Darren Shan is the author of the monsterific ten book series known as 'The Demonata' and the twelve book vampire series 'The Saga of Darren Shan'. His adventures have been read by millions of people around the world in several different languages, yet much of his life remains shrouded in mystery. He lives in seclusion in the depths of Ireland. And he never drinks blood. Or so he claims.
Gr 7 Up-Shan's latest fantasy marks something of a departure from his gory, demon-infested "Demonata" and "Cirque du Freak" series (both Little, Brown). Based loosely on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it takes readers on a hero's journey through a harsh world filled with ignorant, brutal people, competing pagan religions, and the occasional supernatural being. Like Huck, Jebel Rum undertakes a dangerous journey accompanied by a slave. And just like Finn, his long-held beliefs are challenged by his experience with the "lesser" man. He and his slave, Tel Hasani, also suffer at the hands of con men posing as royalty. But this story is merely a pale shadow of Twain's classic. Jebel Rum sets out not to free his slave but to sacrifice him at the altar of one of his gods in exchange for invincibility. His goal is to compete for the right to replace his father as his city's executioner. Shan's characterizations and dialogue are weak at best, and Jebel's conversion is predictable and artless. The overriding message is heavy-handed and unsatisfying. Despite all of that, readers who cut their teeth on "Cirque du Freak" and moved on to the "Demonata" will most likely gobble up this lengthier, slightly more cerebral novel. There is just enough brutality to keep the pages turning.-Anthony C. Doyle, Livingston High School, CA Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
Shan (the Cirque Du Freak series) delivers a fun if predictable stand-alone novel that loosely updates Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn while posing some interesting moral questions. Set in an alternate Arabia filled with multiple religions and gods, Jebel Rum is the youngest and scrawniest son of the executioner of the Um Aineh people. After he impulsively embarks on a quest to get the gifts of strength and invincibility from the god Sabbah Eid, Jebel finds himself on the road with the slave Tel Hesani, who must be sacrificed to complete the quest. Their adventures cause Jebel to question the nature of his indoctrinated religious beliefs, as well as the assumption that only the Um Aineh ways-built heavily on slavery and violence-are correct. Although Shan takes on imperialism and organized religion (the con artists are named Bush and Blair), the politics intertwine smoothly with the travelers' adventures and don't overwhelm the encounters with assorted threats. While the ending is never in doubt, Shan delivers an exciting adventure en route. Ages 15-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.