first devoured victims were discovered that the true nature and power of these swarming black creatures with their razor sharp teeth and the taste for human blood began to be realized by a panic-stricken city.

For millions of years man and rats had been natural enemies. But now for the first time – suddenly, shockingly, horribly – the balance of power had shifted . . .”

Imagine any horror film. Most likely the opening scene is some unlucky sod getting mauled/attacked/sliced apart as a spooky introduction to the antagonist. The Rats starts out in much the same way, except, unlike a movie, we learned a bit about the character before they met their unfortunate fate.

I actually really liked this. We were given tidbits, a run-through of the person’s life, even if that was the last time we would ever “see” them alive. Some might argue this is pointless – why would you care about their lives, hopes, and past mistakes that led them to their untimely death?

I realized that it’s because of their past lives that they ended up getting killed in such a horrible way. Take Henry, the vagrant at the very beginning of the story. Perhaps if it wasn’t for his office affair that led to defamation, resignation, and eventually crippling loneliness that took him from successful businessman to alcoholic vagabond, he wouldn’t have slept in the abandoned house where the first of the killer rats attacked.

Take Dave, the teenager who was on his way home to catch the last train after messing around with his girlfriend. Maybe if he’d gotten an earlier train, stayed over at her house, or not met up with her that night at all (not necessarily a mistake, but an unfortunate coincidence), he wouldn’t have ventured into the station from which came the inevitable attack.

The mother who left her one-year-old alone to nip next door to borrow some tea (yes, it’s a British book) may not have perished along with her baby if only she’d taken her daughter with her. George the zookeeper ended up getting mauled by one of his beloved animals after he foolishly let it out of its cage instead of saving himself.

Harris is the main character of this story, and I liked him a lot. He’s brave, though he doesn’t try to play the hero; he’s a school teacher, a normal bloke with common sense but who wants to help out the area where he grew up, first in his career and then with the infestation. The rats themselves are really scary; they’re well-described, absolutely vicious, and Herbert did a great job of portraying the situations where you knew that as soon as one rat showed up, you knew the victim would be overwhelmed within moments.

Harris and the police struggle to beat back the terrifying rat infestation. These fearless creatures are getting bolder by the day, and it’s only a matter of time before the whole city is taken down. The amount of action and sense of urgency kept the pages turning.

The Rats was published in 1974, whereas Nobody True was released in 2003. The Rats is not badly written by any means, but I could see how Herbert’s writing style developed from his debut to the later novel, which ran much more smoothly. Writers never cease to improve if they constantly work on their craft, and part of me wishes I’d read The Rats first as, compared to Nobody True, some of the prose was quite clunky. There were also several typos in the Kindle edition, which surprised me.

These didn’t ruin my experience, though, and it shouldn’t deter you from reading it, either. The Rats is a classic novel every horror fan should pick up and I give it four stars out of five. I’ll definitely be buying the next one, Lair.

4stars

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Spoiler-Free Book Review: “Nobody True” by James Herbert

I enjoy reading now, but I read a lot more as a child. My mother has probably gobbled up even more novels than I have; when I was growing up, she’d have stacks and stacks of books, shelves stuffed of volumes, rooms packed with tomes, tables groaning under paperbacks. Before the days of the Kindle, her collection looked even more impressive.

There was a book I’d read part of when I was a kid, around twelve or thirteen years old. I’d always remembered the story, and when she came to visit I described the plot. Like the genius she is, she rattled off the author’s name at once and we found it: Nobody True! I remembered the cover and also remembered I’d read half of it. I don’t know why I stopped reading; looking back, the theme was probably too mature for me at the time.

There were many things about the book I’d forgotten, but the hook is a winner: what if you astral travelled, gained control of out-of-body experiences, even using this skill to explore the world around you without limits? And what if, one night during a business trip, you came back and you had been killed? Not only murdered, but brutally so: hacked, mutilated, your body completely destroyed?

The hook stayed with me, and it’s for that purpose I sought out the novel again.

4e6612c40a39f602e4dba518684016ee“What happens when you lose your body?

Jim True knows. He has returned from an out-of-body experience to find he has been brutally murdered and his body mutilated. No one can see him, no one can hear him, no one, except his killer, knows he still exists. Freed from his body, True embarks on a quest to find his killer and discover why and how he has managed to survive.

As he closes in on his murderer, True discovers that even the very people he loved and trusted have betrayed him. He meets his killer, a strange and sinister figure who can also leave his body at will.

In James Herbert’s Nobody True, an epic and deadly battle ensues between True and a seemingly unstoppable and hideous serial killer – a man now intent on even more murders, including True’s wife and child.”

Contrary to many of the books I review, this novel is relatively old; Nobody True was published in 2003 by Pan Macmillan. Herbert himself died in 2013, but I enjoyed this book so much I felt compelled to write this review.

Herbert’s writing style is witty, snappy, and engaging, which drew me in from the very first line, although the main character (the book is written in first person) tends to go off on tangents a bit (something the MC, Jim True, acknowledges). There is a lot of speculation on actual astral travelling, and the book is written as though the event actually happened, a trait I love in any genre of book and something that also appears in The Saga of Darren Shan, which is also, interestingly, a horror.

The plot was full of twists and turns, some of which I expected, other ones I didn’t. I found one of the twists at the end was mildly interesting but unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but that didn’t mar my enjoyment; in fact, it made me want to read the book again to look out for clues for said twist.

There were parts of this book that terrified me; at many points I was holding the phone (I was using the Kindle app; it’s costly to send paperbacks to Japan) an inch or so from my face, with what I imagine is a wide-eyed expression when I was reading on the train and whatnot. The only book that has scared me more is Gerald’s Game by Stephen King, though it was close. I think I actually enjoyed Nobody True more as a whole.

There are several people in the story you might consider to be antagonists, though undoubtedly the main one is the serial killer, a monster both inside and out. Suffering a facial deformity from birth, bitterness, jealousy, and insanity have twisted this killer into a merciless, horrifying mess. This serial killer was truly terrifying, described with flair.

As well as an exciting horror story, there was even a nice sentiment or lesson to be learned from the book as a whole. Though it had been a brutal story, it left a pleasant feeling at the end, a message that is relevant to everyone. I’ll let you find that one out for yourself, though.

My only issue with the book is that we don’t find out what happens to one of the characters, and though this can easily be explained away by the book’s message, I was still waiting for an explanation as to what happened to them. Nevertheless, Nobody True was fantastic and I’m really glad I remembered it and sought it out. My mum has introduced me to some great works and I doubt this one will be the last. I give this book five stars!

5stars

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Spoiler-Free Book Review: “Reavers of the Tempest” by J.M.D. Reid

Not gonna lie; I love matte covers.

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Following Above the Storm is the second installment of J.M.D. Reid’s The Storm Below series, a five-segment fantasy telling the story of a world above an ever-churning blanket of clouds and lightning. The Storm was conjured to rise the lands of the faithful, and now races live in (relative) peace in the sun, leaving the doomed, named the Stormriders for the deadly Cyclones they wield, in darkness.

What more could there be to worry about besides the dangers of the Navy, including gigantic tornadoes hell-bent on destroying everything one loves, as well as the tormented ramblings of a chained, tortured goddess? Oh, right. . . a jealous friend, a frustrated assassin, and a pocketful of plague.

reavers-ebook_reid-1800x1200“Pirates rampage across the skies!

Ary, Chaylene, and the crew of the skyship Dauntless are called into action again! The Bluefin Raiders pillage and burn, but the greatest threat lurks aboard the ship…

Vel plots murder.

Wanting Chaylene for himself, he waits for his chance to poison Ary. Only it’s not poison he carries…

It’s a plague.”

The story continues to focus on Ary, Chaylene, and poor, foolish Vel’s love triangle. However, this is just one of the many plots of the story. Reavers of the Tempest is a military fantasy through and through.

Though the dangers of Cyclones remain, our young characters are called to action to fight against the Bluefin Raiders, vicious pirates who pillage the skies, murder, and steal ships and their cargo. In the shadows, Vel plots murder, blinded by infatuation for Chaylene and encouraged by an assassin.

More of the world and the truth behind its history are revealed in The Storm Below‘s second installment, leaving readers hungry for more. Ary is plagued by dreams and visions of a trapped goddess and discovers there is more to him being Stormtouched than being condemned by the Church, something that might even help them…

What really made this book for me was the exciting finale. Ary’s discovery of his newfound power, the struggle against the pirates, and the consequences of Vel’s actions all tie nicely together for a powerful installment of this series.

I’m thoroughly enjoying The Storm Below. It’s not a world I’ll be able to forget easily and though the cast of characters grows with each book, they are real and distinct enough where I don’t get confused (with the main characters, at least). I give Reavers of the Tempest four stars!

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Spoiler-Free Book Review: “Above the Storm” by J.M.D. Reid

It arrived!

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I’d already read the ebook, but I decided to get a paperback of J.M.D. Reid’s debut novel, Above the Storm. It’s the first in a five-piece series called The Storm Below telling the intricate story of a floating world above an endless, churning storm – a unique world you’ll have a hard time forgetting.

I’ve been a fan of J.M.D. Reid ever since I came across his short story, The Assassin’s Remorse. Captivated by Reid’s world-building, I was an instant fan. He’s been talking about his The Storm Below series for years; no doubt such an enormous, detailed universe with its own rules, characters and, of course, the story itself, has taken years of this talented author’s time and energy. Above the Storm dropped in October 2018.

50414323_1199432536879361_3773116747922538496_n“To save the world, Ary must die!

Ary, a young man scarred by his past, is thrust into the dangers of the military. But he carries a deadly secret: the dark goddess’s touch stains his soul. 

Her taint threatens to destroy all he loves.

He must hide the truth from the other marines and the woman he loves. Can Ary survive the dangers of service and the zealous assassin plotting his death?

Are you ready for the action, danger, romance, and betrayal exploding across the skies Above the Storm!”

I wasn’t new to Reid’s Above the Storm world when I first delved into this novel, having already read same-world shorts such as Plight of the Arshion and The Captain’s Mad Plan. The ever-swirling Storm separates the good, Riasruo-worshipping races from the Wrackthar, those left below after the war two centuries earlier. Those below, nicknamed the Stormriders, send vicious Cyclones to attack those they envy above, and the military protects its citizens from destruction.

When they come of age, every citizen of the Autonomy and the Empire receive Blessings from the sun goddess, Riasruo, in one of three levels: Lightning, Pressure, Wind, and Mist, on the Summer Solstice of their seventeenth year. Ary and his two best friends, Chaylene and Vel, all receive their Blessings and Ary hopes to marry Chaylene and work as a farmer in their hometown, Vesche.

During Ary’s childhood when a Cyclone attacked his town, he foolishly stayed behind to watch, enthralled by the action. Struck by lightning during the battle and therefore touched by Theisseg, Riasruo’s unholy sister, Ary dreams of the trapped Storm Goddess and is tormented by her pain.

Drafted into the military, Ary and Chaylene marry to stay together before they must face four years of naval duty and to join the good fight against the Cyclone-wielding Stormriders. With Vel jealous of their relationship, the pressures of duty, vicious rumors about Chaylene’s fidelity, the ever-churning dangers of those from beneath the Storm, and whispers of an assassin in Ary’s midst, Reid’s debut novel is a fantasy adventure that you’ll find impossible to forget.

I’ve always liked Reid’s writing style; it flows well, activates your imagination, and impresses with originality. Above the Storm is fantasy, certainly, though it is a romance secondly, focusing on the love triangle between Ary, Chaylene, and Vel. My favorite characters are Zori, a fiercely loyal and fun-loving girl who joined the Navy to escape a life of prostitution, and Estan, a Vaarckthian scholar with an inquisitive mind who fell out with his wealthy family when his thirst for knowledge questioned the teachings of the Church.

Not all is as it seems in Above the Storm; in fact, the first novel barely scratches the surface of the real, horrific truths. I was thirsting for more when I finished this book, to follow the several storylines and find the answers to the questions I had.

I give Above the Storm five stars!

5stars

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Visit J.M.D. Reid’s blog

Book Review: “Caitlyn (Book Two) A Stain on the Soul” by Elizabeth Davies

After thoroughly enjoying the refreshingly well-written Caitlyn (Book One) Three Bloody Pieces by Elizabeth Davies, I eagerly jumped into the next one. I really admire Davies’ writing skill; every sentence sings, making it a smooth and brilliantly fun journey.

*This article contains minor spoilers

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“Resigned to another lifetime of being a witch’s familiar, Caitlyn has found a degree of peace in her role as the Duke of Normandy’s protector and spy.

But that peace is shattered when she returns to her native land only to come face-to-face with her past, and fall in love with a man who she desperately hopes will become her future.”

Caitlyn has been bound to Arlette for years and feels like a mother to Arlette’s son, William, who covets the English crown. I was excited when I realised that this character is actually the real William the Conqueror! Elizabeth Davies has cleverly woven real events with the magical, providing explanations that work for real-life events.

I continue to admire and sympathise with Caitlyn as she is forced to stay with her mistress and help her get her son on the throne by committing vile acts she doesn’t want to do. At first, I was taken aback by the fact that so many years had gone by; Caitlyn never got revenge for the attack on her kingdom and was never known to be of royal blood over those decades. This wasn’t a typical story of getting’s one justice and living happily ever after; Caitlyn did what she does best and just got on with things, keeping her chin up, through a life she never could have foreseen.

I liked this book a lot. Davies’ skillful writing makes the story twist and turn in ways you don’t expect. I admit I wasn’t completely sold on her falling in love so easily; it seemed she locked eyes with a handsome stranger, tumbled with him a few times, and then they were suddenly madly in love with each other, all for it to be for nothing when William made his excuses for her to leave. I am also not a fan of detailed sex scenes (though this is personal preference). It’s for these reasons I give the book four stars.

Even though I wasn’t sure about some parts of the story midway, the book did not falter. Caitlyn was sensible with her relationship, accepting that it couldn’t ever turn into anything more serious because of the magic hold on her. When you finally think that she is free of the witch controlling her life and her being, the story comes to a thrilling finish with a twist I didn’t see coming. I’m very thirsty for the next story, so keep your eyes peeled for a review of the final installment of this awesome trilogy!

4stars

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Spoiler-Free Book Review: “Caitlyn (Book One) Three Bloody Pieces” by Elizabeth Davies

Although I adore new worlds borne from the imagination of fantasy writers – they push the boundaries of their fictional universe, creating a new history, races, and cultures that we can explore and discover – I also have a soft spot for historical fiction. Exploring the story of characters that live in the real world gives them a sense of wonder and magic. If I read a story that is set in our world a few hundred years ago, we know that our ancestors lived in a similar world, facing the challenges and obstacles the character does.

I recently came across a historical fantasy called Three Bloody Pieces. It is the first of the Caitlyn trilogy, written by Welsh paranormal author Elizabeth Davies. Always eager for something new to read, I delved straight into this novel after enjoying the free sample.

Three_3bloodypieces_e_Cover“A dead king, a queen who is more than she seems, and a witch who uses the dark arts to entrap her. Queen, widow, beggar – Lady Caitlyn is all three, and now she can add murderer to the list. When death and treachery propels her south to Normandy, to seek sanctuary with the exiled Prince Alfred, visions of a woman with ancient eyes travel with her. Herleva is a woman filled with ambition and greed. A woman who intends to be more than a commoner. A woman who gets what she wants by whatever means possible, even if she has to practice the dark arts to achieve her goals. A woman who is a witch. Caitlyn finds herself caught up in a magic which changes her very being. A magic which produces a king to change the lives of every man, woman, and child in England.”

Davies’ writing style was authentic and vivid. I followed the story at her comfortable pace, finding it easy to imagine the scenes around me. Sometimes you come across books that focus so much on the description that they lose you on the way. This didn’t happen with Three Bloody Pieces. There was enough description to conjure images of the characters and surroundings without overwhelming us with unneeded “fluff.”

We are thrown into the action from the very first page. Lady Caitlyn has lost everything: her kingdom, her husband, and the victory she’d expected in their battle. Her husband is lying dead at her feet, the approach of enemy soldiers heavy on her shoulders. With barely enough time to bury King Rhain before they have to flee, Caitlyn must set her grief aside and focus on survival. A queen by birth and also by marriage, she is in danger from her husband’s enemies and forced to leave her unfortunate people behind to fend for themselves.

This novel kept me on my toes. Every time I thought I’d be able to guess what was coming, the story went in an entirely new direction. This gave it an incredible lack of predictability which, to me, is very important.

I also really liked Caitlyn’s character. She was brave and could get on with things even when a weaker person would have crumbled. I suppose that by entering an arranged marriage at a young age, she had accepted what fate had in store for her and had even grown to care for her husband; this situation must have prepared her for a life of adapting to her situation even if it were terrible. Caitlyn was certainly pushed to her limit several times, but she never despaired.

The first part of the novel was like a gritty fantasy adventure. Caitlyn was getting strange visions of a terrifying, unknown woman who cut up dead bodies and performed strange rituals with them. Caitlyn and her temporary protectors fled from her homeland in Wales and to a nearby lord who might be able to help her.

I was slightly disappointed that there wasn’t more of a build-up between two very important scenes, but that might be personal preference. The overall mood of the book changed halfway through with a strange twist. If you’ll look at the other reviews on Amazon, you’ll see I’m not alone in thinking this twist was a little weird. I actually almost stopped reading, but I was invested in Caitlyn’s life and was curious as to what would happen next.

As well as being brave and adapting to her unfortunate new lifestyle, Caitlyn remained an empathetic, caring person. She also had a great amount of sass that had me laughing aloud sometimes. This added realism to her character – she wasn’t just a noble queen with a brave attitude, but quite down-to-earth, relatable, and funny with her sarcasm and comebacks, especially the ones she thought to herself as she held her tongue. We’ve all done that before! I can’t list most of my favourite quotes without giving away spoilers, but one of the funniest was “She looked as though the last contact she’d had with water was at her own Christening.”

Even though the aforementioned twist was hard to swallow, the book redeemed itself. I watched Caitlyn and the challenges she had to face, some keeping me at the edge of my seat. Three Bloody Pieces was so charming and well-written that I couldn’t help but buy the others of the trilogy right away. I won’t be forgetting this story in a hurry and I’m eager to read the next.

I want to give Three Bloody Pieces four and a half stars, but unfortunately, that’s not possible. Therefore, I’ll be giving it four stars on this blog and five stars on Amazon and Goodreads.

4stars

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Spoiler-Free Book Review: “Gerald’s Game” by Stephen King

Unless you’ve been deprived of all movies and books your whole life, there’s no doubt you’ve heard of the man, the legend, the award-winning and best-selling American author, Stephen King. Even if you’ve never read any of his novels, it’s likely you’ve seen, or at least heard of, films based off his works such as The Green Mile, The Mist, or The Shawshank Redemption.

It’s a bit embarrassing for me to admit, but Gerald’s Game is actually the first Stephen King book I’ve read. As a twenty-five-year-old supposed book lover, this isn’t what you might call ideal, but there you go.

Many authors who are supposed to be geniuses are really difficult to read; I bought a Hemingway book not too long ago and really struggled to get through the first few pages. I suppose I felt that any of King’s books would be the same. I was wrong, of course; King’s writing is beautifully smooth and I zoomed through the 468-page paperback in a couple of days.

First, the cover.

I’ve no idea if this is the first edition from 1992, though I’ve a feeling it isn’t. I love this cover. By today’s standards, some may say it’s too garish, too simple, but it perfectly covers the glaring horrors that lie with in along with 1960s nostalgia that becomes relevant once you know the story. I actually adore this cover.

“Once again, Jessie Burlingame has been talked into submitting to her husband Gerald’s kinky sex games – something that she’s frankly had enough of, and they never held much charm for her to begin with. So much for a “romantic getaway” at their secluded summer home. After Jessie is handcuffed to the bedposts – and Gerald crosses a line with his wife – the day ends with deadly consequences. Now Jessie is utterly trapped in an isolated lakeside house that has become her prison – and comes face-to-face with her deepest, darkest fears and memories. Her only company is that of various voices filling her mind . . . as well as the shadows of nightfall that may conceal either an imagined or very real threat right there with her . . .”

This psychological horror is the nightmare of “what-if” scenarios. The laughably unlikely happens, leaving Jessie in a terrible situation, her own thoughts and suppressed memories only making her experience more dire.

The story has layers upon layers, making it much more than a simple survival horror story: deep and dark memories which she is forced to relive and may ultimately help her in its own twisted way; events that make us question Jessie’s reality itself, and events that you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy. King delivers an expertly crafted exploration of mental and physical anguish and unlocks Jessie’s sad and horrific past, which despite being a long time ago, still clings to her in the present day.

There is a great movie based on this book, though there are several big differences. It’s a Netflix original, much faster paced than its book equivalent but still great. I won’t go into the differences right now as this review is spoiler-free. I recommend reading the book first for the full effect; you’ll feel your stomach dropping like a stone at the last few pages.

After reading Gerald’s Game, which thrilled and legitimately terrified me, I now consider myself a Stephen King fan! Better late than never, yes? An easy five stars for this fantastic novel.

Recommendations of more great King books are welcome! I’ll definitely get round to reading 1408 and The Mist, since I love both of those movies.

(Links aren’t working right now for some reason, but I’ll provide a link to the book on Amazon when I can.)

Thank you for reading! Please recommend your favourite Stephen King novel on my Twitter or in the comments below.

The “Girls in Love” Books by Jacqueline Wilson are Great for Teenage Readers

For late 90s/early 2000s nostalgia (a similar timeframe to the brilliant Darren Shan saga) I picked up Jacqueline Wilson’s Girls in Love. I remember it being a TV show years ago although, like Tracy Beaker (another Wilson book), it wasn’t much like the novel.

There are four books in the Girls quartet: Girls in Love, Girls Under Pressure, Girls Out Late, and Girls in Tears. Most of Jacqueline Wilson’s books are about girls around 8-11 years old, but in this series we follow Ellie, who is 13, and her two best friends in the same year at school.

These stories really reminded me of being a teenager. No mobile phones or iPads, lots of drawing and reading, and the very early times of having one computer per household (any other 90s kids remember the “computer room?”).

In Girls in Love, Ellie and her two best friends, Magda and Nadine, all get boyfriends… kind of. Nadine dates an older guy, Magda is a little jealous of said guy and chases after a boy at another school, and Ellie, self-conscious and green with envy, makes up a boyfriend, named after the dopy and nerdy boy Dan she met on holiday and based on her gorgeous neighbour.

We got to learn a lot about Magda, Nadine, and Ellie in this book. Like many of Wilson’s main characters, she is shy, creative, and self-conscious. She loves to draw and is worried about her friends (who, in her opinion, are much prettier and cooler).

Click here to get Girls in Love.

Girls Under Pressure was much more serious. Ellie develops an obsession with her weight, which threatens to turn into something more serious.

Wilson has an excellent way of writing from the eyes of a teenager, and many people can probably relate to how Ellie is feeling.

Click here to buy Girls Under Pressure.

I also enjoyed Girls Out Late, where Ellie gets her first proper boyfriend!

I’m not sure whether I really like him or not. He tends to get jealous of Ellie’s friendship with the girls and demands a lot of her attention. Still, it’s perhaps more realistic as he’s only 16.

Click here to get Girls Out Late.

Girls in Tears is heart-wrenchingly sad and I actually felt angry and upset myself while I was reading it.

Ellie deals with family problems, her friends having private jokes, and even betrayal from her boyfriend. It shows how difficult life can be for teenagers and Wilson delivers it perfectly.

Click here to get Girls in Tears.

I like these books a lot, and it was fun to engage in some nostalgia in the week it took me to read them. If you have a teenager, she might like these books.

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

The final in the Divergent series by Veronica Roth is Allegiant, which I bought at the same time as the second in the series. I didn’t think much of Insurgent, but thought I might as well finish the series, especially since I’d already bought the paperback.

AllegiantIn this installment, Tris and Tobias finally leave the city and we find out what’s happening in the world beyond. I found the world to be quite exciting, with a satisfying explanation that opened our characters’ eyes to what was outside their city. We didn’t see as much of the world as I’d have liked, though I enjoyed the irony that the Divergent were feared and even killed in the city, yet were considered better outside.

Each chapter was either from Tris’ or Tobias’ perspective. There wasn’t much difference between their voices, something the author should have worked on more. I sometimes had to go back and check on whose eyes we were seeing the world from, which was a problem that, apparently, a lot of readers struggled with.

Without giving too much away, the ending was really unexpected and I was, unlike some readers, actually really happy with it. Tris was becoming an annoying know-it-all and the ending helped redeem her of that. Although I didn’t feel like we saw enough of the world (despite this being a 600-page book), I was eager to see the conclusion of this adventure and I certainly thought it was better than the second installment.

I’m not sure if I’ll read the books again and I don’t care enough about them to sit and watch the movies. I watched Divergent on Netflix, which is how I discovered the story, but switched off Insurgent a few minutes in, mostly because I hadn’t enjoyed the book that much. With all this in mind, as well as the redeeming ending and easy-to-read narrative, I give Allegiant three stars out of five.

3stars

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