HarperCollins Children’s Books, p/b, £10.99
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan
It is very important to remember that there is a far greater a difference between books written for children and Young Adult (or teen) fiction than between YA and adult fiction. The distinction between the latter two is often the age of the protagonists and the degree of teenage angst. Children’s books have a difference in style, pace and language and some topics are taboo. They are not cluttered with pages of beautiful prose designed to impress the adult reader with the erudition of the author. Plots are not overcomplicated with sub plots and subtle allusions. They tell straight-forward stories designed to catch the imagination.
Darren Shan is a very popular children’s writer whose appeal is probably mostly to boys. He writes about vampires. Brothers to the Death is the fourth and concluding volume of the Larten Crepsley saga. Larten is a relatively old vampire in love with Alicia, a human woman. She wants to keep their relationship as one of friendship as she sees herself aging while Larten remains ageless. Except for this factor, these vampires seem to behave very much as normal men, eating normal food. They do tend to sleep during the day and don’t go out in direct sunlight. A different race, the vampaneze, are the more traditional, dangerous blood drinking beings more familiar to vampire fiction. The two races do not get on and some vampire factions think the vampaneze should be wiped out. There is an irony in this as the setting at the start is the 1930s. The rising Nazi party in Germany has offered the vampires an alliance which is rejected because the Nazi’s are too brutal and show little sympathy to non-Aryans (though that word is not used).
Disliking rejection the Nazis want to find the location of Vampire Mountain where the most important vampire princes live. Larten is given the job of leading them astray so he and his friend, Gavner, lead the pursuing party round in circles. While this is going on someone murders Alicia and a vampaneze by the name of Randel Chayne is blamed. Larten spends the next thirty years trying to track him down in order to exact revenge.
For an adult reader used to the exploits of such as Dracula, this book may seem a little tame. The violence is low key though there are a couple of good set-piece fights. The ten to thirteen year-old reader will love it. There is no depth to the characterisation and the issues in the book are simplistic but the ten to thirteen year-old reader will love it. This book does exactly what it intends to, entertain the young reader. Anyone who has children or grandchildren of this age would feel very happy to let them read it.