The Vampire's Assistant
by Darren Shan
In Book 2 of Cirque du Freak, newly-minted half-vampire Darren Shan becomes so lonely that his vampire master takes pity on him. Instead of keeping his 14-year-old, unwilling apprentice to himself, Mr. Crepsley takes him back to the traveling freak show where it all started. There Darren becomes intimately acquainted with such remarkable people as Mr. Tall, the boss of the show, who can disappear from one place and reappear instantly somewhere else; Mr. Limbs, who can cut off any part of his body and grow it back again within minutes; and Mr. Tiny, a terrifying man who manages the mysterious, blue-cloaked, and ravenous Little People.
Darren goes to work feeding the wolf man, hunting small game for the Little People, doing odd jobs around the camp, and assisting Mr. Crepsley in his performances with Madam Octa the trained spider. He and Evra Von the snake boy become fast friends. And the two of them also befriend a local boy named Sam, whose gruesome fate is tied to that of an environmental protester who lives in a neighboring camp. What happens one night when the plans of these two outsiders collide outside the wolf man's cage is best learned by reading this book—so long as you don't eat a big meal before reading it.
In the four trilogies of the Cirque du Freak cycle, Irish author Darren Shan seems to be telling the kind of story that would have captivated him when he was a boy who loved vampire movies and spooky comics. Though these books are not illustrated, they are told in such simple and direct language that your mental imagery may seem as vivid as any graphic novel. The narrator's routine illiteracies, such as using the phrase "Evra and me" as the subject of a sentence, might be forgiven as they seem so genuinely "in character" for a fourteen-year-old half-vampire. And Shan really knows how to tell a page-turningly intense, macabre story. He is especially skilled at teasing the nastiness to come, and so keeping the reader in a constant state of dread. With another ten books to go, this series promises plenty of unrelieved dread and macabre twists.
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 12+
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