Thursday, 30 April 2015

Literature: Lord Loss by Darren Shan (2005)

Hello, hello and welcome everyone!

Continuing with the notion of filling the new website with the translated contents of the old one, today I present you with a summary/review of a book I read back in 2009. I hardly remember anything from the time when I first read this novel, so translating the review I wrote will be a refresher for me as well as, hopefully, something new for you. I hope you enjoy it.

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Trying to make the best out of the free time I had after the high school finals, I had decided to finally read the books I felt like reading, instead of those I was forced to read. One such book was Darren Shan's novel, Lord Loss. When I initially came across this book in 2007 while wandering around the Edinburgh airport's bookstore, the first thing that piqued my interest was its cover - because it would seem the novel would have something to do with werewolfism, I made the decision of spending those couple of pounds on its purchase.

The back cover blurb did not tell me much, neither about the plot nor, more importantly for me at the time, the significance of the (were)wolf pictured on the front. And, as it later turned out, there actually is no mention of lycanthropy until the latter half of the novel. Instead, we get to meet our protagonist - Grubbs (Grubbitsch) Grady - a teenager who leads a pretty ordinary life with his parents and sister, his daily affairs usually revolving around school and the trouble he causes at it from time to time. Soon afterwards, however, Grubbs's family is brutally murdered... by demons whose master goes by the name of Lord Loss. Grubbs, having witnessed the murder of his parents and sister and narrowly escaping death after confronting the demons, is admitted to a psychiatric hospital, where he is tormented by nightmares caused by what he's been through. Like it usually is, nobody at the hospital believes in what he claims to have seen, and the police keep insisting that the boy recall the faces of the murderers and stop telling them tales about monsters. But Grubbs sticks to his version of events, which, in the eyes of the doctors, pushes him ever further into the depths of madness... until one day, the boy's uncle, Dervish Grady - who's always been treated coldly by the family - shows up at the hospital. To Grubbs's surprise, his uncle doesn't think him crazy at all - just the opposite - and confirms that the demons that killed Cal, Sharon and Gret are indeed real. With his help, Grubbs puts into motion a scheme that will let him stay at his uncle's house after he's been dispatched from hospital. The boy quickly gets used to the new surroundings and soon learns some pretty interesting things about his family - it turns out that his ancestors were practitioners of magic and the occult. Dervish himself, although not a sorcerer, possesses some magical abilities and proves to Grubbs that he also has magic hidden inside him.

But what of werewolves? Allow me to explain. The motif of lycanthropy first appears only after Grubbs meets a boy named Billy (or "Bill-E" as he calls himself) Spleen during one of his many times wandering his uncle's estate grounds. As it turns out, Billy is an orphan just like Grubbs - his mother died a few years earlier, while he doesn't know anything about his father, so he assumes him dead. The two boys quickly become friends and Billy explains to Grubbs the nature of his relationship with Dervish. He surprises Grubbs when he tells him he thinks that Dervish might be his real long-lost father. Finally, at this point lycanthropy makes an appearance. One day, Bill-E reveals a secret to Grubbs - he takes him to a nearby forest and shows him the torn-up bodies of animals, which he found during his frequent walks in the woods. Bill-E has his own theory as to what happened to those animals - he suspects that Dervish is a werewolf. Initially, Grubbs is quite skeptical about his friend's theory, but in time he becomes more and more of a believer. In Dervish's study, the boys find many old tomes about werewolfism, while Grubb's own investigation of the matter leads him to discover an underground room in which his uncle keeps a metal cage with a deer locked inside it, with even more books regarding the subject of lycanthropy lying on the nearby tables. And so, Grubbs and Bill-E begin to trail Dervish's actions. On one occasion they witness him search out and dispose of the bodies of the killed animals. Bill-E, to whom Dervish is a father-like figure (even if he's not necessarily his biological father), admires the man, saying that if he really is a werewolf, then he's doing all he can to not hurt others - locks himself up in a cage, or attacks forest animals.

The breakthrough in their investigation comes with the nearest full-moon. Grubbs tries to persuade Bill-E to spend the night of the said full-moon at his uncle's house, so that once and for all they will be able to find out whether or not he is a werewolf. Bill-E, who feels ill at the time, eventually agrees to sleep over at the Gradys' estate. When Dervish leaves the house, the boys follow him out. On the way, however, Bill-E's condition worsens and the two decide he should go back home. And just as the two boys reach the vicinity of the ill boy's home, Dervish appears right in front of them. The truth about who really is the werewolf is revealed - and it's no other than Bill-E Spleen. The boy then undergoes his transformation in front of Grubbs, but is then immediately sedated by Dervish. Afterwards, Dervish takes both boys back home and puts Bill-E in the cage that turns out was prepared specifically for him, since Dervish had known for a long time that Bill-E "is cursed". Grubbs, who still can't believe what just happened, demands explanation from his uncle. Dervish reveals that Bill-E is Grubb's father's illegitimate son, which makes him Grubb's half-brother. The man then explains that there is a curse of lycanthropy coursing through the Grady family (previously, the Gradex family), which manifests itself in random members of the clan. Dervish himself admits that while the cause of the curse is unknown, it must be magical in origin. Grubbs realises that the twisted faces of teenagers whose photographs he found in his uncle's books were the deceased members of the Grady family. Dervish informs Grubbs that within the family, there exists a group of so-called "Lambs" who are responsible for exterminating those for whom there is no more hope left.

In Darren Shan's universe, werewolfism is a destructive curse - those who inherit it begin to change at between 10 to 18 years of age. From that moment on, the monthly shapeshifting is nigh unstoppable. The full transformation is preceded by periods of nighttime hunts, during which the afflicted person - although not transformed - hunt in the open, with no memory of it afterwards. When the complete skinchange occurs, such a person begins to gradually lose their humanity, succumbing to the beast within. That's why, even if the curse was lifted after a time, the state they would be in would give no hope for them to return to their old self. For this reason many of the Gradys, seeing that their children inherited the curse, would get in touch with the Lambs and through death shortening their misery.

A grief-stricken Grubbs, however, learns from his uncle that there exists a single way of curing Bill-E. Here's where the titular Lord Loss enters the stage and his connection to the Gradys is explained. Dervish sheds light on the circumstances which lead to the murder of Grubb's parents and sister. A few generations back, one of the more outstanding of the Gradys - who were still known as Gradexes at the time - seeing just how much of a toll lycanthropy is taking on their family, made a deal with Lord Loss. Unfortunately for the Gradys, however, the conditions of this deal had changed over time only for the worse. The deal that was struck with the lord of demons said that Lord Loss was obliged to cure one person of lycanthropy if the person in question would win with him in a game of chess. If they were to lose, however, Lord Loss would have the right to take his soul for his own, while his underling demons would be free to kill any others involved in the challenge. On the fateful night when Grubb's life was changed so dramatically, Lord Loss was challenged to a game of chess by Grubb's parents, who had come to realise the curse of lycanthropy weighed on Gret - his sister. Having learned the truth, Grubbs and Dervish decide to summon Lord Loss to the human world once more - and face him against all odds in order to save Bill-E.

This is where I'll finish my description of the book's plot. Personally, I very much like horror novels and the like and I can say that this one gripped me. The only thing I could complain about is that I felt a little unsatisfied with the ending, because I think it could have been more elaborate. But maybe I'm just poking holes! After all, Lord Loss is only the first volume of the Demonata series. If the novel is any indication of the following volumes, however, then I can recommend it to you as some enjoyable reading. Maybe some time in the future I'll get down to reading them all myself.

And that would be all from me for now, let's hope I can post some more stuff during the summer, because there is still so much more left even to catch up with my previous webpage! 

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