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
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"Horror for children"
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.
"Still love it."
I first got this book in grade 3, some 10 or so years ago and loved reading it. It really brings back great memories listening to it.
"I love it!"
Yes, I would recommend this to a friend because it's FREAKING AWESOME!!!!
When Darren told us about the vacuum cleaner incident. :)
When they met Mr.Tall.
He's a vampire's WHAT!?!
Peeps out there, you should listen to this!
"Such a great introduction book!"
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!
"Great performance - didn't like story"
I'm not a vampire story person - so many bad choices - such a tragic tale. I won't be reading more of the series.
"Amazing book, different Narrator."
I love this book, ever since the first time I read it. I just wished it was recorded by a young kid of like 15 rather than an older man. The voice did not fit the story.
The reading really brings the story alive. Quite scary at times. Shows how a good boy can be drawn astray, a universal theme.
"The narration distracted me"
I thought that the story was awesome. My favorite part was the performances at the show especially madam octer.
The only thing I did not like was the narration it was very distracting for me, more so in the beginning of the story. He did a good job with some of the characters, however it was my least favorite narration of the 3 books on here that I've heard so far.
"Fun and entertaining"
Darren's story is fun and very typical of young high school boys. They are adventurous and fill of mischief. Both Darren and Steve find themselves in a world of the fantastical. I look forward to the next in the series.
"Really great narration and way better than movie"
I liked the movie so downloaded the audio book on a whim. very well written.
"Stephen King meets Harry Potter"
I am so excited to continue this series after this book. The story could trim a little fat and unessesery suspense slows down a otherwise fast paced and refreshing story. I can't say now, but it looks like this is a series I'll be reading for my kids one day, along with lotr and hp series. Give it a go!
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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