Literature: The Saga of Darren Shan
aka: Saga Of Darren Shan
The Saga of Darren Shan
is a 12-part Fantasy Horror series by Irish author... Darren Shan (his real surname is O' Shaughnessy
, but that's not quite as marketable
). It's very popular across the world and was made into a movie
. There is also a Manga
adaptation... which, oddly enough, is actually made and published in Japan.
The Saga follows a perfectly normal Teenager in a perfectly normal town
who after an unfortunate chain of events winds up faking his own death
and living his life as a half-vampire assistant
to the vampire Mr. Crepsley. Hilarity
and nightmare fuel
ensues. The story starts off with the appearance of a Goosebumps-esque non-serial horror series, but then (intentionally) grows
into a war involving the good Vampires
and the evil Vampaneze
. Cue violence, character development, time travel
, and plot twists. Lots and lots of plot twists.
The books in the Saga are:
- Cirque Du Freak (A Living Nightmare in the US)
- The Vampire's Assistant
- Tunnels of Blood
- Vampire Mountain
- Trials of Death
- The Vampire Prince
- Hunters of the Dusk
- Allies of the Night
- Killers of the Dawn
- The Lake of Souls
- Lord of the Shadows
- Sons of Destiny
There is currently one movie, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant
, which combines the first three books. It has many spoilers for later books put in and a rushed feeling — dropping a lot of minor plots in favor of plots that weren't in the book and speeding through everything
The Author also wrote a second series, The Demonata
, which could be considered a Spiritual Successor
of sorts.The Saga Of Larten Crepsley
is a prequel series concerning the life of Mr. Crepsely, one of the main characters for the first nine books.
The City Trilogy
is his first -and so far only—adult series
This series provides examples of:
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The sewers in the city Mr. Crepsley grew up in are very large, spacious and labyrinthine. They are seen in Tunnels in Blood (where they are the eponymous Tunnels) and in a later book where Steve Leopard, the Fake Vampaneze Lord and Mr. Crepsley fight in a large arena built by Steve located entirely in the sewer. This is lampshaded in that book as being because Steve likes things to be a spectacle.
- Action Girl: Arra Sails, one of the few female vampires. Alice Burgess, the human Police Chief Inspector.
- Adaptation Distillation: The manga illustrated by Takahiro Arai, who Darren Shan personally chose out of several possible artists. Yes. It's awesome.
- Anyone Can Die: And how.
- And I Must Scream: After Darren tricks the dying Steve into killing him to prevent the Lord of the Shadows from being born, he is sent to the Lake of Souls, where escape is impossible, he has no body, can't communicate with the other souls, and he has nothing to do but reflect on all the mistakes he made in his life.
- Arc Words: "Even in death, may you be triumphant!"
- Artifact Title: In America, the series is called 'Cirque du Freak' (the title of the first book). This gets weird after Book 4 when the focus of the series shifts away from Cirque du Freak and onto the struggle between the Vampires and the Vampaneze. Ultimately, only about half of the books in the series prominently feature the Cirque.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Vampires have their own afterlife in the form of 'Paradise', and thus this is played completely straight.
- Awesome McCoolname: Almost everyone. Particularly a few: Larten Crepsley, Paris Skyle, Arra Sails, Debbie Hemlock.
- Awesome Moment of Crowning: Darren hauled as Vampire Prince.
- Badass Grandpa: Paris Skyle, the 800-year old Vampire Prince, who later dies wrestling a bear.
- Badass Longcoat: Mr. Crepsley
- Bad Future: A whole book based on it.
- Because Destiny Says So: Literally. Des Tiny is the omnipotent demon man who caused the series to happen. See Gambit Roulette below.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Mr. Crepsley says that Paris Skyle was good friends with William Shakespeare. At the Bard's death, Skyle drank much of Shakespeare's blood in order to absorb part of his memories and feelings. From these memories he was able to publish many works that Shakespeare could not finish before he died.
- Big Bad: Desmond Tiny for the series as a whole.
- Bigger Bad: The unnamed creatures, who live outside of reality.
- Big Screwed-Up Family: The Tiny" family". First Mr. Tiny created Mr. Tall and Evanna, by transfusing vampire blood into a pregnant she-wolf and casting some spell on it. Then about one and a half millennium later, he secretly fathered Darren and Steve with ordinary human women, creating two Anti Christs, whom he deliberately set up to a fight for survival. Steve the paternal half-brother and Annie the maternal half-sister of Darren had a child when she was sixteen. Steve blooded the kid into half-Vampaneze when he was ten, and Darren was forced to blood him into a Vampire, so wouldn't have to kill when drinking blood. And finally at the end of the story Evanna is pregnant by twins, who are "genetically" one-third witches, one-third vampires, and one third vampanezes, and whose fathers are Vancha and Gannen, who're also brothers. And then we still didn't mention Mr. Tiny's "cousins", who're even eviler and more powerful than he is
- Bittersweet Ending: The last book ends with Darren dying, then being brought back and sent back in time to undo the events that caused the series to happen. It ends with Little Person Darren dying and going to vampire heaven.
- Blade Lock: Subverted in Hunters of the Dusk. Darren gets in a sword fight with a vampaneze and tries blade locking. The vampaneze simply runs his blade down the length of Darren's and maims his hand.
- Break the Cutie: Darren. And he's broken indeed...
- Illustrated with the writing style. Remember the way Cirque du Freak was written? Lots of exclamation marks, quite often after a one word sentence, almost like a very skilled child had written it. Well, all that disappears right after that one book.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Played epically.Darren meets a seemingly irrelevant mook in the first book. By the last book, it reveals it was actually Darren from the future who had been turned into a small zombie creature and sent back in time to stop the whole series from existing.
- Circus of Fear: Subverted.
- Compulsory School Age: In Allies of the Night Darren is forced to attend school as he appears to be fifteen.
- However, the Vampaneze had organized the whole thing, presumably to distract the Hunters.
- Cultural Translation: The movie.
- Dhampyr: Sort of. Darren is originally made a Dhampyr due to his young age.
- Downer Ending
- Eats Babies: It is implied that Mr. Tiny likes to eat children.
- Earth All Along: The setting of Book 10.
- Even Evil Has Standards: R.V. is horrified when Steve kills a child, and eventually turns against him because of this.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: Subverted. Dogs and cats despise vampires, who are—under normal circumstances—no threat to humans. Wolves on the other hand hate Vampaneze, but okay with vampires. Rats and bats are also okay with them.
- For the Evulz: Mr. Tiny's main motivation (as well as his hobby; he once refers to needing to catch a volcano which is going to kill hundreds as though it was a show).
- Flynning: Subverted and lampshaded. In Tunnels of Blood Darren expects a long and drawn out battle between Mr.Crepsley and Murlough, when in fact the fight lasts just three seconds. He does accept that they were fighting to kill, not to entertain.
- The Freakshow: How the Cirque du Freak hides its performers.
- Fur Against Fang: Subverted. Vampires-Vampaneze and wolves are in fact from the very same bloodline, and wolves are rather friendly with Vampires. However they really hate Vampaneze, and more than happy to battle them.
- Zig-zagged in Book 2 The Vampire's Assistant, when the Cirque du Freak's werewolf got lose and attacked Darren and his friend Sam. Darren tried very hard to fight it, but he was easily defeated, due to being severely weakened by his long lasting refusal to drink blood. Then Mr. Crepsley showed up in the last moment and effortlessly beat up the werewolf so badly, that Mr. Tall thought it was actually killed.
- Classical Mythology: On that note, the disturbing chapter in The Vampire Prince where Darren feeds from the teat of a she-wolf heavily resembles the Roman Myth of Romulus and Remus.
- Gambit Roulette: The whole series of events was just a way for Des Tiny to create his idyllic dystopian future.
- Grandfather Paradox: The end leads into an endless paradox because the rule of Destiny is that if you kill someone, somebody else will take their place and do exactly as they would do (as an example, Evanna says that if you were to kill Hitler, somebody else would've taken his place and done exactly as he did.) and seeing as Darren goes through everything just to go back in time to stop the whole thing from happening, someone else will see the Cirque, join Mr. Crepsley and go on all the exact adventures Darren did, eventually having to stop themselves from seeing their best friend talking to Mr. Crepsley and then someone ELSE taking THEIR place and so on. Darren says that afterward you could read the books again and change all the names and it'd still be technically correct. Simply put, the fingers of fate may be interchangeable, but its hands must tick forever forward on Des Tiny's clock.
- However, there may actually be an end. Darren something about believing whoever took his place would be taken to Paradise after the alternate fight with Steve, seeing as they had no choice in the matter, they were just following what Darren had set out for them. However, this is all speculation from a relatively young vampire, so he may be wrong.
- Graying Morality
- Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Subverted. The books view on time travel actually explain that going back in time and killing Hitler would not stop WWII, and would just pass his role on to another.
- Healing Factor: Cormac Limbs.
- Exaggerated, in that when his head is cut off, two grow back
- Honor Before Reason: The vampaneze have a complex code of honour which, among other things, forbids them from lying and allows them only to feed on humans who they have chosen through a ritual several days in advance. A vampaneze will never break this code, even when violently insane.
- I Hate You, Vampire Dad: In the beginning, Darren feels this way about Mr. Crepsley, but eventually grows to become so close that he goes into what can only be called depression after his mentor's death.
- Inverted in Steve's case who loathes Mr. Crepsley for refusing to turn him, and becoming his vampire dad.
- Kick the Dog: Mr. Crepsley making Darren fake his death and make him sit through his own grieving funeral and burial. But at least he did it to save his best friends life, right? Too bad, as said best friend thinks Darren did it to spite him and vows to kill him. Break the cutie indeed.
- I Should Write a Book About This: The series ties into the real world at the end, when vampire Darren sends his journals of his vampire adventures to his alternate-timeline fiction-author self, to be published as a fiction novel.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Mr. Crepsley's dramatic end in Book Nine, where he sacrifices his life on a pit of flaming spikes to save the good guys after assuming he had killed the Big Bad. Said Big Bad was a decoy and he died for nothing.
- Infant Immortality: Averted: Steve kills eight-year-old Shancus Von.
- Completely averted when 12-year-old Sam Grest has his intestines devoured by the Cirque's werewolf.
- It Gets Easier: Darren mourns the first vampaneze he kills. Years later, he has no problem with one of his friends torturing a man to death to get information.
- Large Ham: Larten and Mr. Tiny.
- Limited Wardrobe: In the Second book for most of the book Darren wears the same suit the one in which he was buried in during his funeral and it is lampshaded as him wearing all this time until eventually in this book he gains a pirate suit which he wears for the whole of the third book where he never changes his clothes for no discernible reason. It's not for lack of money because Mr. Crepsley supposedly has loads.
- Literary Agent Hypothesis: The entire point.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Darren finds out that the Big Bad is his father, and his best friend-turned-enemy is his brother.
- He also learns that Steve's son is actually his own nephew, via his sister Annie.
- Market-Based Title: In America, the series is called 'Cirque Du Freak' (The title of the first book).
- Master-Apprentice Chain Seba -> Mr. Crepsley -> Darren
- Meaningful Echo: In Trials of Death, we see the Death's Touch(see Strange Salute). When at the end of the book, after surviving 3 Trials and "failing" one, Darren discovers Kurda Smahlt's treachery, as Darren flees, he swears that he will bring vengeance upon Kurda. Broken and battered, down a roaring river, he does the Death's Touch at Kurda, and spitefully cries "Even in death, may I be triumphant!"
- Meaningful Name: Mr. Desmond Tiny.
- Also how Harkat Mulds is an anagram of Kurda Smahlt, who he used to be before he was a little person.
- Mindscrew: The 12th book.
- Necessarily Evil: Kurda Smahlt embraced this; he intended to betray the vampires to the vampaneze in a bid to avert all-out war.
- Never a Self-Made Woman: Alice Burgess is the only exception. The lack of female vampires is even explained as women being unwilling to give up motherhood, invoking the trope on a collective scale as well.
- Never Learned to Read: Crepsley admits this in the beginning of Book 8.
- Noble Demon: Even while killing them, the vampires admit that the vampanezes' sense of honour is admirable.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Darren gives up his life as a human to save Steve's life. Steve, however, becomes convinced that Darren betrayed him, and becomes his mortal enemy. Kurda Smahlt was prepared to invoke this; see the below trope.
- No Place for Me There: Kurda stated at his trial that once he had overseen the merger of the vampires and vampaneze races, he would have surrendered himself to be sentenced to death as a traitor, which both races look down on as the worst kind of scum.
- Our Vampires Are Different: Very, very different.
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Literally. If the Lord of the Vampaneze or his hunters are killed by someone who is not a member of the opposite party, the prophecy goes Off the Rails and everyone is doomed.
- Perpetual Frowner: Mr. Crepsley. He only laughed once, when he found out about Gavner's elephant underpants, and immediately felt sorry for it. But he often smirks.
- Pet the Dog: Mr. Tiny shows a small capacity for love when he gives his son, Mr. Tall his Due to the Dead.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Almost all vampires and vampaneze.
- Refused by the Call: In Allies of the Night we find out that Crepsley refusing to blood Steve 15 years earlier was a VERY BAD IDEA, as it filled him with hate, causing him to want to join the Vampaneze to hunt and kill Crepsley. Oh, and by the way, at the end of Killers of the Dawn, we learn that Steve's also the Lord of the Vampaneze. So, yeah. Then again it's understandable he didn't want to risk A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil. Especially since according to him Steve is Made of Evil.
- Reality-Breaking Paradox: If anyone with the power of seeing the future intervened to change it, it would break the laws of reality which keep monsters even worse than Mr. Tiny in check, allowing them to destroy the entire universe.
- Senseless Sacrifice: Mr. Crepsley sacrifices himself to defeat what he considers to be the Lord of the Vampaneze, only for it to turn out to be an impostor.
- Screw Destiny: Literally. When Des Tiny does his evil plan speech and tells Darren how he'll become evil should he survive, Darren says "Destiny...rejected." and goads Steve into killing him.
- Significant Anagram: Harkat Mulds and Kurda Smahlt in book 10.
- Sliding Scale of Vampire Friendliness: Somewhere in the middle. The degree of viciousness or friendliness of a vampire is their choice rather than being forced.
- Strange Salute: In Trials of Death the vampires do a strange sign, placing their hand in front of their face with the middle finger on their forehead, with the index and ring fingers placed on the eyelids. This is called the Death's Touch, which is meant to mean "even in death, may you be triumphant. Becomes a Meaningful Echo later in the book.
- The Spartan Way: Those who wish to become a Vampire General must take the Trials of Initiation, a series of five difficult, randomly-chosen tasks, each the day after the last (excepting holidays) where death is highly likely, and even survival without success results in execution. When Darren has to undergo the Trials to prove himself, he has to go through a flooding maze with a huge rock shackled to him, cross a cave filled with very sharp and brittle stalagmites and stalactites which drop at the slightest noise, spend 15 minutes in a metal chamber which randomly shoots spurts of flame, and fight two massive, rabid wild boars. They note that due to his youth and being only a half vampire, they actually removed the most difficult tasks from the roster.
- Spirit Advisor: Sam to Darren in the manga adaptation.
- Superhuman Transfusion: The vampires/vampaneze are recruiting new members to their clans this way. This is usually achieved by both donor and recipient cutting their fingertips on both hands, and keeping their wounds pressed to one another's until the transfused blood has run a full circle between their bodies. While this is the traditional method, injection with syringes also works. A few days later the recipient will turn into a dhampyr or a full vampire depending on the amount of blood transfused.
- Take a Third Option: In the last book, either Darren has to kill Steve or vice versa. After the truth has been revealed to both of them, they're actually quite reluctant to do the deed. Except Darren, understandably heartbroken, takes matters into his own hands, throwing both of their bodies into the nearby river.
- Trailers Always Lie: The trailers for The Movie imply that Crepsley just randomly asks Darren if he wants to be a vampire. "Dude, wanna be a vampire?" while in the actual movie Darren agrees to become one in exchange for saving Steve (part of the line survives, but it's part of a speech about the trials of being a vampire)
- Teacher/Student Romance Darren and Debbie. Subverted in that they're actually the same age, they even dated when they were about twelve, Darren simply looks younger than he is, and despite this Debbie refuses to get involved with him again, because she feels really bad about dating "a boy". However when she learns that Darren will grow up as a side-effect of the Purge she's more than happy to point out that will change her view on the issue. Although by then she's not a teacher.
- Two-Part Trilogy: The twelve-book saga is divided into four trilogies, the latter two of which are Two Part Trilogies in their own right (with "Hunters of the Dusk" establishing what has happened during the Time Skip and setting the premise for the next two books, and "The Lake of Souls" bridging the Grand Finale and the previous WHAM Episode).
- Also "The Lake of Souls" is supposed to be a bit of a grace period between the, decidedly shocking, events at the end of book 9 and the action packed last two books.
- Unable to Cry: Darren for a long time after the death of Mr. Crepsley.
- Ungrateful Bastard: Steve, in spades.
- Unreliable Narrator: In book 9, an entire chapter is devoted to creating a deus ex machina to prevent the death of Mr. Crepsley. He then admits next chapter that this didn't actually happen.
- Vampire Monarch: The Vampire authority are the Princes, and to a lesser extent, the Generals.
- Vampire Vannabe: Steve. When Mr. Crepsley refused him, he goes... mad.
- Waterfall Shower: Subverted. On Vampire Mountain, every showers are waterfalls inside caves. Its impracticality is even lampshaded, justifying why do the vampires bath so rarely while staying in the mountain.
- We Usedto Be Friends: Darren and Steve
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Kurda
- Will Not Tell a Lie: The Vampaneze never lie. Even Murlough, who is completely insane otherwise keeps this rule. The only exception is Steve.
- WHAM Episode: "Killers of the Dawn", "The Lake of Souls" and "Lord of the Shadows" could all qualify.
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Played straight.
- You Do NOT Want To Know: The circumstances surrounding the Wolfman's birth.
- Your Vampires Suck: Mr.Crepsley finds the thought of fangs hilarious.
- After all, how would they keep their existence a secret if they left huge, gaping holes in their target's neck?
- In the movie Crepsley calls the "turning into bats" myth bullshit.