Reviews for Cirque Du Freak : A Living Nightmare


Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 April 2001
Gr. 5-8. When Cirque Du Freak comes to town, Darren and his friends are obsessed with seeing the acts, which include a performing spider; spiders are a particular fascination of Darren's. It is a marvelously creepy show that lives up to their expectations. After the show, Darren's rowdy pal, Steve, stays behind and confronts the man with the spider--who turns out to be a vampire. Hidden in the shadows, Darren listens, horrified, as Steve begs Mr. Crepsley to make him a vampire, too. Steve's request is denied, but through a series of mishaps, Darren becomes the vampire. The unresolved ending will leave readers begging for more. The gripping plot moves forward at a lightning pace, and Darren's fascination with the grotesque will ring true for many. Though originally published in England, there are no off-putting Briticisms, just a rip-roaring story full of oddities, low-key horror, and occasional, unexpected poignancy. ((Reviewed April 15, 2001)) Copyright 2001 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2001 Fall
Darren Shan's forbidden excursion to a traveling freak show and his fascination with the show's poisonous spider entangles him in a dark underworld where, in exchange for his friend's life, he must pledge his assistance to a vampire--and become a half-vampire himself. Facile crises and lack of attention to detail allow the story's initial creepy tone to deteriorate. Copyright 2001 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2001 February #3
With strong sales overseas and a movie deal in the works, book one in The Saga of Darren Shan series is poised to capture a wide audience of series horror readers. After a rather slow buildup, a boy with the same name as the author sneaks out with best friend Steve to an illicit freak show, and his life becomes entangled with a vampire spider-wrangler, Mr. Crepsley. "This is a true story," writes Shan. "In real life, bad things happen. People die. Fights are lost. Evil often wins." The scenario is compelling, and the author mines the exploitative history of early 20th-century sideshows to create an artfully macabre "Cirque du Freak." But Darren's actions are often undermotivated: "I can't explain why Madam Octa [the spider] meant so much to me, or why I was placing my life in such danger to have her. Looking back, I'm no longer sure what drove me on." Also his intermittent attraction to and repulsion by the vampire is never fully explored. His behavior may be explained in the sequel, The Vampire's Assistant (due in Sept.), but the open ending leaves so many loose ends that readers may leave more frustrated than intrigued, especially since the characters' wooden dialogue drains them of personality ("I'm upset," says Steve. "It hurt, what Mr. Crepsley said, and you ignoring me at school... If you break up our friendship, I don't know what I'll do"). Readers interested in boys becoming vampires would be better served by M.T. Anderson's Thirsty and those fascinated with freaks by Iain Lawrence's Ghost Boy. Ages 10-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2001 May
Gr 4-8-In his introduction, 12-year-old Darren claims that this is a true story, though the names have been changed and the country (obviously England) kept secret. When a bizarre-sounding freak show comes to town, he and his friend Steve sneak out to attend, and Steve recognizes one of the performers-as a centuries-old vampire. Darren decides he must steal the vampire's performing, poisonous spider. The theft is successful, and he learns to control Madam Octa with a combination of flute music and ESP-until she bites Steve. Darren must then sell himself into vampire slavery to get the cure to the spider's poison. This volume is neither as well written nor as compulsively readable as the "Harry Potter" books (Scholastic), though surely J. K. Rowling's endorsement on the cover will win it a few fans. Most of the characters aren't developed much beyond their names and a brief description. The slowness of the plot in the beginning might turn some readers off, but once the supernatural enters, they will be hooked. The fun here is in the details and in the uniqueness of the non-evil vampire monster. Several volumes of the series are already out in England, and the movie rights have already been purchased, ensuring that this title and probably its sequels will be in demand.-Timothy Capehart, Leominster Public Library, MA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2001 April
Life seems ordinary until the day Darren and his friends come across a flyer advertising a freak show that is coming to their neighborhood. Despite warnings from parents and friends, the boys make plans to attend Cirque du Freak. In the depths of a spooky old house, Darren witnesses acts that astound and horrify him. He is entranced by the performance of Mr. Crepsley and his deadly venomous spider, Madame Octa. By the end of the show, Darren knows he must possess this creature. He plans to steal the spider, but the theft pits Darren against a terrible opponent-Mr. Crepsley is a vampire. Somehow Darren manages to pull off the robbery. When Madame Octa injects her venom into a friend, Darren must turn to Crepsley for assistance. As punishment for his thievery, Darren is forced to pledge himself as Crepsley's servant. The stunning art work on the cover along with an enthusiastic blurb by J. K. Rowling are sure to guarantee that this book flies off the shelves. Short chapters make it a logical choice for reading aloud as well. Reluctant readers and fans of shows such as Buffy andAngel are the perfect targets for this first installment in what is indicated to be a series titled The Saga of Darren Shan. Careful readers will note that the name of the main character and that of the author are identical. This wry twist is sure to start some great urban legends about this vampire story and its origins.-Teri Lesesne. 4Q 5P M Copyright 2001 Voya Reviews

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