Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Review: Brothers to the Death by Darren Shan

The Saga of Larten Crepsley (of which Brothers to the Death is the final volume) has been a thoughtful and restrained series.  It still has many of the horrific set pieces that the author is famous for, but they're not as prevalent as in his other series, allowing more time for character development . Focusing more directly on a single main character, Shan has given us a well thought-out and flawed hero, plagued by self-doubt and a blind urge for vengeance but with a strong, albeit somewhat different to ours, moral code.

Without giving too much away, the story itself encompasses the latter half of the 20th Century, particularly World War II. When the Nazis seek an alliance with the Vampires, it's Crepsley's outburst that ultimately determines the Vampires' decision - a decision that will have huge repercussions for the main character and drives the events of the latter half of the book.

book cover illustration courtesy of the book zone 

Complex family relationships are explored, questions raised in earlier books (and series) are adroitly answered and familiar characters appear (and in some cases have their origins explained) and there's a neat twist towards the end that I never saw coming (and I'm usually good at spotting them!). 

One of the things I've always felt that Shan does well is his endings and this one is no exception.  Avoiding pathos he skillfully wraps up a big story with a small set-piece that is not only moving but brings the saga full circle, tying it in very neatly with the original Chronicles of Darren Shan.  Regular readers will end the book with a smile on their faces.

Overall, this has been a series to savour.  Full of great characters, a centuries-encompassing storyline and a truly memorable conclusion, the Saga of Larten Crepsley is a worthy addition to the ranks of great horror series for younger readers.

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