Richard Bowes,
Minions of the Moon
(Tor, 1999)

"Hi. My name is Kevin. I'm fifty-four and I've been stalked by my own Shadow for as long as I can remember." So says Kevin Grierson at the beginning of Richard Bowes' Minions of the Moon. Kevin's Shadow appears to be the product of a family curse; his alcoholic mother also had a Shadow, and Kevin learned early to fear her appearance. His Irish family referred to the Shadows as "Faileas" -- when they referred to them at all.

When Kevin's family realize that he has his own Shadow, they try to deal with it in a number of unsuccessful ways. They don't want him to grow up as troubled -- and troublesome -- as his mother. Only his Aunt Tay, who teaches him rhymes to say to keep away trouble, seems to understand.

By the time he is a teenager, Kevin has already discovered that he could make pocket money by peddling himself. He is already addicted to drugs and alcohol. For years, Kevin and his Shadow live lives that most people would find reprehensible. Only when Kevin is able to lift himself above addiction, with the help of an elderly man who intimately understood such things, is he finally able to banish his Shadow for a time. But the Shadow returns, forcing Kevin to deal with all that his life had been and was becoming.

Like all good urban fantasy, Minions of the Moon deals with magic living just below the surface of everyday life. Aside from Kevin's Shadow, there are appearances here by angels, devils and strangers from another dimension, who want both Kevin and his Shadow for their own twisted purposes. Another character is haunted by a ghost which is tied to a disappearing book of children's rhymes. There is, of course, Irish Aunt Tay and her rhymes that ward off danger.

Aside from the magical themes, Minions of the Moon is a novel about growing up, a process which should not stop just because a person reaches adulthood. In Kevin's case, he doesn't truly grow up until he reaches middle age. Bowes also deals with deeper and grittier issues, including prostitution, addiction and AIDS. Kevin experiences and must work through all of these things.

Kevin narrates his own story, most of which is told in extended flashbacks. It is a gripping story, which might seem thoroughly unpleasant at first, but which will pull you in and not let you go, despite the nastiness of some parts. It can be a bit confusing when it switches from the past to the present -- or from one portion of the past to another, but the confusion only lasts for a paragraph or so.

This is a disturbing, thought-provoking picture of one man's life. It is also an excellent novel and well worth reading.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]



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