The Saga of Darren Shan

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The Saga of Darren Shan
Saga of Darren Shan boxset.jpg
Boxset of book 1-6 of the Saga, published by HarperCollins.
Author Darren Shan
Country Ireland
Language English/Irish
Genre Horror, fantasy, thriller
Publisher HarperCollins Children's Books (UK)
Little Brown and Company (USA)
Published 4 January 2000 (2000-01-04) – 31 March 2004 (2004-03-31)
Media type Print (hardcover and paperback)
Audiobook
ebook

The Saga of Darren Shan (known as Cirque du Freak: The Saga of Darren Shan in the United States) is a young adult 12-part book series written by Darren Shan (pen name of Darren O'Shaughnessy) about the struggle of a boy who has become involved in the world of vampires. As of October 2008, the book has been published in 33 countries around the world, in 30 different languages.[1] A film based on the first three books in the series was released in theatres on October 23, 2009. Blackstone Audio has also released CD recordings of all 12 books in the series, read by Ralph Lister.

Background[edit]

Darren Shan, whose real name is Darren O'Shaughnessy, wrote and published the first book of the series, Cirque du Freak, as a side project between two adult books. Cirque du Freak received good reviews and Warner Bros. bought the movie rights in a seven figure deal[citation needed] prior to publication, though the film was never made and the film rights returned to Shan after three years.[2] Now, Universal Pictures own the film rights and a feature film was released in theatres on October 23, 2009.

Plot outline[edit]

The Saga of Darren Shan follows the story of Darren Shan, a normal human boy who is coerced by the vampire Larten Crepsley into becoming his assistant and a half-vampire.

  • In the first trilogy, known as Vampire Blood or The Vampire's Assistant, Darren learns about and comes to accept his vampirism.
    • In the first book, Cirque du Freak (also known as Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare), Mr. Crepsley makes Darren a half-vampire in return for saving the life of one of Darren's best friends called Steve Leonard.
    • In the second book, The Vampire's Assistant, Crepsley notes that Darren is quite lonely and brings him back to the freak show, where he befriends a snake-boy, Evra Von, and a human, Sam Grest.
    • In the third book, Tunnels of Blood, Crepsley brings Darren Shan and Evra Von to his hometown, where one of the vampires' enemies, a Vampaneze named Murlough, is murdering innocent people.
  • In the second trilogy, known as Vampire Rites, Darren learns about the vampire clan and seeks their acceptance.
    • In the fourth book, Vampire Mountain, Mr. Crepsley and Darren make their ascent up Vampire Mountain and learn about the rites of the vampires.
    • In the fifth book, Trials of Death, Darren faces the Trials of Initiation, nicknamed Trials of Death, to gain the recognition of other vampires as one of the youngest vampire to be recruited in decades.
    • In the sixth book, The Vampire Prince, Darren finds out about a traitor among them and tries to stop plans to destroy the vampire clan. He himself becomes a Vampire Prince, in this book.
  • In the third trilogy, known as Vampire War, Darren learns he may have a larger role to play in the fate of the vampires (and of the world) than he had ever thought.
    • In the seventh book, Hunters of the Dusk, the hunt for the Lord of the Vampaneze, who is destined to destroy the vampire clan, begins.
    • In the eighth book, Allies of the Night, Darren meets some of his past friends who now fit into his quest.
    • In the ninth book, Killers of the Dawn, Darren faces the Lord of the Vampaneze for the second time.
  • In the fourth trilogy, known as Vampire Destiny, Darren is forced to make some difficult decisions, finally taking his destiny into his own hands and dealing with the consequences.
    • In the tenth book, The Lake of Souls, Darren travels to an unfamiliar land to find out who his best friend, Harkat Mulds, used to be; as a "Little Person", Harkat's mind sans memories was placed into a new body after his death.
    • In the eleventh book, Lord of the Shadows, Darren finds out more about the Lord of the Shadows and gets closer to his last confrontation with the Lord of the Vampaneze.
    • In the twelfth book, Sons of Destiny, Darren faces the Lord of the Vampaneze for a final fight, and learns the truth about his parentage.

Main characters[edit]

Elements[edit]

Darren Shan's vampires[edit]

The vampires in The Darren Shan Saga are different from the standard vampires found in popular culture. They are truly alive, can be killed by a well-placed bullet, as well as decapitation or piercing of the heart, and are not inherently evil. Vampires do not drink from the neck, but cut a vein of a victim, drinking small amounts of blood from the vein, and then healing it with their saliva; a breakaway group called the "vampaneze" insist on killing their victims and draining all their blood. Doing this, the "Vampaneze need to feed less often", and can live slightly longer than vampires. Draining all of a human's blood would have a vampire or vampaneze absorb part of the spirit of the human, allowing the vampire or vampaneze to see into their memories (Darren does this in The Vampire's Assistant, to save the spirit of his dying friend). Neither vampires nor vampaneze have fangs, but instead use their hard, sharp nails to cut into their prey. These nails can also be used to scale walls in a spider-like manner. Vampires do not combust when exposed to sunlight, but it will burn them easily and exposure for four to five hours will kill them. They can, however, remain active during the day (provided they remain in the shade) and are not bothered by garlic, silver, or holy objects (such as crosses and holy water). Fresh human blood is the most nutritious for vampires, but they can feed on preserved human blood or the blood of certain animals when necessary. Some animals' blood, however, is toxic to vampires. Vampires cannot reproduce; further vampires are created by blood-to-blood contact with humans, traditionally through the fingertips, but if any creature, human or animal, were to orally ingest vampire blood, it would be driven into a murderous frenzy and then die (similar to rabies). Vampires are not immortal either; they age at one-tenth the human rate (half-vampires at one-fifth). This comes into play in the series when Darren meets an old girlfriend he had; now they are adults but Darren still looks about the same as he did when they first met. The oldest vampire in the series is Paris Skyle (claimed to have inspired the popular vampire folklore entity, Dracula), who was "blooded" at age two and lived for over 800 years. Vampires cast reflections and shadows but cannot be photographed due to a particular vibration of their atoms. Also, as in folklore, vampires sleep in coffins.

Vampires are stronger, tougher and fitter than humans, and can run at a very high speed faster than the human eye can follow, a process called "flitting". Flitting causes a static charge to build up in a vampire's body, which Mr. Crepsley learned to use to force open locks. A vampire's senses are all superhuman. Their bones, fingernails, and teeth are stronger than those of humans which allows them to endure incredible amounts of physical trauma, are resistant to most chemicals and diseases, and heal quickly. A vampire's healing factor is not as effective as in most fiction, and, unlike the beautiful vampires of Anne Rice, most of Shan's vampires are heavily scarred and unattractive. More abilities include breathing an invisible gas that renders a human unconscious, telepathically communicating with other vampires and humans (three vampires could also mentally command spiders), and locating vampires and humans whose thought patterns they have learned to recognise. Vampires cannot dematerialise into a mist, nor can they transform into bats, rats, or wolves. On the other hand, these animals are friendly to vampires, although cats and dogs hate them. The blood of snakes, rats, and cats are poisonous to them.

Vampire society is ruled by honor, personal pride, and tradition. They have a strict hierarchy with higher ranking vampires having absolute rule over lower ranking ones, though they exercise their powers in moderation and are respectful of those beneath them. There are far fewer female vampires than male ones. Vampire matings last only ten or fifteen years with the couple then choosing to re-mate or go their separate ways. Vampires are forbidden to use projectile weapons like guns, bows, and crossbows as they view these as dishonourable, preferring hand-to-hand fighting with swords, axes, etc., or throwing weapons such as a shuriken; the vampaneze are forbidden from using any form of throwing weapons. Vampires live old fashioned lives: no vampire aside from Darren Shan is shown making references to pop culture, or using computers. Vampires see humans as a chaotic and slightly inferior race, but most value human lives. Some vampires form friendships with humans and many fall in love with humans. Vampire Gavner Purl boasts a pair of pink underpants embroidered with elephants, a present from a former human girlfriend.

Darren Shan's vampires do not follow the religions they did as humans, but worship an unidentified pantheon. They believe that the souls of good vampires are reborn as wolves in the eternal nights of a distant world called Paradise, while evil vampire souls remain bound to the Earth for eternity. They do have gods, but there are a great number of them and they are referred to as the Vampire Gods. Vampires believe they are descended from wolves, just as humans are believed to have evolved from primates. Wolves are held as the cousins of vampires. Wolves like vampires, especially since they have a scent that means no harm to them.

Vampaneze[edit]

In The Saga of Darren Shan the Vampaneze are sworn rivals to the vampires, believing that there is honour in killing their victims and claiming their souls. They were originally vampires who broke away from the clan (600 years before the third book) and claimed themselves a new race (Vampaneze) because of the different customs they held. A violent war followed, which eventually ended in a truce when human interference threatened the survival of both races, and both groups mutually agreed to stay out of each other's affairs. This extends even to those who have become insane such as Murlough - killing him risked bringing the wrath of the entire race down on Darren and Mr Crepsley's heads, and the vampires would be honour-bound not to intervene. The Vampaneze are considered the antagonists, though they only appear that way due to the misleading image of Murlough, the Vampaneze Lord and the War of the Scars; Mr Crepsley himself noted that vampaneze had some positive traditions such as their refusal to lie and their sense of honour. The Vampaneze have purple skin and red hair, eyes, lips, and fingernails though it takes a couple of decades for this colouring to set in. This is a side effect due to drinking a lot of blood: though killing humans when draining their blood was originally a choice based on their beliefs, in the modern day Vampaneze always kill when they drink blood. Many Vampaneze do not want to fight the vampires, and though Gannen Harst has sworn to protect the Lord of Vamapaneze, Steve Leonard, in the final book Harst is shown to not stop Steve from putting himself in danger, as if he merely wants the war between Vampires and Vampaneze settled one way or the other.

The Vampaneze are first mentioned in Tunnels of Blood and become a main part of the plot throughout the rest of the series. Examples of Vampaneze include Murlough and Gannen Harst.

Death's Touch sign[edit]

The Death's Touch sign is a hand position used in The Saga of Darren Shan series. It is used by vampires throughout Vampire Mountain to show their appreciation towards a dead vampire, or one that is likely to die. The sign involves placing one's middle finger on the right hand in the middle of the forehead, with the ring finger on the left eyelid, the index finger on the right eyelid, and the pinky and thumb outstretched. The sign itself translates to the saying, "Even in death, may you be triumphant". The sign first appears in the fifth book, Trials of Death, when Darren must take the Trials of Initiation. The vampires in the mountain direct the sign towards him to wish him good luck.

Manga[edit]

A manga series, Cirque du Freak, based on The Saga of Darren Shan, was published in the Shogakukan anthology Weekly Shōnen Sunday by Takahiro Arai in a weekly serialization. The volumes were being published in the United Kingdom and United States by HarperCollins and Yen Press, respectively.[3]

Short stories[edit]

Darren Shan has released numerous short stories on his website, all of which tie into the saga.

  • "An Essay on Vampires by Steve Leopard": The story ties in with Cirque du Freak. It's in the style of an essay, presumably written in-universe before the events of the novel.
  • "Annie's Diary": The story is based on Darren's sister's diary during the events of Cirque du Freak.
  • "Tiny Terrors": The story centres on the mysterious Desmond Tiny, and takes place during The Vampire's Assistant.
  • "Transylvania Trek": The story is fictionally authored by Sam Grest, a character from The Vampire's Assistant.
  • "Shanta Claus": A special story that follows Shanta Clause as he visits the homes of many characters in the series. It is only available at Christmas.
  • "Lonely Lefty": A story centring around Harkat Mulds. It takes place during the events of Tunnels of Blood.
  • "Bride of Sam Grest": Another short story "written" by Sam Grest, a character from The Vampire's Assistant.
  • "An Affair of the Night": A story centring around Gavner Purl, before his untimely death. It ties in with Trials of Death

The Sam Grest stories have been included in the Midnight Feast collection.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shanville Monthly 99(See Section titled SHAN ACROSS THE GLOBE)
  2. ^ Darren Shan/Facts: Biography
  3. ^ http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_ss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Darren+Shan+Manga&x=0&y=0

External links[edit]