SNEAK PEEK PREVIEW: Birth of a Killer prequel to Cirque du Freak

Birth of a Killer (The Saga of Larten Crepsley) by Darren Shan; published by Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2010; 215 pages.

NOTE: This review is based on an ARC (advance reading copy) provided for free by the publisher.  The publication information is subject to change.  Expected release date: October 5, 2010.

“Larten Crepsley was a boy.”  He ate watery porridge and wore the same clothes for two weeks straight until his mother washed them.  He was a tortured child laborer back at the turn of the 19th century.  His hair was permanently died an unnatural orange, indicating his station at the silk factory.  His only consolation was his friendship with orphaned cousin, Vur.  When psychopathic foreman Traz murdered Vur, Larten retaliated in blind fury.  As he hid out, hoping to avoid the gallows for murdering his boss, Larten met his master.  Vampire Master, that is: Seba Nile.  Over the course of years, Seba trained Larten in the ways of vampires then turned the boy, now a young man, into a vampire.  But Larten was conflicted about his choice, about his future.

I am not a fan of the horror sub-genre.  I’ve heard about Cirque du Freak but have had no interest in reading it.  Horror?  Seriously, there’s enough of that on TV and in the news.  But when this prequel showed up for me to review, I decided I should give the genre a try.  Hmmm, not bad!  Like Seba found Larten’s blood mostly good but with some evil, I found this book mostly good.  In fact, I thought it was so interesting that I am debating picking up the original series to find out what the heck Larten Crepsley’s future does hold.

I’ve said before that I enjoy sci-fi and fantasy because the genres offer opportunities to study human nature more thoroughly without offending humans.  Who can be offended by ogres or orcs?  Well, in Birth of a Killer, Shan has illuminated some human nature through the eyes of vampires, vampaneze and other “freaks.”  That I like.  I also like that the blood-letting and other potentially horrific actions in the book were not depicted in graphic or drawn-out passages.  Like Alfred Hitchcock, Shan leaves quite a bit of the horror up to each reader’s imagination.  I’m sure fans of Cirque du Freak and the horror genre will be immediately drawn to this title; but I hope fantasy fans, and others who like a good creepy story, will pick it up as well.

More information about the series can be found at the author’s website, http://www.darrenshan.com/books/listing/the-saga-of-larten-crepsley/.

4P     3Q     Grade Level: 9-12+

Cover Art: My ARC had a plain black cover with interesting fonts.  I’ve seen two covers promoted online, both on Darren Shan’s official website, so I won’t comment on the cover at this time.

From Reading List: The Way It Could Be (Science Fiction or Fantasy)

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