The Bottom Line: Shan brings out the super creep-out factor in this book and this has to be record time for me in finishing a Cirque book.
If you're interested in reading the Cirque Du Freak series, keep a few things in mind. First, this is meant for teens, so don't except it to live up to whatever adult expectations you might have. Think like a teen. Second, it's horror, so you'd better be interested in that genre, otherwise I don't know what you're doing picking this up. Third, you really should not start here. Go back to the first book and read them in order like you're supposed to.
Darren decided to go along as Harkat traveled to a strange place in order to recover his true identity. Mr. Tiny tells them that in order for Harkat not to go crazy and die, he must remember who he is by fishing out his soul from the Lake of Souls. But in order to do that, Darren and Harkat are going to need a few things. They need to kill a panther, get a net that's been used to fish for the dead, some weird gelatin-like orbs, and holy liquid from the Temple of the Grotesque. It's an arduous, nasty, freakish journey that only readers of the Cirque will appreciate. Oh, and make sure you mind the dragon...s.
I have to say, this book was so wild and so out there that it's my favorite of the series thus far. I read this sucker in record time. A few hours at most. Harkat and Darren travel to a world unlike any we've ever seen, encounter some of the most freakish things I've read in a book in a long time, and have to do some crazy things in order to find what they need. And Shan brings you horror in the best sense of the word - none of this blood and gore crap that everyone thinks horror is. Just creepy, creepy stuff with a capital C, things you hope to never see, things you hope to never do. When I got to the end of this book, all I could think was that it had the creepy factor of Neil Gaiman's Coraline and unnverving sensation of H.G. Wells's Time Machine.
Guh. Makes me twitch.
And then when you find out who Harkat used to be (using "used to" in a relative term...) your jaw will drop and you'll have a minor weirded-out, surprised freak out. You won't guess. Heck, I had no clue. I was making all sorts of assumptions and didn't figure it out until Shan started to describe what the person looked like and then I about had a coronary as I went, "OMG, IT'S ---------!" At first it seems pretty random, but Mr. Tiny's explanation is pretty good, and I'm sure we'll see more connected to that particular time chess move in the last two books. And boy does Shan enjoy playing with time and souls and the fabric of the universe. And he does it so well, too...
It makes me look forward to the last two books. A lot. I'm really interested in seeing how Shan weaves all these goodies together. I look forward to seeing the Lord of the Vampaneze go down, Darren battling...something else *ahem* and I'd really enjoy seeing something happen to Mr. Tiny, but I don't think it will. Still, it can't hurt to hope, can it?