St Martin’s Griffin, $12.95, ISBN 0-312-31680-1
If the author photo at the back looks familiar, that’s because LA Banks also writes contemporary romances as Leslie Esdaile. Minion is the first of a trilogy starring a bunch of vampire hunters who moonlight – or shall I say daylight? – as musicians. Yup, their musical instruments are actually weapons of mass destruction to vampirekind. It’s like Scooby Doo with bigger saxophones.
Our Gang’s leader is Damali Richards, a vampire slayer who’s bringing on the stereotypical baggages as if female slayers are running out of fashion. Who killed her parents? (Guess.) Who has some dormant powers that is only now coming forth? (That’s a tough one.) Her gang include Marlene Stone (the wise and psychic mentor/manager and publicist), Nafes Shabazz (martial artist/bassist), Michael “Big Mike” Roberts (explosives expert/sound man), Jacob “The Nose” Rider (sniper/guitarist), Jose Gipointe (weapons designer/percussion and lights), Joseph Leung (hacker/keyboards), and Daniel Weinstein (the team novice).
When not making beautiful music for new age listeners everywhere, our bunch of Guardians are staking vampires everywhere. Unfortunately, a latest encounter leaves Jose badly wounded and our Gang realizing that a vampire crime boss has struck a bargain with a demon to wreck more havoc on the world. What are they to do? Damali also has to deal with her increasing powers – apparently prophecy has preordained her arrival as the Neteru or Huntress, sort of like Buffy being the One and all, I guess. Then there’s also this “ripening” in her that makes all vampires go horny in her presence.
I’m not pleased with this ripening at all. How come all our vampire-staking heroines also has some hormonal handicap like this? It also doesn’t make sense that Destiny, a big concept in this book, will turn the Neteru into some vampire freak magnet instead of letting her go around whacking vampires in her own time and pace.
Speaking of time and pace, let’s talk about the biggest problem of this book: the pacing. It’s excruciatingly slow. Ms Banks has created a really huge and deep wealth of mythology in her story, but unfortunately, she seems more intent of telling me all these details at one go instead of revealing them as we go along the story. The Guardians spend pages giving each other long painfully awkward expositions for every one page they get their butts out of the house or studio and kill something. If the author is planning on a series of books on Damali, her potential vampiric beau Carlos, and her Guardians, I’d suggest she pace herself more judiciously in the upcoming books and rein in the overly long and complex mythology narrations. In Minion, instead of letting me savor the surprises she has to offer, Ms Banks spills everything out from the get go, boring me with tedious details I fail to connect with the story at this early point.
Still, I do like the premise of this story, especially a bunch of vampire slayers that are also musicians. It’s tough going through most of the plodding middle portions of the book, but the pace speeds up in the last few chapters, actually making me intrigued to find out what will happen next. I will stay on this series for a little while more, hoping the author can convince me to stay a little longer with each successive book. But to do that, first she really has to balance her excessive telling with some well-written action scenes to keep things moving. Let’s hope she strikes a balance in the next book.