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The Demonata: Dark Calling by Darren Shan

The Demonata   The Demonata: Dark Calling by Darren Shan

 

Dark Calling is the ninth book in the ten book The Demonata series by Darren Shan. Darren Shan is also the author of the Cirque du Freak series (alternatively titled The Saga of Darren Shan for anyone outside of the U.S.), along with some adult horror books. This is his second long running series for teens. He has also written some other horror themed books, including a prequel series for Cirque du Freak called The Saga of Larten Crepsley, and a stand-alone novel based on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, called The Thin Executioner.

 

The Demonata series has three protagonists, Grubbs Grady, who narrates Lord Loss, Slawter, Blood Beast, Demon Apocalypse, and Wolf Island, the first, third, fifth, sixth, and eighth book in the series, a teen magician also struggling with lycanthropy, Kernel Fleck, who narrates Demon Thief and Dark Calling, the second and ninth books in the series, and has the talent to see mysterious lights that can be put together to make windows to the demon universe, and Bec, who narrates Bec and Death’s Shadow, the fourth and seventh book in the series.  The three of them posses a piece of the mysterious weapon called the Kah-Gash, which they can use to destroy the demon universe.

Well, actually, it’s a little more complicated than that.  Dark Calling is all about the Kah-Gash, and what exactly it’s function in the universe is. Dark Calling picks up about a quarter through Wolf Island.  One of the Ancient Ones, a group of beings older than Earth that have given humans the ability to fight back against the demons, kidnaps Kernel and takes him to an alternate planet to tell him the history of the Ancient Ones and their war against the demons, along with his place in the fight.  They say that everything is coming to a climax, and that the fate of the universe falls into the hands of Kernal, Grubbs, and Bec.

Kernel becomes faced with a choice: does he go through with the Ancient Ones plan? Or does he return home and try to stop his planet from being taken over by demons?

 

An interesting thing about this book is that the first third of it is mostly talking, which feels a little odd in the otherwise action packed series. Not to say it wasn’t interesting, I thought the story of the Ancient Ones was one of the coolest parts of the entire series.  The thing about this book is that it raised the stakes really high for the end of the last book, Hell’s Heroes.  Hopefully, it won’t disappoint.

 

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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100 Banned Books Series: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest   100 Banned Books Series: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

 

What is it about?

A classic from the 1960s, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey is a novel set in a mental institution run by the infamously strict Nurse Ratched and her loyal staff, as they hold control over the patients there, all of which suffer from some sort of mental illness. The book focuses on two patients in particular: Chief Bromden, the narrator of the story, who is huge, but very timid, Native American man who has convinced the staff that he is deaf, and therefore not worth noticing.  The other is the hero of the story: Randle “Red” McMurphey, a man committed for statutory rape, and dedicates his time at the asylum to helping the other patients against the tyrannical Nurse Ratched.

The novel mostly tells of the war between McMurphey and Nurse Ratched, and the consequences that come from it. At first, it simply  comes from McMurphey’s reluctance to adhere to Nurse Ratched’s rules, though eventually, he gets several of the other patients on his side. Throughout the novel, McMurphey learns more about the power system in play, and what exactly can drive a man crazy.

 

Why is it controversial?

The main reason for this book’s controversy comes from the fact that it’s use of course language and unsavory themes that many parents would rather not have their teenage children reading about.  Also, there is much talk of sex, since a major theme of the book is how sexual repression can damage a person, using Billy Bibbit (whose overbearing mother kept from reaching sexual and emotional maturity) as the main example. There is also some crude language, including derogatory terms for people of color.

 

My thoughts?

The thing I find most interesting about this book is that there doesn’t seem to be a true good guy in it. Though, McMurphey does do things that helps the other patients, it’s implied that he’s only really doing it to help himself, and that he is a narcissist.  We never really find out whether or not this is true.

Also, though I wouldn’t call Chief Bromden an unreliable narrator in the traditional sense, one should note that, because of his mental illness, he does not see the world the way regular people do, and because of that, it is up to the reader to interpret what is really going on.

While I do think that this is a very good and important work, I feel the need to point out that this book is at times very misogynistic. The main theme of the story is what makes a man go insane, and apparently a woman being in power is one of them.

Granted, Nurse Ratched is a terrible human being, but still, there are many instances where male characters treat female characters as sex objects and attempt to use sex as a way to overpower them. Hell, the reason Red is in the asylum at all is on a statutory rape charge.

That being said, it is an important read.  Like many of the other books in this series, there’s a reason this book is considered a classic. It’s a great read, has compelling characters, and really helps with getting into the mind of the mentally ill.

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The Demonata: Wolf’s Island by Darren Shan

Wolf's Island    The Demonata: Wolf’s Island by Darren Shan

Wolf’s Island is the eight book in the ten book long series The Demonata series by Darren Shan, who also wrote the Cirque du Freak series.  This is the second major book series he has written, also about the supernatural, but while the Cirque du Freak was about vampires, The Demonata is about demons and werewolves.

Also, the first half of the series has been told in a non-linear format, with the first four books told by three different protagonists (Grubbs Grady, Kernel Fleck, and Bec) from different time periods that are all part of the same mystical weapon called the Kah-Gash, which can be used to destroy the entire demon universe.

Lord Loss, Slawter, Blood Beast, Demon Apocalypse and Wolf’s Island are all told from the point of view of Grubbs Grady, a teenager whose parents were killed by demons in an attempt to cure his sister of lycanthropy, a curse that has been affecting his family every since an unfortunate union with a demon thousands of years earlier, and has been affecting Grubbs himself since Blood Beast, the fifth book in the series.

Demon Thief, the second book of the series, was told by Kernal Fleck, a teenager who has the power to see magical lights that could open portals to the demonic universe and is currently in the service of the ancient magician, Beranabus, the reluctant leader of the mage group dedicated to fighting demons, The Disciples.

Bec and Death’s Shadow were told through the point of view of Bec, a young priestess from thousands of years in the past, and sacrificed herself to stop demons from passing through a tunnel. This tunnel was later opened by Grubb’s younger brother, the now deceased Bill-E, thousands of years later, which prompted her soul to take over Bill-E’s body and return to the modern world to once again stop the demons from destroying humanity.

 

Wolf’s Island ties in the story line of the Grady curse, which was a plot point that pretty much only revolved around Grubbs, which is why it makes sense that only his books deal with it (Though Bec did touch on it, as Bec is one of Grubbs ancestors, though she herself was unaffected by the curse). I really did like how this book tied the Lambs and lycanthropy plot points very well, despite the fact that they seemed to have nothing to do with the main plot.

 

This also begins kind of in the middle of Death’s Shadow, which was told in the point of view of Bec, who was attacked by werewolves at the beginning of her book. Bec, along with Grubbs’s uncle, Dervish Grady, and Meera Flame, a family friend meet up with Grubbs, Kernal, and Beranabus, who were off trying to figure out what the uniquely terrifying monster at the end of Demon Apocalypse was. Once Grubbs finds out that someone is using werewolves as attack dogs, he, along with Meera and another Disciple, Shark, decides to leave the group to figure out what was going on.

This leads them to the main complex run by the Lambs, a group of family members that are affected by the Grady curse and try to use science instead of magic to cure it (which in all honesty has done less to cure the werewolves than magic has, but still, it’s a valiant effort). They are also used as executioners for family members whose children have turned.

When they get to the compound, Grubbs and his team find out that the Lambs haven’t quite been honest with what they were doing with the werewolves, and learns that the leader of the Lambs has become involved with demons. While trying to stop him and save members of his family from a horrible fate, Grubbs himself changes to what he was meant to be all along, and learns more about his fate and how it ties into the world around him.

 

This, as did Death’s Shadow, felt like another middle of the series book, though this one had more of an identity than the last one did.  It felt very much like an action adventure, since a good majority of the book was breaking into the Lambs complex and figuring out the plot that went on there. All in all, it was a very enjoyable read.

 

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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