Don't get me wrong; I have thoroughly enjoyed the "Saga of Larten Crepsley"! I think it delivers great, and much-needed insight into the character of Larten from the "Saga of Darren Shan". However, the past three books have each felt a little awkward to me. Maybe it was because they all felt like a collection of short stories from Larten's life, rather than a complete book. While they were all particularly well written, with interesting characters popping in and out from the "Saga of Darren Shan", they never really managed to grip me, and I walked away from each feeling a little unsatisfied.
That is, until this book: "Brothers to the Death", the conclusion to Larten Crepsley's life before he met Darren Shan.
Unlike the previous three books, this book has a very strong continuing theme. I won't spoil what that theme is, because it is one of the turning points in the story and in Larten's life, but it gives the story a stronger and more appealing motive. Larten's motive-driven intentions lead him through this final part of the series, meaning that this story has less of the "wandering" that was prevalent in the previous.
Even for Darren Shan, the quality of writing style is excellent. I have always enjoyed the way that Mr. Shan writes, and I can't deny that this is certainly some of his best work. Even though the book is written in third person, you get fantastic insight into each characters thoughts, and each character's way of thinking is unique. Rather than letting the third person narrative restrict his ability to explain emotion, Darren uses it as an opportunity to lock-on to each character and "zoom in" on their thoughts. It's a fantastic way of writing that gives the story a great level of depth.
I always insist that the mark of a good prequel (or prequel series) is that it makes you want to return to the original and read it through again. Therefore, for me, this book is a great success! Now that the series is coming to an end, you can see all the characters drawing to their positions for the start of the "Saga of Darren Shan", and now that I've followed these characters (such as Kurda Smahlt and Gavner Purl) through from their gritty beginnings, I want to go back and re-read the original Saga!
If you've been following this series, and have been tempted to give this book a miss for whatever reason, I hope you will reconsider. Not only does this book shine brighter than the rest of the series, but it also manages to lift the other books up with it, and by finishing off the series in such a strong fashion, Mr. Shan has boosted up the first three books in my mind.
If you're new to the series, I seriously suggest starting with the first book in the original Saga, "Cirque du Freak", rather than jumping in with this series. While this series is a prequel, I do not think it should be read before the Saga of Darren Shan.
Brothers to the Death is a fantastic conclusion to a very strong series, and any fans of vampires, Mr. Shan's writing, and strong, keenly-developed characters will surely enjoy this book!