Book Review: “Procession of the Dead” by Darren Shan

There’s not a lot of authors who I’ve followed when they’ve jumped from YA to adult novels and enjoyed their adult novels. I picked up this book because as a teen I’d read pretty much every YA novel Darren Shan wrote and hadn’t read this one. I’d assumed it was the same thing. A new YA novel or series.

Darren Shan’s YA series tend to be gory. They’re all in the vein of horror and all on different levels of gore. “The Cirque du Freak” series has vampires and violence and horror, a lot of the more creepy stuff coming later in the series. His “Demonata” series which features demons and werewolves is gory pretty much from the get-go and then there’s my favorite “The Thin Executioner” which is a road trip-style adventure story that’s also quite gory and creepy. It’s not for the faint of heart.

The Procession of the Dead, at least from the start is pretty different. A lot of things from the other series that are creepy or gory aren’t there yet and instead, there are more crude sexual themes. Instead of dark magic in the form of monsters, there are gangsters and crime. I spent 90% of the book wondering when the magical realism would hit.

The Procession of the Dead follows Capac Raimi whose just arrived in the City. He has dreams of becoming a gangster and taking a slice of the city as his own. The City is run by the Cardinal. A violent and unofficial undefeatable leader of the city. While the city does have mayors and politicians most people defer to the Cardinal who leads through violence.

Capac finds himself in the underbelly of the city with questions about his past and his future. Could he rise to the top of the cities organized crime? And can he do so while retaining his humanity? Or will he fall into darkness?

It’s an interesting novel. While there is gore, just not as much as the other books I’m familiar with and it tends to be held off as Capac explores the city and his life and tries to unravel the mysteries around him. It’s not nearly as haunting as the other books by Darren Shan I’ve read, it’s more grounded in reality. A lot of the “seedier” elements happen in real life, like drugs, prostitution, sexual violence, anti-Semitism, drinking, fighting, and gun violence. The old school gangsters however are a bit different for a somewhat modern time period novel. Out of his novels, I’m surprised to say I find this one cruder and that something he said in the back of the book might be why I’m not the biggest fan of it.

“When I’m writing for children, I tend to differentiate more clearly between good and evil. In my adult books I like to explore the gray areas of the world and our personalities. “

Darren Shan

His goal with this book was to play around in the gray area between good and evil and try to play upon fears of what could be hiding within people. And I think I’m just a person who, while I totally understand morally gray areas and that not everything is black and white I like the fantasy of it. I like an old fashioned story of good versus evil. Maybe the hero will fall into that gray space, that’s fine. But the whole book plays in this gray space. Where gangsters are accepted parts of society, almost like a guild from Discworld but with all the “real” grit and grime. And it’s just not my favorite.

This book is a part of a series and maybe I’ll continue it. Apparently, the sequel was a bestseller which I find interesting and has piqued my interest. So maybe I’ll finish this series. But I think my expectations let me down on this one.

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