Birth of a Killer Paperback – Sep 5 2011
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"His writing is slick, his dialogue sharp and clever, his plotting immaculate. His books ooze with the kind of creepy, dark atmosphere and powerful characters that young teenage readers lap up. Shan is honing his craft with every book, and I look forward to the next gore-fest with relish." Irish Independent "Forget Stephen King, this author's the master of scaring children." The Big Issue in Scotland "A tantalising start to the series and a must-read for Darren Shan fans." Books Quarterly --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Darren Shan is the number-one best-selling author of the series THE SAGA OF DARREN SHAN, the DEMONATA and more recently the SAGA OF LARTEN CREPSLEY and ZOM-B. His books have been read by millions of people around the world and translated into more than 25 languages. Darren lives in seclusion in the depths of Ireland. He is a big film buff, and also loves theatre, comics and books, and collecting art. He loves dreaming up new ways to terrify his readers, but never drinks blood. Or so he claims. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Anyway, unlike most other books, this one got a full 12:00 AM - 3:00 AM slot and was read straight through. The pacing's great; there were no instances where I felt bored or like I should go do something else. The beginning (pre-vampire) is great and gives a good insight into the world that he lived in. It's the beginning of the 19th century (I believe) and we're given a nicely painted image of what life was like for children back then - work, work, work. I must also say I'm very pleased with the explanation for why his hair is that vibrant orange color.
Post-apprentice sections fly by, which is probably my only criticism of the book. It seems like we're skipping time a lot and don't get a chance to really acclimate to a particular time in Larten's life. In that way, the scenes can feel a little disjointed because there isn't much tying them together, except our understanding of how vampire apprenticeship works. There are only going to be four books in this series, so some allowance is there for getting through the plot, but I still feel like I'd be happier taking this a little slower. I'm most sad to see that we didn't get to see him be blooded and experience the change from human to vampire, which was one of my favorite parts in Darren's adventure. Regardless, I imagine there's going to be a lot of really interesting content that comes up after the end scene of this book, so I'm hoping his early vampire life was rushed through for good reasons.
It's incredibly strange and fascinating watching him grow up and become a vampire. His personality as a child and teen seem wildly different from his personality as a seasoned vampire when he takes Darren on. I'm very interested in learning where the rage goes and what other challenges are ahead, and how he transitions from angry to controlled. I'm hoping that we'll see some violence, as this book was considerably less violent than the average Demonata book. True that it's a different beast all together, but Larten clearly has rage problems, and Darren always manages to throw in something horrific but beautifully written - and knowing his track record with Demonata, I'm sure he'll deliver!
This book is not only satisfying for curious fans of Larten, but Seba is an absolute gem too. The guy is hilarious, especially with some of the tests he gives and the way he talks. He's brilliant and mysterious, and I think anyone who was a fan of Larten-as-mentor would appreciate Seba-as-mentor just as much.
Born into an impoverished family, Larten and his siblings are forced to work hard. Every morning they trudge into a world of long hours and brutal treatment at the factory. His cousin Vur, slight and gentle, lives and works along with Larten "...twelve hours a day, six days a week, and eight hours on most Sundays, with no more than a handful of holidays every year."
Larten is resigned to the fact that his mother is oblivious to his existence other than the fact that he helps with the family income. She is not affectionate, has no time for playful children, and slaps them all out into the world as soon as they are able-bodied. His father, having worked in the same factory at one time, is somewhat more sympathetic and would like the boys to have a different occupation, but at the moment, this is how it has to be. The foreman, known as Tzar, is a vicious man. It is known that he has actually bitten off some noses and ears --- he does not fool around. Some of the children are actually slaves who have been sold to him; others, like Larten and his cousin, are under-paid workers. All are treated with the same distain and the same indifference. Indifference, that is, until something happens, such as talking while they work, not going fast enough, or dropping something; any small infraction can lead to terrible beatings. The slave children often die in service --- from starvation, overwork and the constant thud of Tzar's fists. They all live in constant terror.
Almost every day at the factory begins with having their hair dyed. Tzar likes to keep track of where each child should be at a given moment --- orange hair works the cocoons, blue the looms, etc. The dying process is fast and nasty, with the foreman dipping their heads several times into the stinking vats. Larten cannot remember the color of his hair because he has been working since he was eight. Even under such terrible circumstances, Larten and Vur still manage to enjoy and support each other. Vur has become like a real brother to him, and the boys often talk of how their futures will play out once they are able to get away from the factory. But all this changes the day Larten becomes a killer. Exactly how or why does a young boy murder someone?
One day Tzar begins to torment Vur. He has never liked the quiet, small boy and suddenly has the opportunity to use him as an "example." Vur is not working fast enough, and when he protests, the foreman begins beating him. As the children watch in silent horror, Tzar's fury goes completely out of control as he upends the boy in one of the vats. Holding his head down, he waits until the little feet no longer move. It is at this moment that Larten springs into action! In a fury to save his friend before it's too late, he hurls himself at the cruel man. Before anyone can move, Tzar lays dead, and Larten runs wildly from the factory.
Larten runs from a sure fate --- his punishment for daring to disrespect the man in charge. He really runs when he realizes he can never go back because there is no place to go, no home, no one who will protect and understand what has happened. So he runs for a long time. When he finally is able to stop, he finds himself in a tomb, and it is here that he finds the beginning of his new life. It is here that Larten meets the vampire known as Seba. There are certain things that an ancient vampire can offer a vulnerable boy. There are very big sacrifices that will have to be made if he dares to join Seba in this part of his journey. What can he do, and how will he make such a hard decision? Or is it that hard to fall into the hands of a dark and powerful force?
Going backward in time, Darren Shan now takes a look at the events leading up to his famous Cirque du Freak series. The success of these books has led to an amazing fan base, plus a wildly fun movie, The Vampire's Apprentice. For a long time, readers have been wanting to know the how of what came before, and here we have the first of four books --- Larten's life before he becomes one of the most powerful forces of the dark world, plus the introduction of an amazing cast of characters.
Shan's website offers more fun, adventure and exploration of Larten Crepsley and the upside-down world of vampires and vampaneze. Cirque du Freak fans will not want to miss a single moment in Larten's unforgettable, tantalizingly delicious world.
--- Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts
So begins Larten Crepsley's meeting with the mysterious Seba Nile, a meeting that sets Larten on the path to becoming a vampire. How did Larten come to be hiding in a crypt, eating cobwebs when he had started the day as a child laborer, not so different from all of the other children he knew?
The day started as any other, with Larten rising early to have a few moments of peace before his mother's yells woke his siblings and cousin, Vur. After a hurried breakfast of watery porridge, Larten and Vur headed to work at a silk factory run by the cruel foreman Traz. But Larten's world was turned upside down when Traz, in a fit of temper, killed Vur. In a haze of despair and anger, Larten struck back, killing Traz. Forced to flee the city with no supplies, Larten sought shelter from a storm in the only dry place he could find, a crypt. Little did he expect that someone, or something, else had already sought refuge there.
Birth of a Killer chronicles Larten's experiences first as a vampire's assistant, including his own introduction to the Cirque du Freak, and later as a new vampire. The action moves quickly, often skipping ahead years. Readers looking for an in depth examination of life as a vampire's assistant may be disappointed as the book moves from highlight to highlight, focusing on milestones in Larten's journeys. After all, the author has 200 years to cover in just four books.
Shan's vampires are violent creatures of the night, yet this book stops short of being a true horror story. Fans of the Cirque du Freak series will consider this prequel a must-read. But Birth of a Killer stands on its own and those who have not read the original series will still enjoy this story of dark beings of the night.
Disclosure: I received this book as an advance reader copy from the publisher in return for writing a review.
If you are a Larten fan, or just a Cirque fan in general, you should love this book. So much back story revealed and only more to come! :]