In the interest of accuracy, let me note that the edition of Minion that I have is the “Special Huntress Edition.” This is a sort of “director’s cut” that contains scenes not in the original edition of the novel. I have not read the first version and do not know which scenes are new.
Minion tells the story of Damali, a young African-American woman, and her friends, who together make up a rap band and, secretly, a vampire-hunting team. Damali has been chosen Buffy-style as the champion of Light against the forces of Darkness, and her friends are the Guardians sworn to protect her until she comes into her full powers. There is a second plot as well, dealing with Damali’s ex-boyfriend, Carlos, who was once a Guardian candidate but has fallen into a life of organized crime.
L.A. Banks draws many parallels, throughout Minion, between vampires and those who prey upon the urban poor in real life: the gang leaders and drug kingpins. On one level, Banks’s vampires are a metaphor for these human predators.
The characters speak in urban slang, and whether you like this aspect of the novel will likely depend on whether you like authors to write out their characters’ accents.
Minion contains heavy Christian themes. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. The bad news is that the novel feels a little preachy at times. The good news, though, is that it works well within the plot. The characters’ deep Christian faith gives them motivation to fight evil, and also gives meaning to the cross-and-holy-water methods of warding off vampires. There are some vamp novels in which religion is never mentioned except when the characters are splattering holy water across the scenery. One might wonder whether it would even work if the wielder didn’t actually believe in the deity and was just using the water because “everyone knows” it works against vampires.
What didn’t work for me: First, the aforementioned preachiness. This tone isn’t limited to religion, but also includes diet and music lyrics. On the positive side, much of the sermonizing comes from a single character and can just be chalked up to her personality.
More importantly, Minion is just too “talky” overall. It starts with some action and some tragedy, but sinks into a morass of endless talk among the characters. Much of this talk is preachy, filled with bickering, or worst of all, info-dumpy. Characters take up a lot of page space telling each other things they already know in order to convey that information to the reader. There was probably a less clumsy way to do this.
I also wish more had been done with the group’s musical interests. They theoretically have a band, but we only see Damali perform once (briefly), and never see any of the other characters play music. There is talk about the power of music to help people save their souls, but while jamming together might have helped the group keep up their morale and reinforce their bond, we never see them so much as rehearse.
Finally, I had been told that Minion ended on a cliffhanger. It’s more like it screeches to a halt about two miles back at the first sight of the “Caution: Cliff Ahead” sign. There is an event that the entire plot is building toward, and we never get there.
Banks shows promise in this first VAMPIRE HUNTRESS novel, but doesn’t do enough with it. The plot may thicken later in the series; however, the first installment is the one that needs to hook the reader.