Title: Vampire Blood Trilogy (Books 1-3 of The Saga of Darren Shan)
Author: Darren Shan
ISBN: 0007143745
Rating: 4/5

Cirque du Freak
Darren Shan’s an ordinary schoolboy, until he and his best friend Steve get tickets to the Cirque Du Freak, a bizarre freak show featuring such arcane performers as Hans Hands, Gertha Teeth, the Wolf Man and Rhamus Twobellies. In the midst of the ghoulish excitement, true terror raises its head when Steve recognises that one of the performers — Mr. Crepsley — is in fact a vampire!

Steve remains after the show finishes, to confront the vampire — but his motives are anything but ordinary! In the shadows of a crumbling theatre, a horrified Darren eavesdrops on his friend and the vampire, and is witness to a monstrous, disturbing plea.

Later, in a moment of insane daring, Darren sets out to steal the vampire’s magnificent performing tarantula, an act which will have severe, tragic consequences for both Darren and Steve. Their lives will never be the same again…

The Vampire’s Assistant
Having abandoned his old way of life to unwillingly serve as Mr. Crepsley’s assistant, Darren must accustom himself to the habits of vampires. But the change is difficult and the loneliness is crushing.

In an attempt to give Darren a sense of stability, Mr. Crepsley takes him to live at the Cirque Du Freak, where he is to share a tent with Evra Von — the Snake Boy introduced in Book 1. Darren soon fits into his new position — even if he doesn’t exactly enjoy hunting food for the ominous Little People! — and he and Evra befriend a curious young boy called Sam Grest, whose one great wish is to join the travelling freak show.

But all is not well with Darren. He refuses to drink human blood, even though he’ll die without it. While Mr. Crepsley argues with him, and tries forcing him to drink, Darren grows weaker and weaker. Will he resist the temptation of blood and sacrifice himself for the benefit of his humanity — or will some awful turn of events lead to his becoming a true, blood-sucking creature of the night???

Tunnels of Blood
Shortly after an old friend’s visit, Mr. Crepsley leaves the Cirque Du Freak and heads for a city, taking Darren and Evra with him. The boys enjoy their stay in the city. Evra soaks up a lot of TV shows, while Darren catches the eye of pretty young Debbie Hemlock! But Mr. Crepsley’s behaving strangely, patrolling the streets every night, saying nothing of his purpose to Darren or Evra.

Then, in the run-up to Christmas, police discover several human bodies hidden in an old building — each of which has been drained of blood! Darren and Evra are horrified, and immediately set about shadowing Mr. Crepsley, on the understanding that if he’s the killer, they’re going to stop him — by any means necessary!

In a blood-soaked abattoir, Darren confronts his mentor, and aims for his throat with a rusty butcher’s knife. But this attack is just the start of the true nightmare, and soon Darren finds himself fighting not just for his own life, but for the lives of his friends, Debbie and Evra, both of whom are threatened by a force of sinister, murderous evil …

It’s well known that kids tend to like a good gross-out and Darren Shan delivers on every level. There’s plenty of the nasty blood and guts on offer, but there’s also a rip-roaring adventure and voyage of self discovery within the bounds of an ongoing tale of terror. It has thrills and spills at every twist and turn – the characters are fun and the action is fast-paced without letting the development suffer. This is well-written and animated and should delight readers, especially boys, from about 10 and upwards, but it’s equally fun for older readers who like a good, old-fashioned chiller every now and then.

And anyone who doesn’t like spiders (like me!) will get shivers down their spines!