L.A. Banks,
The Hunted
(St. Martin's, 2004)

Some authors undeniably believe vampires are all about sex. L.A. Banks, in her third Vampire Huntress novel, is obviously in that camp.

The book is ostensibly about Damali, the long-awaited Neteru (read: African-American Buffy), but it really focuses mostly on Banks' anti-hero, Carlos Rivera, Los Angeles drug kingpin turned vampire master who is also, coincidentally, Damali's long-lost love from their tumultuous teen years. In another tip of the hat to the Buffy franchise, Carlos is a vampire whose soul isn't where it ought to be, slaying his own kind for a chance at redemption. Yes indeed, Carlos is a real angel -- although seriously misogynistic in attitudes towards women in general, Damali in particular.

Oddly, this strong young woman doesn't seem to mind too much.

Previous books had the two erstwhile foes lusting for each other with mind-numbing verbosity; now, they're doing it with the same enthusiastic avalanche of words.

So, let's be honest from the start, this book is not about vampires, it's about Damali and Carlos having sex, always intense (for them, not us) and often quite violent. Far from titillating, their first lengthy (about 22 pages) love scene is tiresome and repetitive. Who knew unchained love and out-of-control lust could be so dull and -- worse yet -- funny?

Try to control yourself during this passage:

Adrenaline, passion, unbridled lust, small doses of her fear filled his mouth, his throat, sweet heat coating his insides, drugging him, becoming an erotic hallucinogen of exploding, exponential groin torture. It took him to near blackout, sent needles of pleasure through every inch of his skin. He pulled out of the bite and cried out just to keep from flat-lining her. Never before ... life from her veins ... never could he have imagined ... the myths the other masters had tried to tell him, but he couldn't comprehend such ecstasy ... and that she loved every minute of it was killing him.

And that's just her first time with Carlos, who also spends much of those pages making sure she knows he owns her, dammit.

There's something of a plot squeezed in between the sweaty limbs and love bites. Something is doing very bad things to people in Brazil, and Damali and Carlos go separately to see what they can do about it. Turns out there's an unusual were-vamp on the prowl, and she wants Carlos bad. She has fangs, you see, and apparently the sex is even better when there's mutual biting involved. And, in a surprising tribute to beastiality, she describes in detail the luxurious glories of doing it in animal form.

Poor Carlos is put to the test, pushed to the limits of his restraint, because this woman is fine and she flaunts herself naked in front of him. Well, with such a temptation, what red-blooded dead guy could be blamed for forgetting his One True Love for a short while?

But, no. To prove his loyalty in the face of undead temptation, Carlos bravely refrains from doing the nasty (in panther form, no less) with his would-be seductress. Being immortal, he figures he can wait; as he rationalizes his painful decision to himself, "He could wait seventy or eighty years till his baby passed away to try it." The man's a prince.

Oh, the book has a new character, a padre whose purpose seems solely to be comic naivete. His lack of understanding about matters sexual just makes the pages fly by. So, too, does any hint of action, which has mostly been sacrificed in favor of pages upon pages of dialogue about feelings.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 11 June 2005

Buy it from Amazon.com.