Cirque Du Freak: The Saga of Darren Shan Series

Common Sense Media says

Vampire horror series may hook reluctant readers.





What parents need to know

Educational value
Not applicable
Positive messages

Friendship and personal sacrifice are big themes. But there's also plenty of lying, blackmail, and stealing.

Positive role models

Darren is an incredibly conflicted character. He steals and lies but pays for his actions by having to sacrifice himself. He refuses to drink human blood for a long time, despite what it does to his health. He's concerned about the possibility of becoming evil because he's a half vampire and recognizes other characters as evil and to be avoided. He comes up with a clever plan to save a friend but puts innocent lives in danger to enact it. Mr. Crepsley made a mistake in making Darren a vampire but seems to act in Darren's best interests most of the time. Darren watches a lot of television during the day while he waits for Mr. Crepsley to wake up.


Hands are bitten off. A near-fatal poisoning. Wild animals and livestock are killed frequently, with mentions of necks broken. Bones chewed. Grisly deaths by evisceration. Blood usually sucked from humans with no intention of killing -- until the third book, when a special vampire kills indiscriminately (taking the essence of that person along with all their blood). Sad death of a friend and another almost killed. Mentions of past murders.


Mild romance by the third book, with a couple of kisses. Mention of a hotel guest parading around without his clothes.


A bit of mild swearing, mostly "hell."


Mention of The Simpsons.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults and teens drink wine.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the author claims in the introduction that this is a true story, which some young readers may find confusing. Also, many new fans may result from the release of the fall 2009 movie The Vampire's Assistant, which is based on the first three books, all reviewed here. As a horror series featuring circus freaks and vampires the violence is to be expected, but only gets gory at the end of each book. The most notable moments are when limbs are bitten off and characters lose their stomachs to attacks. By the third installment a crazed creature is on the loose killing indiscriminately.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Darren's best friend, Steve, finds a flier for an illegal freak show, which they sneak out one night to attend. Among acts such as a wolf-man (who bites off the hand of a woman in the audience) and a snake-boy, they see the vampire Mr. Crepsley and his trained poisonous spider. Darren is smitten with the spider and returns to steal her. When Steve is bitten by her, only Mr. Crepsley has an antidote to her poison. But there's a price, and Darren becomes a half vampire, learning the vampire ways, sometimes following the Cirque, and other times joining Mr. Crepsley on secret errands.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why these books are appealing. Does the violence disturb you? Do you enjoy the fantasy?

  • What do you think about this take on the vampire legend? What's different from other books you've read or movies you've seen?

  • What do you think about Darren's struggle to avoid human blood?

  • Where do you think the "little people" came from?

Book details

Author:Darren Shan
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:April 12, 2004
Number of pages:266
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12
Read aloud:10
Read alone:10

This review of Cirque Du Freak: The Saga of Darren Shan Series was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 15 years old Written byleahsharp November 11, 2008

awesome book ! :]

well, i was in my classroom, and found the second book. i read it and loved it! except, i havent read anymore. i was just wondering, are all the books linked, or are they all one story? S: i want to read more, but i also want to know if i should still read the first?
Teen, 13 years old Written byAnn Black May 9, 2011

Great for Tweens!

I think this book was very good. Although it did have violence and a few curse words I think this book was a good read. I would recommend this book for people who aren't scared to read a good horror book and for kids probably over 11 or 12.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Teen, 13 years old Written bySakura-Fluff January 13, 2010

I loved it!

One of the best series I've read. I read the series when I was in 6th grade. I was 10. It was in 2006. I may not be the best one to judge the vampire element, since i read those kind of books so much, but it's not all the book is about. It shows how the real world is, or at least how hard it is, trying to do whats right, and then being hurt for it. Nonetheless, it's an amazing book!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages


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