From bestselling YA author Darren Shan (Demonata, Cirque du Freak) comes Procession of the Dead, his adult fiction debut. Previously released in the UK as Ayumarca, Procession is the first book in Shan’s The City series. I have two notes right up front: 1) this book deals with more mature themes including sex, murder, crime and “sweet, sinister sin,” and it contains strong language, and 2) (more of a disclaimer) I have never read anything else by Shan, so when I picked up this book I had no expectations – regarding style, content, etc. and cannot tell you if it is similar to or completely different than anything he has written for YA.
Told in first person narrative, Procession of the Dead is Capac Raimi’s story. It begins with Capac’s journey into “the City,” a gritty urban sprawl dominated by the godfather/kingpin called the Cardinal. Capac’s dream is to become a gangster, and he’s traveling to the City to apprentice with his uncle Theo (who used to be a high-ranking gangster with the Cardinal’s blessing, but has fallen on hard times and is working his way back up the ladder). But there are bigger things in store for Capac than Theo’s little protection racket, and when he crosses paths with the Cardinal, his whole life changes. What Capac doesn’t know is how influential the Cardinal has been in his life, and while he is enveloped by the mysteries of the City — blind priests, mysterious assassins, and disappearing friends — he discovers that he may not know himself or anyone around him as well as he thinks, because nothing is what it appears to be.
I loved the feel of the City. It is at once a dark, gritty, urban environment, with an almost noir-like air about it. I visualized something like Frank Miller’s Sin City, immediately cloaked in darkness, with pops of color highlighting the unique attributes of each character. I loved how Shan describes the City for the reader–he gives you a feel for the different regions (which areas are the nicer parts of town, which are overrun by feuding gangs) without resorting to inserting a map. You get the feeling that the City is more of the main character than Capac, it holds the secrets, and is slowly unfurling them, one by one, to its inhabitants- which was probably my favorite aspect of the book.
There is an element of magic and myth that unfolds as the story continues, tied to ancient Incan culture and religion (which is the root of the unique name of the main character). While I can’t say I fully understand (perhaps I need to read the next two books), if you just go for the ride, Procession provides a dark, somewhat twisted, mysteriously fun one. So if you are curious to see what Darren Shan has to offer outside of the YA arena — or just want to let yourself want to be a gangster for a little while — pick up Procession of the Dead.