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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon November 25, 2009
I liked this book. It was short and simple and sweet. It made me cringe though, as Darren has a fondness for spiders as I love my cats and spiders aren't exactly my favorite insect in the world. There's a nice underlying creepiness throughout the book which I enjoyed as it kept me focused and my attention did not wander off. It was extremely fast paced and the book was far from boring. There were a few revelations and some parts where I thought sounded so predictable, actually surprised me as it didn't go the way I thought it would. Although I rather figured Steve would go the way he would, but if he didn't, the book wouldn't have ended as it has and it wouldn't have been as exciting.

I like Steve though, he's fearless and he's got a reckless streak that you can immediately identify as him being the one bringing all the trouble (not on purpose) but it's him that keeps the plot flowing and making it exciting. Although Darren is the main character, if it weren't for Steve in many aspects of the story, the plot would have stayed flat. I like Darren for his loyalty, although it didn't do much good anyway.

There's a great cliffhanger ending, and now I'm left wanting to read some more. It's certainly a great start to the series and will keep readers interested and engrossed as to what will happen next to these two boys. The only thing I thought was a little odd was sometimes the boys talked like adults so at times it just didn't sound so real, although I'm willing to let it go. The book was good enough that you can just ignore that little error.

Overall, a wonderful start to an interesting series. It gives freak shows a whole new meaning of creepiness and with a cliffhanger ending, you're bound to swallow this series up like candy.
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on June 8, 2004
Fourteen-year-old Darren Shan has always had an infatuation with spiders. He dreams about them, saves them, owns them, etc. So when he attends a showing of the Cirque Du Freak with his best friend Steve "Leopard" Leonard, and is introduced to an amazing spider named Madam Octa, Darren knows that he absolutely must have her, so he comes up with a plan to steal the spider, and blackmail her owner, Mr. Crepsley. What he doesn't realize is just how dangerous the spider is, and that the world Madam Octa is from, is filled with vampires, and things that go bump in the night, and, if he actually goes through with this crime, he'll end up as a major player in the game of the underworld.
Darren Shan has created an amazing new series in CIRQUE DU FREAK, that is sure to capture the attention of vampire fans the world over. His descriptions of the Cirque Du Freak show are so vivid, that you actually feel as if you are right there in the audience with Steve and Darren, watching it live. His hilarious commentary about Darren's crazy obsession with spiders, as well as his descriptions of Steve's wild antics will keep readers laughing out loud until the very last page is read. A must-read for all fans of Lemony Snicket's A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS, or the wonderful BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER book/TV series, as readers will find similarities between the two.
Erika Sorocco
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on May 9, 2004
A horror book that'll blow your mind. In the amazingly well written book Cirque Du Freak: A Living Nightmare by Darren Shan an ordinary school boy named, Darren Shan visits a strange and mysterious freak show with one of his best friends. His life slowly gets increasingly horrific as terrifying events cause his life to slowly go downhill eventually bringing him to the most nerve wracking choice friendship or the disparity of his own life.
This book brings horror and emotions to a new level. With an exciting storyline and lots of cliffhangers it's a book you can't put down. Many horror books have predictable plot lines and repeated storylines that you see in almost every horror story. Yet this book is different it has a constantly changing storyline, which makes the story unpredictable. Moreover it brings a unique sense of mystery that is vastly different than any other book you'll ever read.
The scenes and settings created by Darren Shan are described with massive details to form an image of what's happening in the book. Its like you're actually in the book experiencing the events. For example when Darren and his friend visited the freak show and the wolf man bit the ladies arm. You could feel the pulsing heart throbbing fear of that moment. The crowds awe, fear, and the confusion of the moment. Moreover the settings are illustrated and depicted so skillfully with words that there is no need for pictures in the novel. For instance when Darren and his friend go to the old theater. The aged look and the creepiness of the theater popped out vividly in my mind.
The characters aren't developed all that proficiently. They seem to be uncompleted and you don't ever seem to learn more about them. For example the author just said the kids names and that they were Darren's friends. You also learn brief details about them but not much more. I guess it isn't all that important but it would have improved the novel if the characters were more developed. For instance if the readers could learn more background info in order to gain a clear picture and a complete understanding of the novel. Even if the characters background info wasn't all that great. The author did do an excellent job of describing their appearance. Like you could picture the long imbedded scar on Mr.Creepsley's face. The long pause and chill you experience when you see the grotesque face of the snake boy. This really helped improve the novel. With the author's combination of descriptive settings and the characters appearance he created a topnotch novel.
The only thing disappointing about this novel is it's the length of the book. It ends to abruptly with a lousy conclusion of to be continued. Of course since it's a series it has to leave a cliffhanger. But since it's a hard to put down book, it shouldn't end that quickly. The author should have developed the book more to prevent the abruptness of its ending.
Overall this book was excellent. A horror thriller that you just can't put down. Its superb descriptions and first-rate storyline make this book the greatest horror book you'll ever read. I give it four stars for all the great qualities in this book but the lousy conclusion almost ruins the whole novel. I definitely recommend reading this book and all the other books in its series to get the complete and full excellency of the storyline.
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on March 20, 2002
There was once a child named Darren Shan who loved spiders. One day at school, one of his friends had a flyer that mentioned that there was to be a freak show not far from town in an old deserted theater. There were three people so they had to play it fair, because only two could go to the freak show. Darren and his other friend won the ticket and sneaked out at night to see the freak show. There were many bizzare creatures and people. But there was especially one person who Darren and his friend were amazed at. Darren however was interested at the spider that was large and extremely venemous. His friend was interested at the person that was controlling the spider. The man was called Mr. Crepsley. Darren then one night crept out and went back to the theater and stole the spider which was in a cage. He raised it and cared for it. Then he told his friend. The spider bit his friend at the neck. He was paralyzed for many days. It got worse and worse. So Darren got the spider and returned it to Mr Crepsley, the vampire. The vampire had a deal that Darren had to be a vampire assistant to rescue his friend, because Mr. Crepsley had a small potion that would cure the paralyzation. The cure was successful, and Darren was permanently a half-vampire. His adventures continues on the second book. The Vampire's Assistant.
Why I liked this book is because of the cliff-hangers at the end of each chapter. It makes make-believe characters come alive and makes them seem realistic. Once you pick the book up, you can never set it aside until your finished. Darren Shan goes from an ordinary kid, to becoming a half-vampire.The story also runs very smoothly. That is why I like this book.
My favorite part of the story is when Darren Shan and Mr. Crepsley connect their fingertips toghether. Mr. Crepsley, a full vampire, gave some of his blood to Darren. Darren then becomes a half-vampire. Which means that he has half the powers a vampire has. He also has the urges to drink blood, it keeps him strong and helps him survive. Darren becomes stronger and quicker than any child or human. That is my favorite section of the story.
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on December 17, 2001
I believe quite a few people will miss the experience of reading "Cirque de Freak - A Living Nightmare" because of the book's classification as a juvenile book (non-parents). This is truely a book for all ages.
My 8 year old daughter almost missed the opportunity to read this book because of it's size. Her school had not challenged the children to read a novel but had introduced them to chapter books. As a result the children were content to read a chapter and then set the book aside for a additional chapter for the 'morrow.
Because we are now the video generation, time is the essence
for the younger generation unless a story is so intriguing that a reader cannot put the book down. A child will be captivated by the unique twist on the occult and will continue their reading, this is a book that needs to be pried from their fingers. And it will excite them enough to want to share it with all their friends.
We began reading this book together with me reading aloud the first chapter and were going to alternate readers. However by the end of the first chapter my eight year old seized the book and continued reading it aloud. Since "Cirque du Freak" changes the portrayal of the sterotypical vampire it made perfect bedtime reading. The only other time I can recall this being done for chidren was in the "Bunnicular" series for younger children.
When our our hero, Daren sacrifices his own humanity for a friend's life, the reader without even being aware is shown a subtle example of character. One even sympathizes with how torn Daren is with parting with his family and causing them grief.
We ended by completing this book in a mere 3 days and were only frustrated at the end to find that it was the first in a series. To ease this frustration we immediately went out and purchased Book Two "The Vampire's Assistant". With only Christmas to distract, we eagerly await the next installment due out in March.
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on June 30, 2001
Darren Shan lead a perfectly normal life until the day he came across the "Cirque du Freak" flier that changed his world forever. "Cirque du Freak", or Circus of Freaks is basically what it sounds like, a freak show with acts such as the wolf-man, the snake-boy and Mr Crepsley and his spider. Determined to view the show, Darren and his friend Steve acquire two tickets and set off to the creepy old theatre in the dead of night. Here they are warned that every act is real and none are harmless. Initially sceptical, Darren and Steve are soon convinced when the wolf-man attacks a member of the audience.
But the act that changes both their lives for good is that of Mr Crepsley and his spider, Madame Octa. Fascinated by spiders, Darren is soon captivated by the unusual arachnid, but for Steve it is Crepsley who holds his attention. Recognising his as a famous vampire, Steve waits behind after the show and demands to join him as an assistant. This decision will have terrible consequences for both boys, but ultimately more so for Darren, whose plan to steal Madame Octa goes terribly wrong....
"Cirque du Freak" is the first part in the saga of Darren Shan. Spooky and entertaining, this is a darker, scarier, more complex version of RL Stine's "Goosebumps" series and is targeted at an older audience. Darren is a likeable narrator with whom readers should be able to identify with. Both adults and teens should enjoy this book as well as younger kids. I can't wait to read the next instalment in this brilliantly frightening new series.
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on May 28, 2001
Occasionally a children's book makes a magical leap into the hearts of the grownups as well as its targeted audience. "Cirque du Freak" is not one of them.
Pre-teen Darren is our narrator and the nom de plume of the author. The story takes place in Anytown. It sounds like the U.S.A, but was originally published in the UK. The book has an uneven pace mixing thrills with tedium. I think the story will hold the interest of the 9-12 group though a few might balk at the stereotypical parents. The interesting adults are the freaks and vampires. Darren is good, kind, resourceful and properly adventurous. He is marvelously cool about spending a day in a coffin underground. (That section had me hyperventilating. As a child, I would probably have had nightmares.) The dialogue is very uneven; I cannot imagine a 12-year old boy ever saying "I was positively terrified" to a good buddy. The author has difficulty holding the child's-eye view and slips back into adult-type observations.
Long ago, this type of book would have been called a "penny-dreadful" the precursor of scary comic books. It leaves the hero hanging, and the last words are "To Be Continued."
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on May 27, 2001
As I read this book, I was reminded of a quote from Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut--"My god, if only Kilgore Trout could *write*." That, my friends, is my reaction--the book would be great if Darren Shan could write.
Granted, the man can wield nouns and verbs with the best of them. He can write a proper sentence, make the reader laugh, and keep his audience more or less interested. However, his multiple errors and clumsy dialogue are, at times, quite distracting. It's hard to focus on a plot--even an incredible plot--when one's mind is occupied with picking apart the dialogue. This is a pity; the plot provides many twists and opportunities for shock. However, when these opportunities are passed to Shan, he almost invariably fumbles.
This being said, let me tone down my criticism. For those under the age of, say, 13, this book is great. Even those who are older, the story itself is able to provide some entertainment. If, however, you are a writer, or are used to a more polished version of children's literature, you buy this book at your own risk. I would give it two-and-a-half stars.
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I put off reading this book for quite a while, on the basis that I didn't want anyone assuming that I read it solely because of JK Rowling's recommendation. Fans of Garth Nix's "Seventh Tower" series, with the unresolved endings, may like this book...
Darren and his friends are ordinary enough kids, who find a flier for the traveling freak show "Cirque Du Freak" -- snake boy, the wolf man, giant spider -- and a vampire. Not a warm and fuzzy exhibit show.
Darren and his friend Steve sneak to the freak show, where the ominous Mr. Tall informs them that every act is real -- which, naturally, they are (will kids read a scary book about a fake freak show? Course not). Steve recognizes Mr. Crepsly as a vampire, and exhibits the truly "freaky" wish to be a vampire as well. (Counseling, kid, counseling!) Making the situation even more unreal is Darren, who has a thing about spiders and wishes to steal the enormous arachnid Madame Octa. Darren must deal with an enormous spider, a sideshow full of frightening freaks, and his own best friend...
Darren is just weird enough to fit into this freaky story, without losing the understanding and sympathy of the readers. Steve was a bit too weird for my personal tastes, wanting to be a vampire and so forth, and so I had difficulty connecting with him--but that may have been intentional.
The writing style is snappy and spooky, in keeping with this genre, without becoming too wordy or gross as many horror books are. Atmosphere is handled well, especially in the Cirque Du Freak, and in scenes with Madame Octa and the vampire Crepsly.
The book occasionally becomes a little creepy for younger kids and a little too dark for the faint-of-heart. Additionally, descriptions occasionally become too thin and the characters sometimes take odd actions--but again, the second thing may be deliberate.
Though not flawless, I'll read the next book with pleasure.
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on April 15, 2001
Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan
While this first novel for young readers is slightly marred by some careless editing (the folks at Little Brown should know much better!), it reveals great promise for a superb edition to the juvenile horror genre. Author Shan finely delineates several appallingly fascinating characters including the eponymic protagonist, but as ever in this sort of literature, the plot reigns. Intricate as the spider's webs which permeate the text, the reader turns the pages and wishes only to devour more at story's end. There have been comparisons to R. L. Stine's teeny terror tales, but Shan is a better writer and probably full of plots and characters that haven't been recycled for the umteenth hundred time. There are resonances of the vampire fiction of Anne Rice and Chelsea Yarbro with the merest soupcon of J. K. Rowling's wizardly romps as well. Some reviews aim the book at the 9-12 audience, but this old children's librarian would expect it to be a bit too intense for the former, and yet would captivate many an adult admirer of the genre.
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