A Living Nightmare (Cirque Du Freak Series #1)
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A Living Nightmare (Cirque Du Freak Series #1)

4.6 585
by Darren Shan

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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!



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!

Stever remains after the show finishes to confront the vampire— 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 forrifying descent into the dark and bloody world of vampires.

This is Darren's story.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
"I loved being scared when I was little." Those are the words of Darren Shan, the young, adventurous narrator and author of Cirque Du Freak, and I understand him very well. Just like him, I grew up loving comic book monsters and campfire tales that sent shivers down my spine. Now I'm all grown up and still love being scared. Ever read a book that was so spellbinding it kept you hooked until the wee hours of night? Yes, they all promise that. But this is the real thing. For Shan's "true" tale is such frightful fun, I found myself reading the whole book in one sitting.

Darren Shan is like any other curious schoolboy who loves to hang out with his friends and read Spawn comics. He also has a little fixation with spiders. One of those insects graces the mysterious pamphlet that his friend Alan steals from the pocket of his big brother's pants. The pamphlet is an advertisement for a strange circus of freaks that is currently playing in their town. Darren and his three buddies -- Alan, Tommy and Darren's best friend, Steve -- are instantly smitten with the idea of attending. They pool their money and send Steve to get three tickets, but they soon find out they can only buy two. They draw straws, and Darren and Steve find themselves the lucky ones.

Finally, at night, they go to a decrepit old theater to witness the circus. What they see and what they get themselves into is too scary (and entertaining) to reveal here. There's also a lot of humor sprinkled throughout. Each chapter seamlessly leads from one dark room into another, introducing us to a supernatural world populated by a really cool cast of characters. (J. Mojica)

Publishers Weekly
The scenario is compelling, and the author mines the exploitative history of early 20th century sideshows to create an artfully macabre cirque du freak.
...sure to start some great urban legends...
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.
Children's Literature
Wasting no time in setting a tone of spine-tingling horror, Darren Shan tells his readers right at the beginning, "This is a true story." Darren and his best friend, Steve, secretly buy tickets for an illegal freak show. They are spellbound at the fascinating performances of the Wolfman, Rhamus Twobellies and Alexander Ribs. But nothing can match the amazing feats of Mr. Crepsley and his deadly spider, Madam Octa. Steve recognizes the man from the cover of one of his horror books—Mr. Crepsley is a vampire. Darren's envy of the spider prompts him to make a foolish attempt at thievery. And when Steve lies near death, the victim of a lethal spider bite, Darren's only chance to save him drives him to a terrifying decision—to become the vampire's assistant. The author's choice of using a "mock-umentary" style is a brilliant one. Rather than the usual frights associated with the horror genre, the reader is further addled by the sense of reality when Darren falls into a nightmare of vampirish proportions. Readers will be howling for the sequel (due September, 2001) to this bone-chilling novel. 2001, Little Brown, $15.95. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Christopher Moning
School Library Journal
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.

Product Details

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Cirque Du Freak Series , #1
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.77(d)
Age Range:
12 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt


I've always been fascinated by spiders. I used to collect them when I was younger. I'd spend hours rooting through the dusty old shed at the bottom of our garden, hunting the cobwebs for lurking eight-legged predators. When I found one, I'd bring it in and let it loose in my bedroom.

It used to drive my mom crazy!

Usually, the spider would slip away after no more than a day or two, never to be seen again, but sometimes they hung around longer. I had one who made a cobweb above my bed and stood guard for almost a month. Going to sleep, I used to imagine the spider creeping down, crawling into my mouth, sliding down my throat, and laying loads of eggs in my belly. The baby spiders would hatch after a while and eat me alive, from the inside out.

I loved being scared when I was little.

When I was nine, my mom and dad gave me a small tarantula. It wasn't poisonous or very big, but it was the greatest gift I'd ever received. I played with that spider almost every waking hour of the day. Gave it all sorts of treats: flies and cockroaches and tiny worms. Spoiled it rotten.

Then, one day, I did something stupid. I'd been watching a cartoon in which one of the characters was sucked up by a vacuum cleaner. No harm came to him. He squeezed out of the bag, dusty and dirty and mad as hell. It was very funny.

So funny, I tried it myself. With the tarantula.

Needless to say, things didn't happen quite like they did in the cartoon. The spider was ripped to pieces. I cried a lot, but it was too late for tears. My pet was dead, it was my fault, and there was nothing I could do about it.

My parents practically hollered the roof down when they found out what I'd done -- the tarantula had cost quite a lot of money. They said I was irresponsible, and from that day on they never again let me have a pet, not even an ordinary garden spider.

I started with that tale from the past for two reasons. One will become obvious as this book unfolds. The other reason is:

This is a true story.

I don't expect you to believe me -- I wouldn't believe it myself if I hadn't lived it -- but it is. Everything I describe in this book happened, just as I tell it.

The thing about real life is, when you do something stupid, it normally costs you. In books, the heroes can make as many mistakes as they like. It doesn't matter what they do, because everything works out in the end. They'll beat the bad guys and put things right and everything ends up cool.

In real life, vacuum cleaners kill spiders. If you cross a busy road without looking, you get whacked by a car. If you fall out of a tree, you break some bones.

Real life's nasty. It's cruel. It doesn't care about heroes and happy endings and the way things should be. In real life, bad things happen. People die. Fights are lost. Evil often wins.

I just wanted to make that clear before I began.

One more thing: my name isn't really Darren Shan. Everything's true in this book, except for names. I've had to change them because... well, by the time you get to the end, you'll understand.

I haven't used any real names, not mine, my sister's, my friends, or teachers. Nobody's. I'm not even going to tell you the name of my town or country. I don't dare.

Anyway, that's enough of an introduction. If you're ready, let's begin. If this were a made-up story, it would begin at night, with a storm blowing and owls hooting and rattling noises under the bed. But this is a real story, so I have to begin where it really started.

It started in a toilet.

Copyright © 2001 by Darren Shan

Meet the Author

Darren Shan is the New York Times bestselling author of Cirque Du Freak and The Demonata, whose novels have sold over 15 million copies worldwide. Darren lives in Ireland, where he writes and collects art, comics, and film.

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A Living Nightmare (Cirque Du Freak Series #1) 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 584 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i love this series i have them all i recomend it to everybody who likes vampires these books are just amazing you'll just love this it has so many twists and turns your going to be like OMG like all the time its awesome
artistagal More than 1 year ago
I read this series a long time ago, and I love it. I just wanted to say that it's being made into a MOVIE!!! Rumor is that the movie will consist of the first three books. I can't wait.
WillM More than 1 year ago
Darren Shans¿ Cirque Du Freak is the dark fascinating diary of young Darren Shan and his best friend Steve Leopard. From an early age, Darren has loved spiders; he would catch them and keep them as pets and let them loose in his room. At the same time, his best friend Steve Leopard was growing up on horror comics and stories of Dracula and the Wolfman. So it obvious that when they got older and the Cirque Du Freak, a legendary freak show, came to town promising amazing sights, they decide they have to go.
At the freak show they witnessed incredible sights, from the ferocious Wolfman to Mr. Creepsly with his beautiful but deadly spider Madam Octa. Upon seeing the deadly spider, Darren knows that he must have her, but Steve recognizes Mr. Creepsly from a painting of an ancient vampire. Darren can¿t help himself and he steals Madam Octa. All goes well for about a week but then Madam Octa escapes and bites Steve. So what will Darren do? He must either risk his life by going to the vampire or condemn his best friend to an agonizing death.
This witty story was an excellent read It is easy enough to read for young adults but twisted and surprising enough for any adult.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kids 9-13 I think would love this book I am # and I love it. Theres so many twist in the book. I am on the last book and I couldnt put it down
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is really good. i enjoyed it. read it in a day! awesome couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the book i read the book in my class first and everyone contines with the series. I read the book in three days i recomend it to all teens. it tells the story of a normal boy when he arrive at a freak show there are definetly some unxpected twists and turns it will leave you blood thirsy for more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book I havent finith it yet but i am 11 and i love it
alexandriaCA More than 1 year ago
I love this series to death...Darren Shan is a mastermind and knows how to frighten you, in a good way though. If you read this you are bound to finish it in less than a day. I enjoyed this book because it shows how vampires are really like...terrifying and blood thristy.
Giz-Mo More than 1 year ago
This is an awesome series of books. I don't really like series, but once I started reading this, I couldn't stop. It's not really scary, but it has enough freaky stuff to really grab my attention.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't describe how much fun it was to read this and how I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN!!!!!!!!!
LOVE_READING6 More than 1 year ago
READ THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AND THE WHOLE SERIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Seth More than 1 year ago
Cirque Du Freak: A Living Nightmare

A Living Nightmare is the beginning to an awesome Cirque Du Freak series. For starters Cirque Du Freak means freak show. Well, A Living Nightmare is mainly about friendship. But, all friendships are tested and toward the end of this book a friendship is tested. This book is also a great cliffhanger. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes fictional books or someone who likes adventurous books.
EB3140 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. The whole series is just amazing. If you thought this first book was a little boring (which I did not at all!!) still read the others because there are so many plot twists and surprises you can't even imagine. My favorite series I have ever read!
Saira More than 1 year ago
I ended up getting this book on Kobo before I went to Italy in case I couldn’t sleep in the night and wanted to read, turns out I got through about five chapters while I was out there and then didn’t even remember that I had a tablet in the first place.  I picked up the book again the other day and wondered why I had managed forget about it in the first place. It has been quite a while since I have read a book where the protagonist is a male and it was a really nice change.  Shan uses a simplistic type of story writing which works extremely well in this book. The book leaves you questioning more and more as each chapter goes on and as you get to the end of the book, some of your questions are answers, whilst others are left hanging in the air and wanting you to get the other books. It was a fast paced book which meant that it was quite easy to get through but it still had detail where it was needed.  I found that most of the characters were realistic, each one of them had their own little problems and difficulties which made you fall in love with even the background characters. My favourite character would have to be Mr Crepsley as I love the way he is portrayed throughout the book. His light-hearted approach to quite serious subject and his rather scary approach to things when he doesn’t get what he wants was enough for me to want to get to know more about his history. However, I really didn’t like the way that Steve was portrayed. Personally, I didn’t really find his character to be realistic and it just becomes more and more unrealistic as the book went on. Parts of the story when you knew he was supposed to come across more serious seemed to be more childish.  There were parts of the book where I did think it was slightly rushed and could have used a little bit more detail but other than that I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who’s looking for something a little out of the ordinary. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is great for people with a supernatural taste
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Omg this is a good book 5 star.if you are in to vampier stuff READ this
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book when it was first released and was instantly hooked to it, buying the next ones the second they were available in my local B&N. Its been a while since I read this series and found myself just as drawn into it the second time around as I had been the first. Its a great series and I recomend it for people of all ages!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LUVED THIS BOOK AND WHOLE SERIES YES THE 1ST BOOK STARTS OUT A LITTLE SLOW BUT AS U GET DEEPER IN THE SERIES THAT ENDS QUICKLY. THE AMAZINGNESS OF THIS SERIES CANT BE EXPLAINED IN WORDS U WILL NEVER FIND A SERIES BETTER THAN THIS ONE. it has so many twists and turns u wont believe it. i usually predict the story of books but this one i couldnt. i also reccomend the demonata series by the same author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was AMAZING!!!! It was a little slow at the beginning but once you hit the part about the visit to the freakshow the story becomes so compelling and mezmerizing that you cant put the book down. I was so drawn into the story that I was even a little scared to go to bed the night i had finished reading it thinking there was a vampire outside my window. It sounds ridiculus but that is how amazing the story is, it really draws you in. I cannot recommend this book, and the rest of the series, enough.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Cirque Due Freak a series by Darren Shan is amazingly interesting. It has so many twists and turns. It always will keep you guessing. It is the type of book that when you pick it up you do not want to put it down. It creates lots of suspension that you do not want to look away. This is a series you do not want to live with out.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This series is very interesting it always has me reading the book to the end. I just cant wait till i read the rest of the series!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is an awesome book!!! when i first read it i was on my edge of my seat and couldn't put it down!! THIS IS AN AWESOME BOOK!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read three books in this series so far and they a exellent!!!! My favorite character is Evra a snakeboy!!!Like they said Darren shan makes this book great!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Awesome! So awesome, words can't describe it. aw man. just thinking about it makes me wonder what is happening in the next book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first read this when I was in the 5th grade and I was probaly about 10 or 11 at the time, so the way I came across it was that I seen it in a scholastic book booklet thing from school. So I got the book, and so I read it and I enjoyed it alot. Although after that I didnt bother with the 2nd book, at least not until several months amabye more had passed, I was i a book store and seen it and got my grandmother to get it for me, so I read that it seem to be even better, so there off I was hooked. Whenever I had the money to buy them I went and bought them where ever I could, This book series was amazing I would and do recomend this and the demonata by the same author, to any one that is age appropiate. Out of the twelve books in the series the eleventh I think is my favorite, do to the fact it is very action filled, and basically leads to the end of the amazing series, and well it seems, for me, it is always books that are later in a series intrest me most because i get so into them and the ending explains it all, ok sorry lol got off topic, like i was typing, me being like ten when i read this book, so i was unable to really see the smaller things that do have an impact on the story, what I mean is reading it so young isn't like reading today, today I am 17, and the more I read this series, the better it gets in time, so this may be the best series ever, 'still debating between this story and the demonata the authors new series' Ok well I might of been off topic most of the time but I hope yall understand that this is a amazing book, and always will be, without this series I might not of ever got into 'reading'