Coiree Guardians: Book One
by Mari Miniatt
Animated Liar Media
(May 2010, $15, 218 pages)
Between the Twilight Saga and the True Blood series, you might be sick of hearing about vampires. I personally prefer zombies, although I do partake of other genres from time to time. I had given up on vampire fiction until I read The Strain about a year ago, and I realized that the vampire genre has improved a great deal in the last few years, despite the mainstream vamp-bandwagon fodder. Authors are breaking away from the typical stereotypes of drop-dead gorgeous vamps with sordid love lives and tormented souls. Fledgling: Coiree Guardians is the perfect example of breaking the vampire mold, and redefining the powerful female protagonist.
Indie-author Mari Miniatt introduces readers to Beka, an overweight young woman with a history of mental issues and a medicine cabinet full of prescriptions to prove it. She is a computer geek, with real hacker potential. She lives in an apartment above The Burgundy Rathskeller, a gothic nightclub run by her brother John. John is the only one who has any idea of the horrible secret that has haunted Beka. As her sympathetic landlord, he doesn’t charge her rent, and sometimes asks her to help out for a little extra cash. One night, while working at the club, she discovers that her brother’s friend Vincent is a vampire. Before she has any time to process this information, she’s attacked by another vampire who was hunting on Vincent’s territory without permission. Most female characters would have either broken down and sought help from a handsome stranger, or dressed in leather fitted with weapons to become some supernatural warrior, but Beka has developed a strong will to survive through all her personal trauma, without the added glamour.
Her attacker is a giant by the name of Steopa. Luckily for her, Steopa is more like Vincent than the other vampires; both Vincent and Steopa value the companionship of others. Steopa returns to help Beka make the adjustment to her new existence. She is reluctant at first, but there is the possibility that she might die if she doesn’t accept the link between her and Steopa. Once again, time is not a luxury that Beka has, even as an immortal. Before she can learn to feed herself properly, there are already other vampires hunting her. When she is attacked, she discovers her own unique ability, which Vincent tells her is “cooler than turning into mist.” She also learns that she overlooked a lot of what was going on around her as a human, especially with her friends: one is a berserk, and another is a psychic.
As Steopa teaches her to think more like a vampire, they find out that a string of brutal murders is related to the arrival of another vampire in the city. This mysterious vampire is hunting on grounds belonging to a vampire called Ogden. Steopa and Beka want to stop the mass killings, which have attracted the attention of the police, but Ogden requires proof before he lets them hunt the killer on his territory. While searching for evidence, with the help of Vincent, the four of them — Steopa, Beka, Vincent and Ogden — uncover a plot that is a threat to all vampires.
I don’t think this novel is strictly horror, but more a great blend of thriller and mystery. What begins as a personal evolution ends as the first installment of a chilling saga. There’s no abrupt cliff-hanger, but you are left wondering what will become of Beka and her two vampire companions. You can find out more about newbie author Mari Miniatt here.
~Ursula K. Raphael