The Barnes & Noble Review
Darren Shan continues the saga of a teenage boy who gets unwittingly drawn into a world of vampires, werewolves, and other freaky creatures with this second installment in his innovative Cirque Du Freak series. Shan's protagonist, who bears the same name as the author, is one of the most complex and innovative characters ever to see the light of day -- a freedom he may soon lose if he gives in to his craving for human blood and becomes a full vampire rather than a mere half-blood. Darren's dilemma is a tough one: Drink the blood of a fellow human -- an act that will cost him the few remaining shreds of his humanity -- or die.
Feeling lost, lonely, and at odds with himself, Darren is delighted when his vampiric mentor, Mr. Crepsley, makes the decision to rejoin the traveling freak show. Among the oddball characters who comprise the show's performers, Darren finally makes some friends, most of whom are as weird or weirder than he is. In an effort to regain some semblance of his old life, Darren also befriends two outsiders, normal human beings whose well-intentioned actions will eventually lead to tragic results. As events unfold with the same sense of inevitability as the rising and setting sun, Darren is once again torn between his own needs and those of the others around him. His heroism and self-sacrifice -- all done in the name of friendship -- garner results that are both tragic and rewarding.
It's to the author's credit that despite their deformities, strange abilities, and offbeat appearances, most of the oddball characters who populate the Cirque Du Freak come across as refreshingly self-reliant, confident, and...well...normal. This tight-knit community of outcasts, with their strong sense of family and friendship, make for an intriguing supporting cast. And while most YA readers may not be able to relate personally to Darren's moral and ethical struggles with his vampirism, they will undoubtedly connect with his overwhelming desire to fit in somewhere and belong. (Beth Amos)
In The Vampire's Assistant, the second installment of the series begun with Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan, the hero returns to the old-fashioned freak show where, thanks to Mr. Crespley, he became a "half-vampire." Darren once again struggles against the urge to feed upon the human blood his health requires. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
In this horror novel, the author and protagonist share the same nameDarren Shan. With that crafty twist, the action gets underway fast and furiously. Young Darren is a half-vampire, torn between the worlds of the living and the dead. Though attached to Mr. Crepsley, who made him a vampire, Darren cannot bring himself to partake of human flesh. Quickly he is learning that vampires do not live on animal blood alone. Driven by loneliness, Darren and Mr. Crepsley hook up with the Cirque Du Freak, a freak show circus that features a snake boy, a bearded lady, and Cormac Limbs, a man who can grow arms, legs and fingers as fast as you can chop them off. Darren finds friendship in the snake boy, Evra, and in Sam, a local boy who longs to join the freak show. But an overzealous animal rights advocate is determined to set free the insanely violent wolf-man, and we know that a gory, bloody climax is just around the bend. Shan is uncannily skillful in sucking readers into his macabre world. Against all reason, we really do get the sense that this is real. With this book, the second in Shan's creepy "Cirque Du Freak" series, it won't take long to gain a faithful following. 2001, Little Brown, $15.95. Ages 12 to 16. Reviewer: Christopher Moning
This second installment in the Cirque du Freak saga of Darren Shan picks up soon after Darren has been turned into a half-vampire by his master, Mr. Crepsley. Darren is sworn to a life of servitude to Crepsley. He must drink blood to survive now. He steadfastly refuses, however, to drink the blood of humans despite Crepsley's warning that he will die without it. Darren must cling to that part of himself that is still human. Drinking human blood, he fears, will erase all traces of the boy he used to be. Crepsley and Darren rejoin Cirque du Freak. There Darren makes two new friends: Evra, the snake boy, and a local boy named Sam. At first, life back at the freak show is a happy one for Darren. An unfortunate set of circumstances, though, causes the death of one of Darren's friends and an irrevocable change in him. Readers again will be drawn to this story of a young boy trying to find friendship and family despite his unusual circumstances. The novel provides the requisite chills and suspense and ends with a teaser from book three, Tunnels of Blood. Middle school and junior high students might enjoy this novel as a read-aloud. Fans of the genre will definitely enjoy meeting Darren again after reading A Living Nightmare (Little Brown, 2001/VOYA April 2001). Moreover, this book stands on its own, offering readers enough background of Darren's past to appreciate fully the story. VOYA CODES: 4Q 5P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2001, Little Brown, 224p, $15.95. Ages 11 to 15. Reviewer: Teri S. Lesesne
Gr 5-8-After a breezy two-page introduction that gives the major plot points of Cirque du Freak, readers are plunged back into the world of a young, newly minted half-vampire (a concept that is never fully explained). With his mentor, the creepy full vampire Mr. Crepsley, Darren is learning the ropes of the undead. Readers quickly get a rundown of the facts, the most important one being that vampires, even half ones, must have human blood to survive, and Darren can't bring himself to drink. There is not much plot here. He and Mr. Crepsley return to the Cirque du Freak. Darren and Evra, a snake-boy, make what is ultimately a tragic friendship with a local boy named Sam and a self-proclaimed "ecowarrior" named R.V. It is R.V. who precipitates the real action as he becomes suspicious of animals disappearing from nearby farms. The first-person narration seems superficial, and there is little depth to Darren's character. That said, Shan creates heart-pounding, page-turning action that will keep kids reading. He certainly knows his horror, and this book cranks up the gore factor a notch or two. Readers will get more information about the genuinely weird denizens of the Cirque du Freak. There are some genuinely horrific, almost painful moments, particularly at the book's tragic climax. Readers will be turning from the page, sickened, and then come back to find out what happens next. The question remains, where can Shan take his readers from here? Just how far will he go?-Tim Wadham, Maricopa County Library District, Phoenix, AZ Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
The sequel to Shan's successful horror debut (not reviewed) is another guilty pleasure. Shan, the author/narrator of this putative true account, is now a "half-vampire" and the assistant to the well-meaning vampire Mr. Crepsley. Since he refuses to drink human blood, Darren is slowly dying. After exiling himself from his family and friends, he is also lonely; so he and Mr. Crepsley return to the freak show where they met. There he bonds with Evra, the reptilian snake-handler, and Sam, a precocious human boy. Unfortunately, he also gets involved with R.V., a stereotypical unwashed hippie eco-warrior, who decides to make his next cause freeing the show's animal acts. Shan won't win any literary awards for this one-Darren's voice is stilted and unconvincing, suspense is created by contrived cliffhangers, ominous foreshadowing keeps falling from the sky like anvils, and the plot is gutted by elementary scientific blunders (such as repeated references to the python's "poison"). Once Darren becomes a freak-show insider, the eerie creepiness is not so easily maintained; but Shan more than makes up for that by ladling out great glops of macabre grotesquerie: a snake-boy who can lick the inside of his own nose! Mute misshapen dwarfs who feast on human flesh! The circus performer who saws off his own limbs! Gross-out horror fans will devour it and clamor for the next in the series. (Fiction. 10-14) $250,000 ad/promo