Cirque Du Freak: The Saga of Darren Shan Series

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Cirque Du Freak: The Saga of Darren Shan Series Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Vampire horror series may hook reluctant readers.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 19 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 79 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value
Positive Messages

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

Positive Role Models & Representations

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.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the author claims in the introduction to Cirque Du Freak, the first of the 12-part Saga of Darren Shan series featuring circus freaks and vampires, that this is a true story, which some young readers may find confusing. The 2009 movie The Vampire's Assistant is based on the first three. As you'd expect from any vampire series, there's violence, and some characters die, but things only get gory at the end of each book. Most notably violent 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAngellaR July 30, 2018

This got my teen that hated reading started reading for pleasure

Literally - the kid read what his teachers made him read. Then, when there were only four books in the Cirque Du Freak series and one Demonata book out the lib... Continue reading
Adult Written byMatthew T. January 17, 2018

Do Not Underestimate This Series

I read this series when I was about 11 and grew up with it for a good 3 years. I agree with many of the other adults saying it does get more explicit in violenc... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bycwg98 May 15, 2011

Ideal for Tweens but under 12s won't get it

Perfect book for 12+ Basically a violent, bloody and exciting version of Twilight. But definately not for under 12s as the first book is sad and depressing and... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bygabikiley July 31, 2019

Made me like reading

To be honest, I never enjoyed reading that much when I was younger, but I remember reading this series and enjoying it so much. I finished the whole series so q... Continue reading

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.

Is it any good?

Creepy thrills and chills abound in this series, which is not for the faint of heart but could hook reluctant readers. It may not be high art, but it's addictive.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love vampires and horror

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