Now, it's no secret that I'm a die-hard Shanster, and I've loved every book of his I've read, this series being no exception. I was a little concerned about it, because it's a prequel of one of my all-time favourite sagas (the Darren Shan saga), which I grew up with. I can imagine the pressure Mr. Shan was under: if these books weren't as good as the previous (next? Whatever, you know what I mean) one, he'd have a load of disappointed fans and a mailbox full of angry letters. Good thing that it not only lived up to my expectations, but exceeded them.
I could rave about the series for ages, but before I start to bore you with my waffling, I thought maybe you'd like to know a little about what they're about! I'll give you the synopsis of the first book and will avoid any spoilers (I've had to go through this review loads of times to make sure I didn't give anything away). Anyway: Ready? Set? Boom, here goes the synopsis:
When Larten escapes the terrible workhouse in which he toils, he doesn’t know that he is running from an early death… into another kind of transformation. After meeting the mysterious vampire Seba Nile while sheltering for the night in a crypt, Larten finds himself drawn into the shadowy world of the vampire Clan. As he travels and learns, Larten finds himself enjoying the adventure he has always dreamed of, seeing a world beyond any he suspected in his poverty-stricken youth. But Larten begins to discover something else, too. Much like death, becoming a vampire is something you can’t come back from…
If you're expecting Twilight or Dracula, you're going to be sorely disappointed. The vampires in this series and sparkly and tortured, but nor are they sharply-dressed and suave. Much like humans, we find many different types of vampires amongst their ranks: some of them drink heavily, gamble and womanize while others live by strict codes of honour. I greatly appreciated this, because it made the whole thing more believable (you know, apart from the fact that they're vampires) and therefore more enjoyable.
I loved Larten Crepsley long before I read this saga, and I know I'm not the only one. Crepsley has been one of every Shanster's favourite characters due to his complexity, wit and overall mysteriousness. It has been great experience to read this saga a few years after finishing the previous (next? again, you know what I mean) one, answering a lot of questions and rounding off the story of an incredible character.
The novels tell the story of the coming of age of a vampire, with over two hundred years of self-doubt, being confused and occasional aimless wandering until the vampire is finally at ease with himself. Because the time that the novels cover is so large, there are a few jumps, several years at a time, but thankfully they don't detract from the overall storyline. If Shan were to cover everything that happened in Larten's life, it would take a hell of a lot more than four books!
Even though these books come before the Darren Shan Saga, I'd recommend you read them in the order that they were written in, or you'd be depriving yourself of the pleasure of recognizing names in the prequels. It's great, from the reader's point of view, to be able to smile at yourself when you're introduced to characters that you knew from before (or after? This is starting to get really confusing...). Shan has really hit the nail on the head ith this series, and has satisfied the needs of a fandom that needed one last dose of Crepsley.
The series ended beautifully, in true Shan style, without any of the disappointment that lots of authors create with their way of wrapping up their sagas. A truly heart-wrenching finale that leaves any Shan fan loving the character of Larten Crepsley even more than they already did. I know I'm gushing but I really loved these books, and I'm looking forward to devouring whatever Darren Shan publishes next!
If you haven't already: do yourself and read these books. Seriously.