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A Living Nightmare

(Cirque du Freak #1)

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  51,670 ratings  ·  3,561 reviews
In the tradition of Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot, Cirque Du Freak is the frightening saga of a young boy whose visit to a mysterious freak show leads him on a journey into a dark world of vampires. Filled with grotesque creatures, murderous vampires, and a petrifying ending, Cirque Du Freak will chill, thrill, and leave readers begging for more. ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 272 pages
Published June 1st 2002 by Little, Brown Young Readers (first published 2000)
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Breanna It depends on the edition you have. Some say it's "A Living Nightmare" in the "Cirque du Freak" series. My edition says it's the Cirque du Freak: A Li…moreIt depends on the edition you have. Some say it's "A Living Nightmare" in the "Cirque du Freak" series. My edition says it's the Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare" in "The Darren Shan Saga".(less)
Rhosyn Yes! I read them when I was 10/11 and they're great!…moreYes! I read them when I was 10/11 and they're great!(less)

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Average rating 4.08  · 
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Start your review of A Living Nightmare (Cirque Du Freak, #1)
This is an older series and many of you may have read it years ago or already decided it wasn't for you, but maybe my review will sway you into giving it a chance (or just make you remember how much you loved it.)

Here's my take on things:

Be prepared for a male author with all male main characters. There's a younger sister character with a small part and I enjoyed the siblings' relationship, but aside from her and a few mothers, this is mostly a series about boys. Did that bother me? Not at all.
Miranda Reads
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
This is NOT a fluffy-happy-cloud middle school book

Darren Shan and his three best friends manage to score two tickets to the Cirque du Freak - a one-night-only freak circus that promises hair-raising terror and blood-curdling sights. Through a bit of luck ( or was it fate? ) both Darren and Steve are chosen to attend. The circus certainly lives up to its name - Hans Hands, Remus Two-Bellies and the Snakeboy were all absolutely magnificent.

And then...there was the trained spider. The most ama
Jul 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This has got to be one of the best books I have ever read! I used to hate reading I found it a chore. I only read school books. This book changed that normally I'm not normally into horror books but Darren Shan is different he is such a cool and likeable person. I reccomend this book to anyone who likes reading, this book is a great start to a series I loved. I re-read the series all the time. If you read it, then I am 86% sure you will love it. ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
Cirque Du Freak = The Saga of Darren Shan, Darren Shan
The Saga of Darren Shan (known as Cirque du Freak: The Saga of Darren Shan in the United States) is a young adult 12-part book series written by Darren Shan (pen name of Darren O'Shaughnessy) about the struggle of a boy who has become involved in the world of vampires. As of October 2008, the book has been published in 33 countries around the world, in 30 different languages.
عنوان: قصه های سرزمین اشباح : جلد یک 1 : سیرک عجایب؛ نویسنده: دارن
After reading this, I couldn't help but laugh. As a reading teacher, I'm always reading books to determine whether or not my students might enjoy reading them, too. However, this school year, several of my students have been recommending books TO ME to read! This is another such recommendation. I have heard from many students how much they enjoy the Cirque Du Freak series, so I decided to give the first book a try. Now, I do I not typically enjoy reading gruesome/spine-tingling horror novels, bu ...more
Apr 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this when I was younger and now as well

However I do think it’s pretty dark for the age group intended
Jan 04, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kids 12 and under

Just a quick fun read. Nothing complicated, nothing fancy. Perfect book for tweens and young teens.

To read my review of the other books in this series, use the links below:

Book Two: The Vampire's Assistant
Book Three: Tunnels of Blood
Book Four: Vampire Mountain
Book Five: Trials of Death
Book Six: The Vampire Prince
Book Seven: Hunters of the Dusk

Oct 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Easy to read and engrossing.
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)
Nov 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Younger vampire story readers and older ones who enjoy kid's books
Warning: I am keeping this review on the vague side because Shan's books are more fun if you don't know what's going on before you read them.

Well, this was a very interesting book. I didn't really like the idea of the freak show, but I did think that it was a novel way to introduce this story, and a different sort of motif for a children's series. I've seen this series at the bookstore for years now, and waffled about reading it. The freak show concept turned me off. I am just not into it, I mu
Apr 27, 2011 rated it liked it
review by Megsly

*Warning: possible spoilers ahead.*

A few weeks ago, this charming little movie called The Vampire's Assistant came on my television and I, being obsessed with vampires as everyone knows, just had to watch and I was extremely impressed by the originality of the movie so when I unearthed the series, The Saga of Darren Shan, I dove right in.
A Living Nightmare is book one of the The Saga of Darren Shan, otherwise known as Cirque du Freak. It introduces us to Darren Shan, a young boy
Will M.
Finished it in one sitting. It had a shallow plot, something obviously meant for children or teens younger than 18.

I have to press the issue again regarding books that really not scary but they are considered as horror. This book didn't scare me at all, but like I said, it was meant for children- young adult, although I have to say anyone who is over 13 wouldn't consider this horror. Not even the part where the "freaks" were described could be considered scary. It had a very predictable plot bu
Aug 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
There is nothing more I like than vampires, so a different twist to these ancient (and arguably overdone) beings is always enjoyable! I first discovered this series when I was in 8th grade; I finally found the whole series in paperback and am rereading them!

Darren Shan had a normal, enjoyable, happy life. Great friends, loving family, a little sister whom he could trust and confide in... He's a boy one can relate to, and Steve, his best friend, makes things interesting (and tense).

The adventures
Jun 11, 2020 rated it liked it
I remember watching this movie as a teenager. I don't think I liked it much. This book however though, I would have devoured it happily had I found it during my school days. Unfortunately timing is everything. I would have enjoyed it more and given it 4 stars if I had read it then.

It's a good book for school kids. My reading it as an adult just made it less entertaining. That's all. And if I come across the second part of this book, I will definitely read it.
Shawna (SugoiShawn/SugoiReads)
This book was very different than what I expected it to be. I didn't read the synopsis of the book, so I guess my shock at the book's contents was partly my fault. I basically just looked at free Audible books with vampires in it and this one popped up, so I listened to it. I'd recommend reading this book as opposed to listening to it though because I didn't fancy the narrator's voice very much. He sort of sounded like an annoying elementary school teacher who tried to dramatically change his vo ...more
Jan 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Upon rereading in 2018, I give the first one 4 stars.
It reads as more middle grade and is slow paced at first, but after the second half, oh boy! The pace really picks up and my excitement to continue the series grew. That ending really hit hard as an "adult" now much more than it did as a kid when death meant little to me. Way to keep the reader hooked!
Oct 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Horror lovers, vampire lovers, thrill lovers.
Ah. Cirque Du Freak. One of my all time favorites. I cant say enough about these books.
Do NOT judge a series by its first book. Sure its good, but you dont realize its AMAZING until a few books in. But all epics are like that, right? And yes. This is an epic. And it is epic. So if you have read the first, liked it but didnt want to read the other ones immediantly, then I say- DO IT!!!
What is it about? Vampires, vampaneze, wolves, freaks, witches, wizards, romance, death, twists, surprises, histo
Review for the entire saga. I finished my reread and it was even better than I remembered, they are made for younger audiences so some things could be better, but overall they are creepy and good.
Darren Shan (the author) created a world of its own populated by vampires and vampanezes and witches and agents of destiny and it fits pretty well with ours.
and best of all, whatever you think the ending will be, I don't think you'd be expecting it, so I think it's pretty good in that regard, usually,
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So good! This is exactly what horror/fantasy book/series for kid should be. It have good characters, it's fast pace, have some dark enough stuff and a really intriguing storyline! I can wait to read the next one! Well done! ...more
Marla Argüelles
Feb 14, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
I decided to dive into these books again after ten years, and I'm now thinking that Mr Crepsley and Darren would be one and two years older, respectively. Time has no mercy.

Honest to God, my heart aches just thinking about everything that will happen in these books, but it is worth the ride. What an amazing story 💛
Lin Ryals
Oct 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
I had never even heard of this series until my husband was talking about wanting to read the series once he finishes the one he's on. I thought he was silly, but thought I'd go ahead and listen to the audio book from the library for the paranormal readathon this month. This book absolutely surprised me and now I want the entire series in my collection. Christmas gift? Yes, I think so. LOL! If you're interested in a fun YA vampire story that isn't about romance and the vampires don't twinkle in t ...more
Sep 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was totally awesome. At first I thought that this book would be boring, but then the main character, Darren Shan and his friend Steve went to a freak show called, "Cirque Du Freak..." I was totally psyched to get into this book! When they went to the freak show it took me by surprise. To be honest I was a little bit scared. The plot about this book is really cool. It all begins with two best friends that live in London, United Kingdom. Darren Shan is the main character and his best fr ...more
Jan 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I made the mistake of watching the movie first and I think I’m the only one who really liked it!! So I wasn’t expecting Darren to be quite so young, or for the characters to be quite so reckless. They really tone that down in the movie I guess. The characters were sweet or interesting though. The plot was good, if not a little short. Not too dangerous and definitely humorous.

Overall, I enjoyed it and the narrator was fabulous!! The voices he made were just so fun and felt spot on!! Because of t
Briar's Reviews
Years ago I watched the film and fell in love with this series. It was a shame the movies never continued because I was enchanted and adored it. I had a Harry Potter-mania type love for it. Why wouldn't I? I'm a girl obsessed with Halloween and all things spooky!

As an adult, it's weird picking this book up. I can totally tell I'd be obsessed with this book series as a middle grader. It's a real shame I never grabbed it back then. It would have totally fit on my shelves next to my Goosebumps and
Amy Eye
Jun 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people looking for an easy read, who don't care about details or explanations
I have been looking forward to reading this book for forever. I have read so many great reviews, and it was even endorsed by my favorite author, JK Rowling. I was truly expecting to love every moment of the book. But I was not prepared for the lack of entertainment I found in this book. I am not sorry I read it, just sorry the book didn't live up to my expectations.

This book is about Darren, a boy who seems to have a decent heart - Kind of. He and his friends seem pretty normal for young boys. T
Mar 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Freaks
Cirque Du Freak #1: A Living Nightmare
Darren Shan
183 Pages
HaperCollins Publishers
UK £4.99
ISBN: 0-00-675416-3
A Living Nightmare will bring a chilling sensation right after you read the book told by the gruesome-styled author Darren Shan who is also the protagonist of the story. This book one of the series does not only demonstrate the ordinary school boy with a normal life but extended beyond to vampirism and his break of friendship by misunderstandings. The protagonists and the antagonists of t
Tokio Myers
The first Cirque Du Freak book is a nice read that really pumped me up for Halloween. That being said it does have faults one of which is maybe I'm a bit out of the age range for this book. I believe everybody should be able to read children books of all ages and not be judge, but for this series I found myself thinking how I'm not the target audience which makes me feel really old. I found myself rolling my eyes at the dialogue/plot points because it seemed so unrealistic and childish (view spo ...more
Jun 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
I absolutely LOVED this book and I need to read the second book RIGHT NOW!


The characters: Darren Shan is such a cool and likeable character. I love how he tells the story and he's just a very fond character. He's definitely a brave character and will do anything to keep his friends and family safe and that's what I loved about him.

Steve was also a very interesting character. I thought he was interesting because he was manipulating and there was something dark about him. I can't w
Rachel Bea
Even though this series is obviously meant for young people, I (currently age 32) found many aspects of this book to be enjoyable and entertaining. It was really dark -- I was honestly surprised at how dark it went considering it IS for young adults. There were a couple of moments where I laughed out loud, too. I am definitely going to read the rest of the series because I'm curious to see where the plot goes. ...more
Raquel (Rocki)
Jul 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: library, audio-book
Interesting first book. I have seen these on the shelves in the library since I was a teenager so of course I thought it finally time to read them. Very action packed always moving and doing something. I might have to see where this all leads to.
3.5 🌟
A promising beginning to an already intriguing series. It's funny, dark, and a quick, entertaining read. I like Darren Shan as the narrator, he's a likeable character. I'll be sure to continue the series.
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2019 Roe Reading ...: Cirque Du Freak 1 1 Sep 30, 2020 03:49PM  
SE Reading Buffs 1st: Cirque du freak A Living Nightmare 3 8 Oct 28, 2015 06:42AM  
vampires 1 5 Nov 04, 2014 08:19PM  
Reading Reflection 1 1 9 Sep 15, 2014 06:38PM  

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Librarian's note: Also writes books for adults under the name Darren Dash. And in the past he has released books for adults under the names D.B. Shan and Darren O'Shaughnessy.

Darren Shan (born July 2, 1972 in London, England) is the pen name of the Irish author Darren O'Shaughnessy, as well as the name of the protagonist of his book series The Saga of Darren Shan, also known as The Cirque Du Freak

Other books in the series

Cirque du Freak (1 - 10 of 12 books)
  • The Vampire's Assistant (Cirque du Freak #2)
  • Tunnels of Blood (Cirque du Freak #3)
  • Vampire Mountain (Cirque Du Freak, #4)
  • Trials of Death (Cirque Du Freak, #5)
  • The Vampire Prince (Cirque Du Freak, #6)
  • Hunters of the Dusk (Cirque Du Freak, #7)
  • Allies of the Night (Cirque du Freak, #8)
  • Killers of the Dawn (Cirque Du Freak, #9)
  • The Lake of Souls (Cirque du Freak #10)
  • Lord of the Shadows (Cirque Du Freak, #11)

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