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VAMPIRE'S ASSISTANT by Darren Shan

VAMPIRE'S ASSISTANT

From the Cirque du Freak series, volume 2

By Darren Shan

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-316-60610-3
Publisher: Little, Brown

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)