Slawter (The Demonata) by Darren Shan

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Slawter (The Demonata) by Darren Shan

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Containing enough death, destruction, blood and gore to rival George A Romero's biggest schlockfest, Slawter still manages to be suitable for children. Gotta love it for that alone.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: January 2007
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0007231386

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Slawter is the third volume in Darren Shan's Demonata series, and the second to feature the potentially lycanthropic Grubbs Grady and his uncle, Dervish. In Shan's wonderfully humorous world of horror schlock, the werewolf family are the goodies. In the first book of the series, Lord Loss, Grubbs loses his parents and sister to the titular master demon, suffers a nervous breakdown, discovers a half-brother and goes into battle with his uncle against Lord Loss, all because his family are cursed with that pesky lycanthropic gene.

In Slawter, Grubbs, Dervish and the unsuspecting Bill-E find themselves on the set of a new cult horror movie, after Dervish is called in as expert consultant by its director. On the set, all is not as it seems. The monsters aren't quite the miracle of costume and technology that most of the cast and crew believe them to be....

I should hate these books. I like authors to write new stories about new characters. I don't like it when they wring the last possible sale from the zillionth identical book about the same (usually two-dimensional) characters. I don't like the horror for adults much, let alone horror for children. But I don't hate Darren Shan and his Demonata. In fact, I rather like them. There is enough blood to sink a fleet of battleships. Death and destruction litter every page. I don't think even George A Romero has ever envisaged scenes of quite such gruesome devastation. People really die. Even reasonably important characters are killed off. And yet, somehow, there's nothing in these pages that you wouldn't let a ten year old read.

It's all so, oh, I don't know, high spirited. Shan's tongue is in his cheek a goodly amount, as all good horror buffs understand the importance of camp. Lord Loss is a hideous demon master, but he's as camp as anything Hammer ever put out. The action is immediate. Grubbs Grady is a wonderfully down to earth and sympathetic character. He's a great reluctant hero. There are moments of pathos and they're very well done, but they move swiftly on for some more high drama and some more bloody murder. The violence is real enough to drive a great story, but it's not so real as to cause children any real distress. Neither will it warp their minds, or whatever other silly things people insist on believing books can do to people.

It's all a glorious, blockbusting mess of blood and guts and twisting entrails and if it can win round this confirmed hater of horror, I promise your children will love it.

Thanks to the publisher, Harper Collins, for sending the book.

Those wanting a more serious literary shiver should look at Marcus Sedgwick's My Swordhand Is Singing.

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Audrey van Oort said:

Thank you. My son, 10, read all of the Darren Shan vampire saga books and absolutely loved them. (As did I.) The computer didn't get a look in for weeks!

He recently received the first four of the Demonata books from the brother of a friend who read them when he was 13. They are recommended for 10 year olds, and I reluctantly let him read one hoping he would hate it. I guess I am one of those parents who fear such books will warp his the extent that I was searching the web to see if these books really are suitable for 10 year olds.

I just found your review, and again thank you. My son seems to be just as into the Demonata book as the vampire saga and regales me with stories of what happened next every morning... He seems to take the death and gore for what it is, and just cannot understand "that an adult can write such good fantasy that even a child couldn't make up".

I shall expend my energy in more useful ways. Like reading more of your reviews to see what other books he might love.

Best regards, Audrey van Oort

Jill replied:

What a lovely comment! Thank you very much! I hope you find some less gory books that he will like!