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Lord Loss: The Demonata, Book 1    by Darren Shan order for
Lord Loss
by Darren Shan
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Just as in his popular Cirque Du Freak series, Darren Shan takes a (more or less) ordinary boy - in this case, young Grubbs Grady - and throws him into a maelstrom of (particularly) gruesome, gory horror. His parents seem normal (aside for naming their son Grubitsch and his sister Gretelda, and obsessively teaching their children chess) until the night they and Gret are slaughtered by demons named Vein, Artery and demon master Lord Loss (hence the title).

After coming under suspicion of the murders and a stint in an asylum, Grubbs is rescued by his mysterious 'wiry as a rat' uncle Dervish, and taken to live in a macabre mansion full of books, chess boards, ancient weapons, and with a 'gut-churning history'. His uncle's mysterious (and steaming hot) friend, Meera Flame, drops in for a visit, making Grubbs 'blush like a fire engine.' And Grubbs notices a photo gallery filled with teen faces - why did so many family members die young and who killed them?

Grubbs meets a local boy, Bill-E Spleen, who spends a great deal of time with Dervish and may be a cousin. Bill-E pulls Grubbs into a mystery - dead animals have been found locally with human toothmarks, and Bill-E postulates a werewolf. As the duo investigate, they quickly get in over their heads, and ultimately Grubbs must do what he fears most - take on Lord Loss at chess and his demons in battle to save someone close to him. In the process, Lord Loss is exposed to something he's never dealt with before (horror of horrors, 'a vacant, yawning teenager') and Grubbs makes a fearsome enemy.

I have to admit that I don't like horror much, but, as always, Darren Shan gives readers an imaginative, unusual, gross story whose surprises continue until the very last page. Fans of Shan's previous works and of R. L. Stine will enjoy Lord Loss and appreciate the fact that it is only the first in the ten book Demonata series.

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