Hunters of the Dusk
by Darren Shan
Recommended Ages: 12+
"Vampire War," the third trilogy within the 12-book "Saga of Darren Shan," begins with this book. More like the previous "Book 1" than the first book in the overall series, it does not so much tell a free-standing story as set the gears in motion for a new chapter in the career of Darren Shan, half-vampire, magician's assistant, and (increasingly now) warrior prince. It promises to be a chapter filled with savage conflicts, creepy magics, strange surprises, and the dread of a sinister destiny.
Speaking of destiny, Mr. Desmond Tiny (Des for short) shows up at the Vampire Mountain one day, some six years after Darren established himself as a vampire prince. In the middle of a costly war with their vampaneze cousins (who, unlike vampires, actually kill the people whose blood they drink), the vampires are hardly in a mood to hear more bad news from the ancient mage and meddler in fate. But Mr. Tiny tells them that three, and only three, of the vampires must hunt for the newly-risen Lord of the Vampaneze. And if they don't make the best of their four upcoming chances to kill the Vampaneze Lord, the vampires will be wiped out.
Two of the three hunters, according to Mr. Tiny, are to be Darren and his master, Larten Crepsley. Accordingly, the two set out in search of their third companion. Still the vampire's assistant (even while he is an all-powerful prince), Darren trusts his friend. With the third member of the hunt—another vampire prince we haven't met before—they consult an ancient witch named Evanna, who has her own insights into the destiny of vampires and vampaneze, though she refuses to take sides between them. Evanna then joins the trio in a visit to the good old Cirque du Freak, where a few things have changed since they last dropped by. But a violent meeting with the enemy, and the surprising revelations that follow it, cut their stay short.
The book closes with the searchers setting out in a new and unknown direction, one step closer to the grim fate which, if they fail in their task, will leave only one of them alive to witness the downfall of their people. And so, once again, readers following the series are hooked, compelled to seek out the next book (Allies of the Night) and then, no doubt, the gripping conclusion (Killers of the Dawn). As for this one, as a standalone book, I have seen weaker installments in this series, and again I have seen stronger ones. As was the case in Vampire Mountain, you see a lot of stage-setting but not much actually happening. What does happen, however, may give you an idea of what to expect as the danger deepens and the destiny of vampire-kind dangles.