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Thursday, 12 November 2015

Ocean of Blood by Darren Shan (Saga of Larten Crepsley, #2) - Book Review

5/5 Stars

The sea will run red...

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Edition: Paperback
Pages: 232
Chapters: 25
Publisher: HarperCollins

Book Links: Goodreads
                      Amazon
                      Author's Website

Review

And the story of young Larten Crepsley continues. With Birth of a Killer, this book's predecessor, there's the distinct, childlike origins that doesn't disappoint; with Ocean of Blood we move from the protagonist's formative years into his young adult/teenage years. This entry focuses heavily on the main character's future, the finding of his path. 

There's also a host of characters, both old and new (if you're coming from this series' parent, The Saga of Darren Shan, then there are some extra awesome and nostalgic treats). They're all fantastic in their own special ways, with some being absolute delights.

But Ocean of Blood comes with a double-sided element; a pro that is also a con. Shan does a great job in portraying and evoking the listlessness Larten feels as he waywardly wanders. It connects us with our main and his situation, but there's also that slight 'filler' feel. The lack of direction can make things appear jumbled. Thankfully, the rapturous resolution to this instalment is well worth the perseverance. Trust me, that end is... Holy crap on a cracker...

SPOILER WARNING

Synopsis (Not a copy from the book, but I always keep my interpretations close.)

Set free by their master, Larten and Wester are released from the shackles of being unwavering members of the vampire clan.
The rules that govern them are lax, and every young creature of the night goes on such a journey to rid themselves of their more human desires.
Despite his potential and proficiency in almost all facets of the vampires' way of life, Larten feels disconnected, adrift.
When their time as Cubs (the name given to the wild, young vampire wanderers) is over, Larten's path becomes even more unsteady.
The consequences of a vampire without direction or purpose are dire.
And despite Larten's moral demeanour, it all might end in blood...

Plot - 4.5/5 Stars

Apart from the few meh parts, Ocean of Blood's story is fun and adventurous. It focuses almost solely on Larten's journey of self-discovery, but there are a few allusions to something bigger on the horizon for our hero. From the raucous nights of undiluted youth, the less than jubilant journey to find out what Larten will decide for his future, to the gut-punching ending that cliffhangers us with its terrifying ambiguity. Essentially, we're joining Larten as he grows into an adult.

There's action to break the adventure, and believe it or not, more wonderful series mythology that starts back in The Saga of Darren Shan. Said mythology is vast and rich, and with The Saga of Larten Crepsley, Shan makes the world that little bit fuller. There're more infuriatingly intriguing layers. (Such as the Cubs and War Packs -- a collection of Cubs that linger and feast on the dead of those who fall during humanity's wars.)

We also follow a similar structure to Birth of a Killer: Spanning several years of Larten's life with smooth transitions. There's even a cameo from Bram Stoker.

But it's the end that steals the cake. Devastating, action-packed and a whole new chapter for the protagonist's life. The cliffhanger will have no problem guaranteeing your continued interest.

Pace - 5/5 Stars

Getting to that aforementioned ending is no problem thanks to Shan's fast-paced plot and writing style. The flow is unstoppable. It makes those sections not quite up-to-par less of a big deal; they're practically negligible.

Characters - 5/5 Stars

There are only so many times I can describe a cast as diverse and just goddamn great before it gets monotonous (crap, far, far too late for that. I'm a broken bloody record). But Shan is the man when it comes to creating original subjects to terrorise.

Larten himself is majorly cocky to start off with in this entry. He's quite the ladies' man and gambler (readers of the parent series will be shocked by young Mr Crepsley). We also come to see just how much of a free spirit he is, even as his immaturity wanes. It's this need to be out in the open that eventually sets him on a dark and dangerous path; one he can't properly fathom until events make their mark on his soul, forever. We also get to witness the origins of Larten's scar from Evanna, the powerful sorceress and daughter of the god-like Mr Tiny (who also makes a brief, ominous appearance).

Wester, Crepsley's best friend and fellow assistant to their shared master Seba Nile, lingers in the former's shadow. At least, he sees it that way. Larten has been chosen by destiny, and although no one knows for what, Wester holds no animosity. I like that chilled outlook, but part of me doesn't think it will last. Wester's hatred for the vampaneze (purple-skinned brethren to the vampires, who delight in draining humans dry) only intensifies throughout Ocean of Blood, and I see that thread being picked up at a later date. It could possibly put the two friends at odds.

There are some nice blink-and-you'll-miss-it cast members that are full of nostalgia. Arra Sails, Larten's future vampire lover, makes a brief appearance, and she's human! There's also some Vancha March, delightfully disgusting; Seba Nile, the old and fatherly master to Larten and Wester; and, of course, Evanna and Mr Tiny.

There are new characters also, but two in particular got my attention. Firstly, Malora, because oh, my, God! Malora becomes our protagonist's assistant, and proves to be a riveting addition. Strong, steady and utterly devoted to Larten, her story's resolution gives way to my second notable character, and also the devastating cliffhanger we end on.

She dies (of course) and the way in which she does is truly heartbreaking. The effect this has on Larten is, quite simply, monumentally monstrous. His revenge ends up coating the ship he's on in blood. It's here we meet Daniel Abrams, a young boy who works on the ship. I really hope Shan uses him again because, despite his brief role, the way he snaps and loses his mind is perhaps the most horrific thing in the entire novel.

I'm holding high hopes for future entries, because the players on the board are all superb.

Writing - 5/5 Stars

With short chapters, short, but apt, descriptions, and lightning-quick action, Shan belts out another winner. His writing is always easily approached, and takes no time at all to become addicted to. Just when you think he can't improve, he finds a new method to reel you in.

Overall - 5/5 Stars

Even in death may you be triumphant...

And with the series on its current course, I see a lot of death...


Previous Instalment: Birth of a Killer
Next Instalment: Palace of the Damned


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2 comments:

  1. Heh heh. Young Daniel has ALREADY been used again in my books!! Have a quick look back at The Lake Of Souls from the original series... and bear in mind all the "spitting" he does at the end of this book... :-)

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    Replies
    1. Holy crap! I remember! How did I forget that?! He's a great character (if you enjoy cast members with cannibalistic tendencies).

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