JAM, $9.99, ISBN 978-0-425-21210-3
Stake That is the second book in Mari Mancusi’s Blood Coven series, but it can stand alone pretty well. The two books in this series so far are tongue-in-cheek in nature, with the author poking fun at tropes popularized by TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and even, I suspect, making up things as she goes along. So no, this is not a book to read if you want a serious story with concrete world building and canon.
Rayne MacDonald has always wanted to be a vampire. Our Goth girl is thrilled when she discovers that vampires are real, and to prepare to become one, she had even taken their tests and everything. Yes, vampires have a very strict and regimented procedure for humans to become one of them – it’s as tough as getting into Harvard without having politicians as parents. At any rate, Rayne is qualified to become one, and indeed, she would have become a vampire by now were not for her mistake of bringing her twin sister Sunny along with her to that club where she would be bitten by her Blood Mate. The Blood Mate, Magnus, bit Sunny when he mistook her for Rayne. Well, that story was covered in Boys That Bite.
In this one, Rayne is back in the waiting list to become a vampire, sigh, but she’s distracted by a new development in her life: she’s been told that she’s a vampire slayer. Only, she doesn’t get a hunky Rupert Giles-type of mentor – she has a rather creepy drama teacher instead. Apparently, you are born to be a slayer – destiny and all that – and Rayne happens to be one of the lucky girls of her generation. Yes, there are more than one potential slayers, since back-ups are never a bad idea. The previous slayer, Bertha, had to lose weight and get back in shape, so Slayer, Inc decides to pick Rayne as the new slayer.
Of course, with her twin sister dating a vampire and she wanting to be a vampire herself, Rayne isn’t too keen on being a slayer. However, Mr Teifert informs her that she had been infected by Slayer, Inc with nanovirus when she was a baby. If Rayne refuses to aid Slayer, Inc, the nanovirus will make certain that Rayne die a most painful death. Oh no! Fortunately, Rayne realizes that she only has to dust bad vampires. The vampires of the Blood Coven are the good guys who follow the rules, so she may even get to work with them as allies. Suddenly, things don’t seem so bad.
Rayne’s first mission is to infiltrate a vampire bar run by some guy called Maverick and discover what no-good nonsense Maverick may be up to. I know, asking an underage young lady to infiltrate a bar without training her first is not exactly the best idea in the world, but trust me, Ms Mancusi is aware of this – she’s poking fun at how heroines like Buffy and such are often sent to do dangerous things with minimal preparations. Rayne is pleased to discover that she will ally herself with the tall, dark, and dangerous Jareth, the Blood Coven undercover agent who is also trying to discover Maverick’s mysterious plot.
This book is another laugh-out-loud affair. The first twenty chapters see Rayne narrating the story on her blog, and the comments she gets are a big reason why this story is so funny. I am quite disappointed when Rayne switches to writing in her private journal in the second half of the book because I really miss those hilarious comments.
Like Sunny, Rayne is a little bit more than a stereotype. She can be bratty, but she also displays some traits that make her come off like a pretty realistic young lady. Rayne’s frustration with her father is a sobering counter to the light tone of the story, and this aspect also makes Rayne a sympathetic heroine. She is also quite capable, and I especially like how she saves herself from the bad guy instead of waiting for Jareth to come rescue her. Meanwhile, Jareth is more of a typical arrogant hero, and if he’s flat, it’s because the story is told entirely from Rayne’s point of view and therefore the poor guy has no chance to shine.
The plot is not the strongest one I’ve read, but that’s okay, because I’m too busy laughing and enjoying how the author pokes fun at vampire story conventions. The romance is not the most convincing, but I don’t read young adult stories expecting the romance of the century to blossom between a seventeen-year old girl and a vampire. I’m just here to have fun, and that is exactly what I get in Stake That: fun, lots and lots of fun.