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BOOK REVIEW - DARREN SHAN - THE DARREN SHAN SAGA 4/. TRIALS OF DEATH 2002 Harper Collins. 

 

The best by far of this excellent series. The originality of this volume is startling. Darren is in deep trouble even as the book begins. He must prove that he is worthy to become a full vampire through a series of Herculean labours and challenges. Failure to complete the tasks usually results in painful horrible death. It would be easy to write a formulaic novel in which the hero faces one impossible challenge or fight after another, triumphing over each obstacle to gain glory in the final page. Shan (the writer) avoids that neatly. It is clear that the trials are very lethal. Darren is trapped in a flooded maze and has to escape before he drowns. He makes it. Similarly he copes with the firetrap. However, things go pear shaped when he wrestles bulls. He actually fails the task. He would die if not for the intervention of his dwarf friend, Vancha, who saves his life. This causes uproar as it is against the rules to receive assistance. Darren is accused of cheating, though he had no idea that his friend would try to assist him. He is ordered to endure a fresh trial immediately, though exhausted and wounded from its preceding one. Though willing to go ahead with the trial, a Prince who advises him to flee for his life approaches Darren. He agrees to do so, but he knows that if he does so he must never return, as to walk out on the trials is an act of cowardice that can result in execution. Surprisingly, the hero is allowed to turn coward. He sets out to leave the Vampire Mountain; He makes a fatal detour on the way out. He wants to see his Spider, Madam Otta, who he released in a chamber filled with other spiders in the previous book. The spider queen has now mated with the ordinary spiders, and spawned an army of her own. Darren is happy for her, and both she and her poisonous children s seem to respect him. Darren now turns to leave the caves forever, but as he goes he discovers that some vampires are allowing the hated Vampaneze in to attack the secret headquarters of the vampire princes. This is an act of revolution. Darren realizes that he was advised to leave the caves to make it look as if he was responsible too. He tries to resist the invaders himself, but in the fight against the vampire traitors, Darren falls into a fast flowing Underground River and gets swept away. The attackers assume that he is dead, and the book ends on this cliffhanger note. http://www.darrenshan.com/

 

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