________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 19 . . . . May 23, 2003


The Vampire’s Assistant. (The Saga of Darren Shan, Book 2).

Darren Shan.
Markham, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2002/2000.
233 pp., pbk., $8.99.
ISBN 0-439-97485-2.

Subject Headings:
Crepsley, Larten (Fictitious character)-Fiction.
Freak shows-Fiction.

Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

**** /4


I was buried alive and then, in the dead of night, with no one around, he dug me up and we took off together. My days as a human were over. My nights as a vampire's assistant had begun.

Darren Shan continues his tale of vampires in the strange and ghoulish environment of Mr. Crepsley and the Cirque du Freak. The Vampire's Assistant opens with a vampire attack on an unsuspecting man, and the fast paced action, often gruesome and scary, continues from there to the final page.

     In some ways, Darren has changed since becoming a half vampire, and he enjoys his super human strength and speed. In this novel, he continues to learn the ropes of "vampire dom". Readers, too, get a “vampire education” which explains such vampire myths as killing vampires with crosses, holy water or garlic, vampire Paradise, and the fact that vampires started the stories of UFOs!

     Because Darren is lonely and misses his family and friends, Mr. Crepsley decides they should rejoin the Cirque du Freak. There, Darren is re acquainted with such weird characters as Evra the snake boy, the vicious Wolf man, Mr. Tall, Mr. Tiny and the Little People. As the story moves along, Darren meets a local boy, Sam Grest, and RV, an environmentalist. These two are the catalyst for a chain of bizarre events which lead to a suitably freakish and fiendish finale.

     In The Vampire's Assistant, Darren is torn between his human life and his vampire life. Mr. Crepsley insists he must drink human blood, and Darren is disgusted and revolted by the idea. Yet, as he continues to refuse, he becomes more and more ill and loses more and more of his vampire abilities. This situation becomes a central theme of the novel.

     Once again, author Darren Shan has mixed his wild and crazy vampire world which will appeal to fans of the horror genre with deeper, more thought provoking issues. Readers wonder how Darren will deal with the difficult decisions he faces. Will he stick to his principles? What might persuade him to change his mind? And throughout the novel, Darren illustrates the importance of being concerned about others and putting friends first.

     The Vampire’s Assistant continues the saga of Darren Shan in ways involving plot, character and theme and is sure to be a hit with anyone interested in the genre of horror fiction and vampires in particular. If readers enjoyed the first book of the series, this installment will keep them reading!

Highly Recommended.

Ann Ketcheson, a former teacher of high school English and French, is currently the teacher librarian at Peterborough Collegiate in Peterborough, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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