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Literature / The Saga of Darren Shan

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The Saga of Darren Shan is a 12-part Fantasy Horror series by Irish author... Darren Shan (a.k.a Darren O'Shaughnessy). It's very popular across the world, particularly in Taiwan and Japan, where it got a Manga adaptation in the magazine Shonen Sunday.

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, who performs in a traveling circus. Hilarity and Nightmare Fuel ensues. The story starts off with the appearance of a Goosebumps-esque non-serial horror series, but then grows into a war involving the Vampires, who do not kill when they feed from humans, and the Vampaneze, who do kill. Cue violence, character development, time travel, and plot twists. Lots and lots of plot twists.

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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

The only film was a critical and commercial failure, shelving plans for future films, but the author has hinted that another adaptation might be forthcoming.

The same author has also written The Demonata series, which could be considered a Spiritual Successor of sorts; a series called Zom-B, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin; and a fantasy series called Archibald Lox. The Saga of Larten Crepsley is a prequel series concerning the life of Mr. Crepsley before Darren. The City Trilogy is his only adult series written under the same pseudonym, but he has written others under the name Darren Dash. Between these, he has over 50 books to his credit in less than 25 years.

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This series provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Claws: The vampires have extremely sharp fingernails and toenails, which they use to cut their victims to drink blood, rather than biting them. This can make shoes difficult, and most vampires have to cut their toenails extremely short, or wear sandals.
  • 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.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: Several, in the manga.
    • Darren and Steve are much more protective and affectionate towards each other, to the point they angst much more when their friendship fall apart.
    • Sam is conscious when Darren is about to drink his blood. However, he takes it with dignity and even encourages Darren to do it.
    • Kurda blames himself for the deaths of his vampaneze allies and his assistants, to the point he stays in the Lake of Souls forever to be with them. In the novel he's more concerned with atoning for his mistakes and is even dismissive about the vampaneze.
    • Vancha and Gannen are more conflicted about being forced to fight each other due to their allegiances. To the point Vancha is unable to kill him during the final fight.
    • The manga of book 10 adds two emotional "I'm sorry"/"You have nothing to apologize for" exchanges.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The manga illustrated by Takahiro Arai, who Darren Shan personally chose out of several possible artists. Yes. It's awesome.
  • Adrenaline Makeover: Debbie goes through one after one bad day of hunting in the sewers.
  • Age-Inappropriate Dress: Accidental example. When Darren returns to the Cirque after a long absence, Truska dresses him in his old pirate costume - and he realises how childish he looks.
  • 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. Fortunately, Evanna rescues him.
  • Antiquated Linguistics: The vampires and vampaneze speak this way. This makes sense, since they are mostly hundreds of years old, and live apart from changing human societies.
  • Arc Words: "Even in death, may you be triumphant!" See also Strange Salute below.
  • 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 Mc Coolname: Almost everyone. Particularly a few: Larten Crepsley, Paris Skyle, Arra Sails, Debbie Hemlock.
    • He seems fond of a two-syllable (trochaic) first name, one-syllable last name pattern - Darren Shan, Kurda Smahlt, Arra Sails, Paris Skyle...
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: In books 4-6, Kurda is preparing for his investiture as a Vampire Prince. We get to see some of it before Darren exposes him as a traitor. In the end of book 6, Darren himself is offered the position that would have been Kurda's, and accepts. In the final scene, he is blooded as a Prince and the crowd cheers for him, but we never get to see the full ceremony.
  • Bad Future: A whole book based on it.
  • Because Destiny Says So: Literally. Des Tiny is the malicious being with almost godlike power who caused the split between the vampire clans to happen in the first place, just so he could enjoy watching the world get destroyed in a great war between them. See Gambit Roulette below.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Kurda's assistant Cyrus, when his master tells him it's over, and not to spill blood unnecessarily.
  • Big Bad: Desmond Tiny for the series as a whole.
  • 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 re-blood him into a Vampire, so that he wouldn't have to kill when drinking blood. And finally at the end of the story Evanna is pregnant with twins, who are "genetically" one-third witch, one-third vampire, and one third vampaneze, and whose fathers are Vancha and Gannen, who are also brothers. And then we still didn't mention Mr. Tiny's "cousins", who are even eviler and more powerful than he is.
  • Bishōnen: The manga versions of many characters fit this trope. Special mentions go to Darren post-Plot-Relevant Age-Up in Hunters of the Dusk, Evra, Kurda, and Gannen.
  • 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.
    • The manga ending leans more on the sweet side though. Everyone is alive and well in the new timeline and Steve decides his friendship his Darren is more important than his obsession with becoming a vampire. The last thing Little Person Darren sees before he disappears into the afterlife is Darren and Steve happily playing together, their friendship now stronger than ever.
  • Blade Lock: Subverted in Hunters of the Dusk. Darren gets in a sword fight with Gannen and tries blade-locking. Gannen simply runs his blade down the length of Darren's and maims his hand.
  • Breaking and Bloodsucking: Averted in the sense that vampires do feed this way, but it's completely non-sexual. They do it because it's considered a lot less invasive than the old way — draining their victims dry, which the vampaneze still practice.
  • 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.
  • Cannot Cross Running Water: Invoked as a superstition that if vampires die in running water, their souls will be trapped.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: The only reason Darren doesn't kill Steve's son Darius as revenge for his murder of Shankus; the others talk him round by suggesting they could use Darius as a bargaining tool. He never gets killed once Steve reveals Darius is actually his nephew.
  • 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.
    • Harkat's early appearances also fit.
  • Chekhov's Time Travel: Darren (with Harkat) had already time-travelled without knowing it, but of course, now that he knows, he has to do it again.
  • Circus of Fear: Subverted.
  • Circus of Magic: This series, the alternate title to which is appropriately enough "Cirque du Freak", heavily features a freak show made up of people with paranormal abilities.
  • 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 sets the story in America, instead of Ireland and various other countries in Europe.
  • Death of a Child:
    • Sort of in the first book. Darren is still considered a child, but he fakes his own death, so it appears as though the trope had been fulfilled.
    • The twelve-year-old Sam Grest is mauled by the Wolf Man in the second book.
    • Steve later kills Shancus Von just to mess with Darren. His own son Darius nearly meets the same fate.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The Proud Warrior Race Guy vampires think it's reasonable and upright to kill their elderly and disabled members, or that such people should wander away and get themselves killed rather than "let themselves" be taken care of. They have no use for anyone who can't pass the Trials of Initiation (or as the title of book 5 calls them, Trials of Death), and their law against failure there is so strict that the only way to spare Darren from execution after he fails is to make him a Prince. Their attitudes towards gender equality are apparently just as backwards, and Arra Sails is one of the most hardline about these things precisely because she feels the need to prove herself.
  • Dhampyr: Sort of. While it is impossible for vampires to have children with humans (or anyone else but Evanna), people who become vampires are half-blooded, and live for a while as half-vampires while they adjust, before being blooded into full vampires. This is Darren's case and we never get to see him "top up" (as Gavner puts it), even after he has been a Prince for so many years.
  • Dishonored Dead: The vampires do this to their enemies in book 6. Darren is uncomfortable about it, but he won't say so to Mr. Crepsley when the latter has just lost Arra.
  • Do Unto Others Before They Do Unto Us: The general attitude of vampires towards the vampaneze. The good news is, it seems 54% of generals realize how much of a problem this is. The bad news...
  • The Dreaded: Human vampire hunters are quite feared by both vampires and the vampaneze, supposedly because they are usually armed with quite a lot of firepower. However, though they are blamed for the vampires' diminishing numbers, they are acknowledged to be rare, and it's likely that it wasn't humans but the vampires themselves who fought them to death.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: The vampires and the vampaneze both believe that guns are the weapons of cowards and never use them.
  • Eats Babies: It is implied that Mr. Tiny likes to drink the blood of children.
  • Earth All Along: The waste world of Book 10.
  • Either/Or Prophecy: Either Darren or Steve will become the Lord of Shadows after winning the war. Darren pulls a Screw Destiny and it doesn't happen.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Mr. Tiny tells his daughter, Evanna: "I would not harm my own flesh and blood". He has a mixed reaction to the death of his son, Mr. Tall. He gives Mr. Tall the Touch of Death as he's dying, then casually says: "My son is dead", but at the same time he's crying tears of blood.
  • 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.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Averted. While Kurda endures stoically his trial, he's crying when he's about to be executed. In the manga he keeps his composture for much longer, only to break down in tears after realizing his assistants and his vampaneze allies have died in vain.
  • Finding Judas: Kurda Smahlt was trying to save the vampire clan, not condemn them, and many of the vampires regret having to execute him.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Played with. Lady Evanna has the form of a human-wolf hybrid. She can choose whatever form she wants, and sometimes picks a beautiful one, but she prefers the form she first came into the world with. Her usual form is intended to be as ugly as possible.
  • 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 said to be 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 wolf man got loose 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 lengthy refusal to drink blood. Then Mr. Crepsley showed up in the last moment and effortlessly beat the wolf man so badly that Mr. Tall worried he had killed him.
    • On that note, the chapter in The Vampire Prince where Darren feeds from the teat of a she-wolf heavily resembles the Roman Myth of Romulus and Remus.
  • Gag Haircut: At the start of book seven, it's mentioned that most of the vampires in Vampire Mountain have had to cut their hair much shorter due to an increase in tics. Darren later finds out from Seba that it's because a new breed of spiders has chased the ticks out of their regular caves.
  • Gambit Roulette: The whole in-universe history going back 700 years was just a way for Des Tiny to create a thrilling war, and an idyllic dystopian future ruled over by the stronger of his two human sons.
  • Gem Tissue: Dragons' brains. The "Stone of Blood" is one.
  • 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.) If Darren goes through everything, and then goes back in time to stop the whole thing from happening to himself, he can't actually stop it from happening. Someone else will become an underaged half-vampire and go on all the exact adventures Darren did, possibly including eventually going back and stopping themself — though, since that was a favor from Des Tiny, it might be one that he would only grant once, and only to his son. 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 mentions 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.
    • Then again, it also depends a lot on what Tiny created the Coffin of Fire to respond to. If it is set to pass someone with Tiny's DNA, then the cycle couldn't keep time so quickly - if Darren never left home, neither he nor Steve would have been tried in the Coffin of Fire, and there would be no Vampaneze Lord. If no Vampaneze Lord had been found, the Vampaneze wouldn't have started to strengthen themselves, and Kurda would not have been pushed into his last desperate roll of the dice to save both clans. And even if he were, would Tiny have sent a Little Person as a guardian for someone other than his secret son? Darren's replacement would likely die in the fight with the Blooded Boars.
  • Graying Morality
  • Hair Reboot: Darren is left bald for a few books thanks to his hair getting burned in the Hall of Flames. When the Purge hits him, his hair grows back.
  • Haughty "Hmph": Larten's most frequent reaction to Kurda.
    Kurda: I've upset him.
    Darren: He's easily upset.
  • 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
  • Holy Water: Darren attempts to use a cross and a small vial of the stuff to defend himself from Mr Crepsley, the latter responds by snatching the two items out of his hands and mockingly crumpling the cross up before drinking the holy water.
  • 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.
    • The vampaneze code also prevents them from using projectile weapons. The vampires have a less restrictive one which just disallows guns and bows (shuriken are fine). Then the vampaneze start to raise an army of human soldiers who are exempt from their code (and can thus lie and use guns), to the outrage of the vampires and even many vampaneze.
    • The vampires do this too. Let's see, a child failed the Trials of Death. We need to execute him, because no matter how much we don't want to, saying "Screw the Rules, I Make Them!" would be too dishonorable to everyone involved - So let's just elect the child to the council of all-powerful leaders. And that's only after he saved all of them from a treason plot.
  • 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 such a deep depression after his mentor's death that he lets the plot just pass him by until it drags him in, leaving him completely unprepared.
    • Inverted in Steve's case who loathes Mr. Crepsley for refusing to blood him, and becoming his vampire dad.
  • 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 fiction novels.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: In book 4, while taking a tour of Vampire Mountain with Kurda, Darren first sees the Hall of Death, the vampire clan's favored mode of execution. The vampire to be killed is strapped into a cage, raised above a pit of stakes, and dropped repeatedly until they are dead. It isn't just wrongdoers who are killed here, but also elderly and disabled vampires, who prefer to die rather than "let themselves" be taken care of; and those who fail challenges like the Trials are also executed here.
    • After going so far to protect Darren from that fate, Kurda himself is executed there, only the seventh traitor to meet such a fate in the history of the vampires.
    • The stakes appear in the dreams of Harkat Mulds, who must have realized that it was how he died.
    • Steve Leopard, the Vampaneze Lord, creates a "Hall of Retribution" in the tunnels under the city, in imitation of the vampires' Hall of Death. The main difference is that his is on fire. After killing the decoy Lord on these stakes, Larten Crepsley then dies on them.
  • Important Haircut:
    • An important hair growth. Darren's head was previously left bald after the fire trial, but growing hair and facial hair means he's going through the Purge - and will age to adulthood soon.
    • Debbie and Alice cut their hair short when they form the vampirites.
  • It Gets Easier: Darren mourns the first vampaneze he kills. Years later, he has grown used to the things that must be done in a war, to the point where he doesn't object to one of his friends torturing a man to death to get information, though he isn't comfortable with it.
  • 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...
  • Knight, Knave, and Squire: In books 4 and 5, it seems like Kurda could become the Knave alternative to Larten's Knight, with Darren as the Squire. As Harkat in books 7-9, this is somewhat fulfilled, with Vancha as a wild card offsetting them both.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Kurda's threshold for this is significantly lower than the other vampires', but then we have the young and foolhardy Darren...
  • Lady of Black Magic: Evanna, who is blessed with a bit of magic herself.
  • Large Ham: This series gives us Larten and Mr. Tiny, but no one beats Vancha at this.
  • 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 the Cirque supposedly has loads.
  • Long-Lived: Vampires are not immortal, but they age with a tenth of the speed of humans. Paris Skyle, the oldest known vampire lived for over 800 years. Most vampires, however, die in battle before reaching such an advanced age.
  • Loophole Abuse: The vampaneze's army of human servants are ways for them to get around their customs and traditions (not using missile weapons in battle). Debbie and Alice later create a good counterpart for the vampires, for the same reason.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father:
    • Darren finds out that the Big Bad is his father, and his best friend-turned-enemy is his half-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' (he title of the first book).
  • Mark of Shame: When Kurda is to be executed, the Princes strip him and mark him with snake's blood before taking him away.
  • Master-Apprentice Chain: Seba -> Mr. Crepsley -> Darren
  • Meaningful Echo: In Trials of Death, we first 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!"
    • Kurda gives the sign to Darren and the Princes as an honest salute, before crying, during his trial.
  • 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.
  • Mind Screw: The 12th book.
  • Missing Reflection: A version. While vampires do cast an image in mirrors, no good photographs can be made of them.
  • Morality Chain:
    • Darren is this to Steve. His "betrayal" combined with Crepsley refusing to make him into a vampire, it's what made him slide down the slippery slope and to join the Vampaneze.
    • Invoked in the end of the manga. In the new timeline Steve gives up on his dream to become a vampire, realizing that he doesn't want to be separated from Darren.
  • Motherhood Is Superior: The "very old male chauvinist" vampires (author's own words) cite this as the reason why there aren't many female vampires.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: My Proud Warrior Race, Right Or Wrong: Most of the vampires, causing them to defend rulings from the Princes no matter how strongly they disagree. The vampaneze and their loyalty to the Vampaneze Lord, as well.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: The Vampaneze follow their Lord even when his commands go against their ways and traditions.
  • Named After First Installment: Played With for the books and the movie:
    • In the US, the name of the series was changed to "Cirque du Freak" (the title of the first book) but the first book itself was also renamed "A Living Nightmare". Since Darren only remains with the Cirque for the first two books (out of twelve), this quickly turns into an Artifact Title.
    • The movie adaptation is titled "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant", combining the names of the first two books. Despite this, it leaves out the plot of the second book in favour of adding original storylines and random elements from later books.
  • Necessarily Evil: Kurda Smahlt embraced this; he intended to betray the vampires to the vampaneze in a bid to avert all-out war.
  • Never Learned to Read: Crepsley admits this in the beginning of Book 8.
  • Neutral No Longer: Evanna begins the series as a neutral (but still benevolent) presence. By the end of the series, she's one of Darren's allies and is the final one to help him.
  • No Antagonist: The first 8 books really have no Big Bad. Sure, book 3 has Murlough, but the real conflict is about Darren's growing to trust Mr. Crepsley. The ending of book 5 makes it seem like 4-6 have an antagonist, but 6 reveals that they were trying to save the vampire clan, not attack them. The shadow of the Vampaneze Lord hangs over 4-8, but it isn't until 9 that he begins to play an active role as such — and he doesn't appear at all in 10, meaning that a full 3/4 of the series fits this trope. You could say that Mr. Tiny is the real antagonist, since he's present all along, and he was manipulating everyone into fighting the whole time, but he's never the figure directly opposed by Darren.
  • 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 knew that his attempt to save the vampire clan would be seen as treason and result in his execution, whether he succeeded or not.
  • No Place for Me There:
    • In book 6, 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.
    • In book 12, Darren realizes that a peaceful, post-war world can't come to be as long as he lives, and that killing Steve will send him irrevocably on the path towards becoming Lord of the Shadows. He provokes Steve into killing him because he realizes after almost killing Darius that he has become this.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Very, very different. The vampires in these books are not evil undead monsters. They need human blood to survive, but only a small amount; they don't kill or seriously harm the person they take it from. They are Long-Lived but not immortal. A Wooden Stake through the heart kills them, but so do other weapons. They are not repelled by holy symbols or garlic and cannot turn into bats. Sunlight kills them, but only if they are exposed to it for hours.
  • 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.
  • Poor Communication Kills: In just about every book, there's a fight where, if the characters had even tried to talk to each other first, so much pain could have been avoided. Darren and Seba have a long conversation about this in book 6, after Darren witnesses (and kills in) his first real violent battle. But by the time he's grown up and been socialized as a vampire in book 7, he's forgotten all about it, and does the same thing he criticized the others for doing back then.
    • On the other side, almost every book also has a very close aversion (subversion?) of this, where one character is trying to explain something to a second character, and the second (usually Larten or Darren) keeps shouting things like "How could you?" and "I won't let you do this!", but the first character tells them to shut up, and finally says their piece, and the second understands and feels sort of silly. The best example is probably the final scene of book 6.
  • Pre-Meeting: When you first see Lefty in book 2, you would never guess that he would go on to become Darren's closest friend. And of course, everything involving Harkat before they reach Vampire Mountain can be seen as a pre-meeting with Kurda.
  • Prone to Sunburn: Vampires will get sunburns after very limited exposure, and fatal sunstroke can set in after only a few hours.
  • 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, 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.
  • Rejection Ritual: At the end of Kurda Smahlt's trial, before he is taken away to be executed.
  • Relationship Reset Button: The ending. Darren is sent to the past by Mr. Tiny and Evanna and is able to scare his younger self at the Circus, cutting off the original chain of events that made him a vampire. Which means he never gets to meet Mr. Crepsley, the Cirque or the other vampires. The only upshot is that he's still best friends with a now mentally stable Steve.
  • Rules Lawyer: While the Princes adhere to the rules when Darren is taking the Trials, Seba Nile is able to find some useful loopholes that will give Darren a better chance, such as invoking the Period of Preparation where the vampire will have a couple of days before and after each trial to recover (most modern vampires do them all at once but there's no rule stating that they have to do it that way), and one of Darren's trials is even postponed because he needs more time to recover by having the Princes all claim to be too busy to attend it in person.
  • 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.
    • In the manga, this is how Kurda feels about his assistants and his vampaneze allies dying for his cause.
  • Screw Destiny: Literally, helped by the fact that the Big Bad, Desmond Tiny, is often nicknamed Mr. Destiny. 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.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Averted in the end of book 6: Darren's situation wasn't enough to make the Princes relax their laws to spare him, even after "saving" all of the vampires. It would be too dishonorable to do this even once. So instead, they take the only honorable way out - making an inexperienced child a Vampire Prince, putting him above the law.
  • Significant Anagram: Harkat Mulds and Kurda Smahlt in book 10.
  • Sleeps with Both Eyes Open: Being artificially made creatures who only possess features their creator deemed necessary, the "Little People" have no eyelids. Their eyes do become dimmer while sleeping, though.
  • 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.
  • The Smurfette Principle:
    • A justified example. Darren spots only about three female vampires in contrast to the hundreds of males. Arra Sails explains that "women do not make good vampires" as becoming one makes them barren.
    • The series itself initially plays this straight, with any prominent female characters (Annie Shan, Debbie Hemlock) only showing up for one book apiece. But more females get added as the series goes on.
  • 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: Anyone who wishes 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 (although 'difficult' in this case refers to trials where a half-vampire would have been unable to compete on the same level as a full-vampire, so presumably cases where Darren would have explicitly needed to be faster or stronger than he is).
  • Spiteful Spit: Vancha March in Allies of the Night, when he sees that vampaneze have human allies who use firearms.
    There's honour in dying at the hands of a worthy foe. If you'd sent your best warriors against us and killed us, we'd have died with smiles on our lips. But to send these... these..." He spat into the dust of the floor. "There's no word low enough to describe them."
  • Spirit Advisor: Sam to Darren in the manga adaptation.
  • The Story That Never Was: At the end of the series, Darren is sent to the past with Evanna's help and is able to scare his younger self at the Circus, cutting off the original chain of events that made him a vampire. However it is said that The Universe will pull in someone to take his place and everything will happen just as it did in canon. See the series' Fridge page.
  • 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.
  • Survival Through Self-Sacrifice: Darren's sacrifice impresses the other vampires enough for them to make him a Prince.
  • 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.
  • There Are No Coincidences: "The hands of fate keep time on a heart shaped watch..."
  • Trailers Always Lie: The trailers for The Film of the Book 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 his teacher. She was also supposed to be in a relationship with Alice Burgess by that point.
  • Two-Part Trilogy: The twelve-book saga is divided into four trilogies, the latter three 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.
  • Undead Barefooter: Vampires are forbidden from wearing shoes to Vampire Mountain, since it is considered weak. Shoes are difficult for vampires because of their sharp nails, but most wear sandals.
  • 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. Darren then admits at the start of the next chapter that this didn't actually happen.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Holy hell, Annie Shan in the first book. If she hadn't opened Darren's door and screamed at what she saw, Madam Octa wouldn't have bit Steve, and Darren would have never become a vampire. Darren's narration even mentioned that Annie always knocked before coming into his room.
  • Vampire Dance: Darren describes the dances that the vampires do at the Festival of the Undead as seeming slow and stiff to his, still mostly human, perception. Those scenes are something Arai says he regretted having to leave out of the manga.
  • Vampire Hunter: In the first half of the series, before the real war starts, the vampires all talk a lot about the threat of human vampire hunters — with stakes. They blame the vampires' low numbers in the present era (3,000 compared with hundreds of thousands in past millennia) on the actions of human vampire hunters. However, we never get to see any vampire hunters in the books. Might it be possible that the vampires' low numbers are more due to the fact that they think execution is the solution to every problem, and that it's a waste to care for the elderly and disabled?
    • Steve says he was a vampire hunter, and that he's killed someone with a stake, and that it was horrible and ineffective. He ends his story by saying he's still a vampire hunter, but he only kills vampaneze. At least part of this story is a lie — Steve is a half-vampaneze by the time he tells it, but it's not clear whether or not he was ever a vampire hunter beforehand, or for how long. It could only have been between when Darius was conceived, since he was living in his hometown and dating Annie up until that point, and when he was found by the Coffin of Fire, some months at least before Kurda's trial (when this is revealed to the reader), the latter event is 9 1/2 years before the end of the series. Darius can't have been older than 12 years or so at that point, meaning Steve could only have been a vampire hunter for 2 or 3 years if at all...
  • Vampire Monarch: The Vampire Clan is ruled by Princes.
  • Vampire Procreation Limit:
    • Turning a human into a vampire requires a blood transfusion through cutting the tips of the transfuser and transfusee's fingers and pressing them together so their blood can flow together. It's generally done at least twice, the first time producing a half-vampire.
    • Also, vampires cannot reproduce sexually, even though they're not undead in this setting. Evanna was created by Mr. Tiny at the request of a vampire who wanted children.
  • Vampires Sleep in Coffins: Vampires sleep in coffins if they can, but they don't need to (and they're not undead).
  • Waterfall Shower: In Vampire Mountain, the only showers are waterfalls inside caves. Its impracticality is even lampshaded, justifying why do the vampires bathe so rarely while staying in the mountain.
  • We Usedto Be Friends: Darren and Steve.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Kurda tried for almost a hundred years to convince the vampires and vampaneze to seek peace, but with the "Night of the Vampaneze Lord""at hand" (as Tiny, through Harkat, put it), time was running out...
  • 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: "Trials of Death", "Killers of the Dawn", "The Lake of Souls" and "Lord of the Shadows" could all qualify.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Technically played straight, but if you recognise it, it's obvious Darren's actually from a fictionalized version of the real Darren Shan's hometown of Limerick. His school is based on the one in Askeaton, just outside the city.
  • You Are Worth Hell: Kurda's reasons for staying trapped in the Lake of Souls forever in the manga. He wants to be with the souls of his assistants and the vampaneze allies that died for his cause.
  • You Do NOT Want to Know: The circumstances surrounding the Wolfman's birth.
  • You No Take Candle: Truska has started to learn English midway through the series, and speaks this way.
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Cirque Du Freak, Cirque Du Freak The Vampires Assistant

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