Author: Kiersten White
Publication Date: February 2019
Publisher: Simon & Shuster
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
“Slayer” is the first novel in a young adult spin-off series set in the Buffyverse. Although the novel relies a little too strongly on readers already being familiar with the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it’s still a lively and engaging read which should appeal to many fantasy readers.
It can be hard to write in an established world, due to contractual restrictions and fans who don’t want an author to stray from established canon. White minimises those problems by setting the novel some time after the events that closed the TV show, and by making the majority of characters from the show peripheral to the events of this novel. This also makes the novel more accessible to readers who aren’t familiar with the show – indeed, if you’d never seen it at all you could still enjoy this novel, although the background might not make as much sense.
Some time after Buffy awoke all the potential Slayers in the world, she led the majority of them into battle against a massive evil. Thousands of Slayers died, and Buffy accidentally destroyed all magic in the world. The majority of Watchers had already been wiped out in the lead up to the disastrous battle.
So Nina and Artemis, children of Watchers, are growing up in secrecy. They’re attending the Watcher’s Academy, but it’s been reduced to a mere shell: less than a dozen Watchers and Watchers in training. They’re all in hiding, terrified of discovery. Nina hates Buffy; her father died protecting her, and then Buffy went on to destroy almost everything else in Nina’s world. And then one day, Nina discovers that she’s a Slayer. Worse still; because Buffy has destroyed magic, Nina is the last Slayer there’ll ever be.
Nina has little time to adjust to this change. Magic may be gone, but demons and vampires and werewolves continue to stalk the world. Family tensions, conspiracies within the Watchers, and a teenage crush all combine to make Nina’s life feel harder by the minute.
This is both a well written and fast moving adventure story and an exploration of a young girl maturing and learning to make her own decisions and choices, and take responsibility for them.
The story is pegged at young adults, and is likely to have a particularly strong appeal for them because of the themes around maturing and entering adult life. However, the plot and characters are both strong, and many adult readers will enjoy it for those. The messages to younger readers are not so blatant as to turn adults off.
White writes well, and has a knack for accurately depicting teenage angst without it being annoying. Some readers who remember the show may feel that this novel misses some of the snarky humor that was a feature of Buffy, but “Slayer” has a relatively light touch overall. Despite the fact that no-one in the novel has much fun, it’s still enjoyable for readers.
Readers unfamiliar with Buffy may find the concept of the Watchers confusing and some of the references to Buffy and other characters a little obscure. While this would probably lessen some enjoyment – and maybe be a bit distracting – most of the references to characters can be simply skimmed past, and the ideas and characters that matter eventually become clearer. This is probably not a big issue, because I suspect most readers are likely to pick this up because they’re already Buffy fans.
“Slayer” is a good novel – it’s enjoyable to read, it has something to say to its’ intended audience, and it makes effective use of an established world. I’d recommend it to Buffy fans, and in general readers of young adult fantasy.
This guest review was submitted by Lorraine Cormack, one of our long-time Beauty and Lace Club members. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Lorraine.
Slayer is published by Simon & Schuster and is available now where all good books are sold.