Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cirque Du Freak Volume 2: The Vampire's Assistant by Darren Shan and Takahiro Arai

Darren Shan, having left his human life behind, travels with his master, Lartan Crepsley, back to the Cirque du Freak, where he tries to blend in with the rest of the freaks.

The closest to him in age is the Snake-boy, who, he finds out, is really named Evra Von. After getting a little *too* close to Evra's giant snake, the two meet and become close friends, by virtue of being the closest in age and having no one else, really, to hang around with.

The Master of the Circus, Hibernius Tall, assigns them duties together- Darren can help Evra with his chores, which comprise cleaning up, shopping for food, feeding and cleaning the animals, and so on.

One day, the two of them meet a young boy from town, named Sam Grest, and the three of them Pal around together when they can. Sam wants to join the circus, but when they take him to introduce him to the wolf-man, he gets scared. Then, darkness is falling, and Sam must return home. He tells them they are all friends and shakes hands with them, saying that is what friends do.

But soon after he leaves, a strange man with small glasses appears, making his way to the Circus, accompanied by tiny robed, hooded figures bearing torches. Evra recognizes the man, and seems to be scared of him. He gives Darren the man's name: Desmond Tiny.

Evra is scared of Mr. Tiny, and he can't exactly explain why to Darren, except to say that Mr. Tiny creeps him out. But Darren and Evra don't have long to discuss him, because one of the circus workers says that Mr. Tiny wants to see them.

Mr. Tiny *is* creepy- he has a clock in what appears to be a human heart, but even creepier is his preference for the blood of small children- and not caring if they die in the process. He's staying for a while, and he asks Darren and Evra if they will help in feeding his little blue-robed "helpers" which they agree to do- it's not like they have much of a choice.

But Tiny (who asks Darren to call him "Des"- Des Tiny?), gets upset with Darren when Darren questions him as to why his "helpers" have no names, telling Mr. Crepsley that Darren is insolent, and telling Darren to do something about his tongue. Darren tells Tiny to do something about it, and he squeezes his heart-clock, causing a pain in Darren's chest. As he does so, a dreadful outline forms in the air around him. But Crepsley intervenes to save Darren, and sends him to bed early.

The next day, Sam comes back, along with a huge man named Reggie Veggie, or R.V.. He manages to catch Darren and Evra by surprise, but Darren is looking pale- he needs to drink blood, but has been unable to. As a result, he is getting weaker. But he can't drink blood- it sickens him even to try.

Reggie feeds the three of them tomatoes and beans. He doesn't eat meat, he's an eco-warrior. But the four of them get along very well, but R.V. seems sad to hear that Evra and Darren have the Freak Show as their home. They quickly assure him that they are neither beaten nor starved- the Freak show is both their home, and their family. He seems reassured, but when they leave, he looks sad again.

Back at the Cirque, another member has rejoined, a man named Cormac Limbs. Cormac's "power" is to regrow any part of his body almost immediately if one of them is cut off, a power he demonstrates to the entire Cirque. With his reappearance, the lull the Cirque has been under is ended, and Mr. Tall declares that they will be making a performance tonight.

Naturally, Darren and Evra invite their new friends Sam and R.V. to see the performance. But the sight of the Wolf-man enrages R.V., and he comes back to set the wolf-man, who he views as little better than an animal, enslaved for the enjoyment of others, free. Little does he know that the Wolf-man is always enraged when not asleep, and his attempt to free it results in his own death. As Evra, Darren and the others attempt to recapture the Wolf-man, their friend Sam is drawn into the chase, and is captured by the Wolf-man. But can Darren, weakened as he is by a lack of blood, help rescue his friend before a terrible tragedy occurs? And will Darren, who has only two days to live from lack of blood, be able to survive the Wolf-man's attack?

This was an interesting continuation of the story in the first Cirque Du Freak novel/manga. Darren has actually become famous for being a young half-vampire, which apparently is almost completely unknown. We get a hint that the "Vampire Generals" are going to want to meet him and test him from one of the fellow workers/Freaks, but another shushes them- that's up for Crepsley to tell Darren.

This book is all about how Sam, a human, wants to join the Cirque, but is put off by both Darren and Evra for being too young. It enrages Sam, who really is very young, and probably gets told he's too young for what he wants to do an awful lot. But in the end, he does get what he wants... sort of. It's too bad that it takes a tragedy for him to do it. And it's R.V., the "eco-warrior" who misguidedly makes it possible.

This was an interesting and sad tale. This manga is a retelling of a book series (by Darren Shan, which makes it either the Marty Stu-iest Marty Stu, or is just following the "False autobiography" style made popular by some works of fiction. In any event, I haven't read the actual books, so I can't tell how closely they hew to the original books, but this was an enjoyable read, and so is recommended.

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