In the tradition of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, New York Times best-seller Cirque du Freak is the first title in the popular Saga of Darren Shan series.
Darren Shan and his best friend, Steve, get tickets to the Cirque du Freak, a wonderfully gothic freak show featuring weird, frightening half human/half animals who interact terrifyingly with the audience. In the midst of the excitement, true terror raises its head when Steve recognizes that one of the performers - Mr. Crepsley - is a vampire!
Steve confronts the vampire after the show finishes - but his motives are surprising! In the shadows of a crumbling theater, a horrified Darren eavesdrops on his friend and the vampire, and is witness to a monstrous, disturbing plea. As if by destiny, Darren is pulled to Mr. Crepsley and what follows is his horrifying descent into the dark and bloody world of vampires.
This is Darren’s story.
©2013 Darren Shan (P)2013 Blackstone Audio
I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature.
“Only the world’s dumbest person would run a risk like that again. Step forward — Darren Shan!”
Darren Shan (which is the name of the author and the protagonist of the CIRQUE DU FREAK series) was having a pretty normal life until one of his best friends finds an advertisement for the Cirque du Freak. After they “borrow” some money from their parents and sneak out at night, Darren and Steve discover a weird world that they never could have dreamed of. Darren is particularly enchanted by Mr. Crepsley and his performing spider, Madam Octa. This spider kills a goat on stage and then obeys Mr. Crepsley’s commands. When they stay after the show, Darren and Steve discover that Mr. Crepsley is a vampire!
Darren should have left well enough alone, but, unfortunately, he makes another crucial error in judgment. And another, and another. Horror is heaped upon horror and, at the end of the book, the lives of Darren and his friends and family are changed forever. In a very bad way.
A Living Nightmare is a horror novel for older children and young teens (I’d say ages 10-15 are probably the target audience) and it’s pretty effective. As an adult, I found it scary and it even gruesome in parts. Kids who don’t like horror may not appreciate it, but those who do are likely to find this to be a fast-paced, compelling, unputdownable read. The series is immensely popular around the world and a movie has been produced.
Even though Darren makes some really dumb mistakes, he’s a likeable kid who you can’t help but root for. I do wish, however, that he’d had a better grammar teacher. Sentences such as “Steve and me looked at each other and gulped” really make me cringe.
As a parent, I hated the ending of A Living Nightmare. I can’t tell you what happens or it will spoil the whole thing, but I’ll just say that it’s obvious that Darren Shan (the author) was not a parent when he wrote this. A particular conversation that Darren’s mom and dad have at the end would never happen. But, even so, the ending is completely (horrifyingly) compelling and will have most of Shan’s readers eager to pick up the next book, The Vampire’s Assistant, immediately. Which is what I did.
There are twelve books in the CIRQUE DU FREAK series and Blackstone Audio has been releasing them on audio. They’re narrated by Ralph Lister. Lister is one of the most enthusiastic narrators I’ve ever listened to and sometimes I love him and sometimes I don’t. He’s wonderful with the scary tense scenes, but he tends to overplay the quieter scenes which, I think, disrupts the tension-release that author Darren Shan does so well. I’d suggest listening to a sample to make sure you like Lister’s style.
Love listening to audio books at work or on the road.
The voice of Ralph really worked for this story. He brings it to lfe.
all of it.
My wife got me to start listening to the stories and now I am way ahead reading all her books.
Yes. I loved the narrator, and I fully enjoyed this quick listen.
I liked the circus master. I can't remember his name, but he sounds so mysterious and creepy, but you want to know more.
I started reading it, but I decided to try the audio and I'm so glad I did. He adds an extra oomph of creepy.
I did, and I'm so glad I was able too, because I loved it so much.
Start it now!
I love this series. the first few books are a little rough around the edges, and have a fairly childish tone, but they improve in these aspects drastically as the series continues.
As for the performance, I found it to be very lacking. Much like the movie, the casting was terrible. the reader had a great voice, and was easy to listen to. However, the book felt far more childish while listening to it compared to reading it. The readers tone was very poor for this book, and I am very seriously debating listening to the rest of the series because of it. A horror book should not feel like something out of Willi Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, especially if the book is targeting teenagers.
Cirque du Freak isn't bad, it's just not very original or creative. As a whole; it's still a fairly fun story that I enjoyed, but you won't find anything new here. Very typical vampire tale. I will say that one of my biggest gripes is that the protagonist, Darren Shan, is totally unrealistic in terms of how children actually act. The author's self-insert was fairly lame. he also messed up in choice of words, constantly calling "venom" "poison."
The narrator was great, although his pronunciation of certain words was strange. Particularly, the way he pronounced "advertisement."
Admittedly, I saw this movie years ago. Wasn't bad, although a little childish (which I'm not complaining about). I'm also not that into vampire stories. However, I have always been intrigued by this story, not sure why. So when I had the chance to read it, I jumped.
This was not a bad story, a little heartbreaking, but a great setup to a series. I will read the next book before I decide to continue on or be finished with this story. I'd recommend this book to teens who are looking a for a quick read about friendship, sacrifice, etc., and want a little of the vampire aspect as well.
I love to read. On average I read and/or listen to more than 100 books a year. Audible has been a fantastic addition to my life. Love it!
In the vein of R. L. Stine. Great for younger readers. I probably would have really enjoyed this when I was in 5th or 6th grade. Very heavy on the male character's and not as easily accessible to female readers. Not strong enough to have cross-over appeal for older readers or ESL students. Didn't love it enough to pick up anything else in the series.
I love this book, I mean really love it, it is well read and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
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