Cover image for Cirque du Freak
Cirque du Freak
Shan, Darren.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
Boston : Little, Brown and Company, [2001]

Physical Description:
266 pages ; 22 cm.
Two boys who are best friends visit an illegal freak show, where an encounter with a vampire and a deadly spider forces them to make life-changing choices.
General Note:
Sequel: The vampire's assistant.
Reading Level:
650 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG+ 4.8 7.0 59118.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.3 12 Quiz: 24960 Guided reading level: T.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Teen
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Young Adult
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Young Adult
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction 1:C-POP-MAYR
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Young Adult
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Young Adult
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Young Adult
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Open Shelf

On Order


Author Notes

Darren Shan was born in 1972 in London. At the age of 6 he moved with his parents and younger brother, to Limerick, Ireland, where he has lived ever since.

Darren saw first literary success at age 15, as a runner-up in a television script-writing competition with a dark comedy titled A Day in the Morgue. He was 17 when he finished his first novel. Although it was never published, he found himself focusing more on novels than on short stories.

In January 2000, Darren's first children's book, Cirque du Freak was published. The first book in a series titled The Saga of Darren Shan, or Cirque du Freak, as it's known in America, received rave reviews. His books have been children's bestsellers in America, Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and other countries.

In addition to his children's books he writes for adults as well and has had several adult books published including Procession of the Dead, Hell's Horizon, and City of the Snakes.

Darren Shan spends most of his time in Limerick, Ireland.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5^-8. When Cirque Du Freak comes to town, Darren and his friends are obsessed with seeing the acts, which include a performing spider; spiders are a particular fascination of Darren's. It is a marvelously creepy show that lives up to their expectations. After the show, Darren's rowdy pal, Steve, stays behind and confronts the man with the spider--who turns out to be a vampire. Hidden in the shadows, Darren listens, horrified, as Steve begs Mr. Crepsley to make him a vampire, too. Steve's request is denied, but through a series of mishaps, Darren becomes the vampire. The unresolved ending will leave readers begging for more. The gripping plot moves forward at a lightning pace, and Darren's fascination with the grotesque will ring true for many. Though originally published in England, there are no off-putting Briticisms, just a rip-roaring story full of oddities, low-key horror, and occasional, unexpected poignancy. --Debbie Carton

Publisher's Weekly Review

With strong sales overseas and a movie deal in the works, book one in The Saga of Darren Shan series is poised to capture a wide audience of series horror readers. After a rather slow buildup, a boy with the same name as the author sneaks out with best friend Steve to an illicit freak show, and his life becomes entangled with a vampire spider-wrangler, Mr. Crepsley. "This is a true story," writes Shan. "In real life, bad things happen. People die. Fights are lost. Evil often wins." The scenario is compelling, and the author mines the exploitative history of early 20th-century sideshows to create an artfully macabre "Cirque du Freak." But Darren's actions are often undermotivated: "I can't explain why Madam Octa [the spider] meant so much to me, or why I was placing my life in such danger to have her. Looking back, I'm no longer sure what drove me on." Also his intermittent attraction to and repulsion by the vampire is never fully explored. His behavior may be explained in the sequel, The Vampire's Assistant (due in Sept.), but the open ending leaves so many loose ends that readers may leave more frustrated than intrigued, especially since the characters' wooden dialogue drains them of personality ("I'm upset," says Steve. "It hurt, what Mr. Crepsley said, and you ignoring me at school... If you break up our friendship, I don't know what I'll do"). Readers interested in boys becoming vampires would be better served by M.T. Anderson's Thirsty and those fascinated with freaks by Iain Lawrence's Ghost Boy. Ages 10-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-8-In his introduction, 12-year-old Darren claims that this is a true story, though the names have been changed and the country (obviously England) kept secret. When a bizarre-sounding freak show comes to town, he and his friend Steve sneak out to attend, and Steve recognizes one of the performers-as a centuries-old vampire. Darren decides he must steal the vampire's performing, poisonous spider. The theft is successful, and he learns to control Madam Octa with a combination of flute music and ESP-until she bites Steve. Darren must then sell himself into vampire slavery to get the cure to the spider's poison. This volume is neither as well written nor as compulsively readable as the "Harry Potter" books (Scholastic), though surely J. K. Rowling's endorsement on the cover will win it a few fans. Most of the characters aren't developed much beyond their names and a brief description. The slowness of the plot in the beginning might turn some readers off, but once the supernatural enters, they will be hooked. The fun here is in the details and in the uniqueness of the non-evil vampire monster. Several volumes of the series are already out in England, and the movie rights have already been purchased, ensuring that this title and probably its sequels will be in demand.-Timothy Capehart, Leominster Public Library, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.