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Birth of a Killer (The Saga of Larten Crepsley) Hardcover – October 5, 2010

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Product Details

  • Series: The Saga of Larten Crepsley (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (October 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316078638
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316078634
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #660,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 6-8-This adventure story traces the early life of master vampire Larten Crepsley. Sent to work in a Dickensian factory, young Larten kills the abusive foreman and flees. He takes shelter in a cemetery crypt where he meets the 500-year-old vampire General Seba Nile, who explains to the terrified youngster that vampires aren't evil. Although they drink human blood, just as the legends say, they do not harm those on whom they feed. When he invites Larten to travel with him as his assistant, the boy agrees. As the first entry in a projected series, this story includes quite a bit of exposition. The plot action covers more than 20 years, taking Larten through his first "blooding" and into full vampire status, and features his first meetings with mysterious Cirque owner Hibernius Tall; Seba's vampire ally Paris Skyle; and the vampaneze Murlough. At times, the pacing feels rather rushed with the effort to introduce many important characters, settings, and themes from Shan's "Cirque du Freak" saga (Little, Brown). Transitions are often abrupt, jumping several years between chapters. A cliff-hanger ending promises further revelations. "Cirque du Freak" aficionados will be intrigued by this glimpse into Crepsley's formative years, but the uninitiated will want to read the original books first.-Elaine E. Knight, Lincoln Elementary Schools, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


"His writing is slick, his dialogue sharp and clever, his plotting immaculate. His books ooze with the kind of creepy, dark atmosphere and powerful characters that young teenage readers lap up. Shan is honing his craft with every book, and I look forward to the next gore-fest with relish." Irish Independent "Forget Stephen King, this author's the master of scaring children." The Big Issue in Scotland "A tantalising start to the series and a must-read for Darren Shan fans." Books Quarterly --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Darren Shan's real name is Darren O'Shaughnessy (pronounced O-Shock-Nessy, though it can also be pronounced O-Shawn-Essy_. Although he is Irish, he was born on July 2, 1972, in St. Thomas' Hospital, London -- directly across the river from the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, which may explain his fascination with evil bloodsuckers! He lived in South East London, near the Elephant & Castle. He started school at the early age of three (he was such a wild child, no pre-school facility would have him!), in English Martyrs. At the age of six, he moved to Limerick in Ireland, with his parents and younger brother, and has lived there ever since.

Shan went to primary school in Askeaton, where his mother was a teacher, then to secondary school in Copsewood College in Pallaskenry. Later, he went back to London to study Sociology and English at Roehampton University. He then worked for a cable television company in Limerick for a couple of years, before setting up as a full-time writer at the age of 23.

Although Shan always wanted to be a writer, it was only in his teenage years that he began writing in his spare time for fun (before that, he only wrote stories if they were for homework). He bought his first typewriter when he was 14, and never looked back, knocking out loads of short stories and comic scripts, and making false starts on several books, which he never completed. He enjoyed his first taste of literary success at age 15, as a runner-up in a television script-writing competition for RTE in Ireland, with a dark comedy script titled A Day in the Morgue (he was morbid even then!).

Shan was 17 when he finished his first novel. Although it was never published, he relished the writing experience, and found himself focusing more on novels in the coming years, leaving behind the short-story format. For the next several years, sandwiched between university and work, he wrote an average of one book a year, experimenting with different ideas, genres, lengths and styles. When he started writing full-time, his output shot up to 5 to 6 books per year! But that has dropped back to 2 to 3 recently, due to all the travelling around he's been doing to promote sales of his books.

All of these early books were adult-oriented. Although Shan quite liked the idea of writing a children's book one day, he considered himself an adult writer first and foremost. In fact, Shan's initial breakthrough was with an adult book, in 1999, titled Ayuamarca (since re-released in the UK as Procession Of The Dead, and coming to the USA in 2010).

In January 2000, his first children's book, Cirque du Freak, which he'd written as a fun side-project, was published. The first book in a series titled The Saga of Darren Shan (or Cirque du Freak, as it's known in America), it attracted rave reviews and an ever-growing army of fans hungry to learn more about vampires which were quite unlike any that anyone had ever seen before!

Shan loved writing for children so much, that for the next several years he focused exclusively on his books for younger readers. First, he wrote a total of 12 books about vampires. He quickly followed up his vampiric saga with The Demonata, a series about demons. Running to ten books in total, The Demonata cemented Shan's place in the UK as the Master Of Children's Horror, and saw him score his first UK #1 bestseller. He also wrote a one-off short book, called Koyasan, for Wold Book Day in the UK.

There was a very successful manga adaptation of Shan's vampire series, drawn by the Japanese artist, Takahiro Arai. It was originally serialized in Japan, but collected volumes are now on sale in the USA, UK and other countries.

In addition to writing for children, Shan has now returned to his first love and is once again writing for adults as well. He has had two adult books published in the UK, Procession Of The Dead and Hell's Horizon. They have been released in a number of other countries too, and are due to hit the USA in 2010. A third, City of the Snakes, goes on sale in the UK in March 2010. His first adult books were released under the name of D B Shan, but they are being reprinted under the name of Darren Shan in March 2010, and City of the Snakes will be released under the Darren Shan name.

By the start of 2010, Shan's books were on sale in every continent, in 39 countries, in 31 languages, and have been children's bestsellers in America, Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and other countries. The books have topped adult bestseller charts in Hungary, Japan and Taiwan. In total, Shan's books have sold close to 15 million copies worldwide!!!!

The movie rights to Cirque Du Freak were bought by Universal, and the first movie (which combines elements from the first three books in the series) was released on October 23rd, 2009, starring newcomer Chris Massoglia as Darren Shan, along with a wide array of established stars such as Josh Hutcherson, John C Reilly, Salma Hayek, Willem Defoe and Ken Watanabe. The movie was called Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant. It was released on DVD and Blu-Ray in February 2010.

A big film buff, with a collection of more than four thousand movies at home, Shan also reads lots of comics and books, and likes to study and collect original artwork, especially comic art and impressionist and post-impressionist art. He has recently started adding sculptures to his collection, making use of the large, empty field outside his back door. Other interests include long walks, watching football (he's a Tottenham Hotspur and Ireland fan), listening to pop and rock music, theatre, worldwide travel, sampling the delights of both gourmet cuisine and finger-licking junk food, and dreaming up new ways to terrify his readers!!!

Shan spends most of his time in Limerick, Ireland, with his girlfriend Bas. He has no pets, but a neighbourhood dog called Goldie joins him on his walks most days. He also feeds a variety of wild birds, and spots the occasional hare and pheasant strolling through his back yard. In addition to his main home in Ireland, Shan has an apartment in London, to which he escapes for a burst of high-speed living every so often, when he feels the need to get his juices flowing!! Shan rarely writes when in London or on the road, preferring to tie himself to his computer when at home in Limerick, where he can work away solidly without any distractions in the peace and quiet of the Irish countryside.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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It's very thrilling and a good read.
Cirque Du Freak is my favorite series and Darren Shan is my favorite author this book made me appreciate is skills even more.
Awesome book ,best one yet,I wish I can read more of them yet but I will just have to wait on that now won't I.
brittney allen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By J. A. Kossler on September 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm going to try to put aside the fact that I'm a diehard fan of Larten... wait... I can't.

Anyway, unlike most other books, this one got a full 12:00 AM - 3:00 AM slot and was read straight through. The pacing's great; there were no instances where I felt bored or like I should go do something else. The beginning (pre-vampire) is great and gives a good insight into the world that he lived in. It's the beginning of the 19th century (I believe) and we're given a nicely painted image of what life was like for children back then - work, work, work. I must also say I'm very pleased with the explanation for why his hair is that vibrant orange color.

Post-apprentice sections fly by, which is probably my only criticism of the book. It seems like we're skipping time a lot and don't get a chance to really acclimate to a particular time in Larten's life. In that way, the scenes can feel a little disjointed because there isn't much tying them together, except our understanding of how vampire apprenticeship works. There are only going to be four books in this series, so some allowance is there for getting through the plot, but I still feel like I'd be happier taking this a little slower. I'm most sad to see that we didn't get to see him be blooded and experience the change from human to vampire, which was one of my favorite parts in Darren's adventure. Regardless, I imagine there's going to be a lot of really interesting content that comes up after the end scene of this book, so I'm hoping his early vampire life was rushed through for good reasons.

It's incredibly strange and fascinating watching him grow up and become a vampire. His personality as a child and teen seem wildly different from his personality as a seasoned vampire when he takes Darren on.
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Format: Hardcover
When Larten Crepsley awoke and yawned one gray Tuesday morning, he had no idea that by midday he would have become a killer.

Born into an impoverished family, Larten and his siblings are forced to work hard. Every morning they trudge into a world of long hours and brutal treatment at the factory. His cousin Vur, slight and gentle, lives and works along with Larten "...twelve hours a day, six days a week, and eight hours on most Sundays, with no more than a handful of holidays every year."

Larten is resigned to the fact that his mother is oblivious to his existence other than the fact that he helps with the family income. She is not affectionate, has no time for playful children, and slaps them all out into the world as soon as they are able-bodied. His father, having worked in the same factory at one time, is somewhat more sympathetic and would like the boys to have a different occupation, but at the moment, this is how it has to be. The foreman, known as Tzar, is a vicious man. It is known that he has actually bitten off some noses and ears --- he does not fool around. Some of the children are actually slaves who have been sold to him; others, like Larten and his cousin, are under-paid workers. All are treated with the same distain and the same indifference. Indifference, that is, until something happens, such as talking while they work, not going fast enough, or dropping something; any small infraction can lead to terrible beatings. The slave children often die in service --- from starvation, overwork and the constant thud of Tzar's fists. They all live in constant terror.

Almost every day at the factory begins with having their hair dyed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jen Jen on September 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Loved this book! Only complaint was that it was too short and now I gotta wait till April for the next one.

If you are a Larten fan, or just a Cirque fan in general, you should love this book. So much back story revealed and only more to come! :]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By The Quilting Librarian on December 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"Are cobwebs a treat where you come from?"

So begins Larten Crepsley's meeting with the mysterious Seba Nile, a meeting that sets Larten on the path to becoming a vampire. How did Larten come to be hiding in a crypt, eating cobwebs when he had started the day as a child laborer, not so different from all of the other children he knew?

The day started as any other, with Larten rising early to have a few moments of peace before his mother's yells woke his siblings and cousin, Vur. After a hurried breakfast of watery porridge, Larten and Vur headed to work at a silk factory run by the cruel foreman Traz. But Larten's world was turned upside down when Traz, in a fit of temper, killed Vur. In a haze of despair and anger, Larten struck back, killing Traz. Forced to flee the city with no supplies, Larten sought shelter from a storm in the only dry place he could find, a crypt. Little did he expect that someone, or something, else had already sought refuge there.

Birth of a Killer chronicles Larten's experiences first as a vampire's assistant, including his own introduction to the Cirque du Freak, and later as a new vampire. The action moves quickly, often skipping ahead years. Readers looking for an in depth examination of life as a vampire's assistant may be disappointed as the book moves from highlight to highlight, focusing on milestones in Larten's journeys. After all, the author has 200 years to cover in just four books.

Shan's vampires are violent creatures of the night, yet this book stops short of being a true horror story. Fans of the Cirque du Freak series will consider this prequel a must-read. But Birth of a Killer stands on its own and those who have not read the original series will still enjoy this story of dark beings of the night.

Disclosure: I received this book as an advance reader copy from the publisher in return for writing a review.
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