Darren Shan, . . Little, Brown, $15.99 (234pp) ISBN 978-0-316-11499-8
The author of the popular Cirque du Freak books launches another no less gruesome series with this first installment in the Demonata books. Readers meet teen narrator Grubitsch Grady ("Grubbs") in a bad spot—he's in the principal's office, caught smoking cigarettes—but things are about to get far worse. Grubbs seeks revenge against the informant, his sister, Gretelda, by smearing her bath towels with rat guts. He feels guilty about this when, just a few pages later, Gretelda, Mom and Dad are killed in appalling fashion by Lord Loss, a "demon master," and his grotesque familiars—Vein and Artery. Grubbs is sole witness to his family's execution and his narrow escape, by means he doesn't quite understand himself, nearly drives him mad. He goes to live with insensitive Uncle Dervish, who regales his newly orphaned nephew with stories about the "long and bloody history" of the house that Grubbs will now call home. Written mainly in sentence fragments with an excess of exclamation points, the narrative is a mish-mash of occult motifs. Halfway through the story, werewolves make an appearance. It's tough to take any of this seriously: the cartoonish villain stages high-stakes showdowns that mix slasher flick–style battles with chess matches. The author introduces threads about rare books and a missing treasure, then drops them, presumably to pick them up in the following volume, due out next year. Ages 15-up.
Reviewed on: 10/24/2005