Published: January 2019
Publisher: Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster)
Page count: 404
Genre: Young Adult / Urban Fantasy
Plot at a Glance:
Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.
Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.
Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.
As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…
But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next.
One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard
Okay, bear with me – because this is gonna be a long ride. In order to truly understand where I’m coming from in my rating and enjoyment (or lack thereof) in this book, I need to explain a bit to you all about my love for the source material that is Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I’ll apologize in advance, because as this is a topic near and dear to my heart, I went on for awhile longer than I intended.
When I was a teenager, my family spent a great number of years locked in a battle against the television for my very soul – trying in vain to save me from a very mild obsession with all things Buffy the Vampire Slayer related.
I would watch the show every day when I got home from school. I would tape episodes on VHS so I could watch them later. I would later go on to buy the DVDs and binge watch episodes in my bedroom when my parents were throwing Superbowl parties out in the living room. I watched the spin-off show, Angel. I bought novels written around the show. I learned every single lyric of the musical episode singing along to it in my car.
I may or may not have dabbled in writing my fair share of fanfiction about the continuing stories of the characters…
Basically I was hooked on this show.
The characters spoke to me in a way that no other show ever had before. The plotting of episodes and seasons was also really on point considering that this was a show that aired in the late 90s – early 2000s – when television wasn’t exactly in the Golden Age it appears to be in now.
Buffy was the first show to move me emotionally. Whether it was to tears as Buffy and her friends worked through the grieving process after witnessing the mortal death of a beloved family member…
Or to moments of immense joy, when Buffy was laid bare through trauma and loss, and still found the power inside herself to keep fighting against the forces of darkness…
Or as it tackled subjects that were for its time, considered taboo for network television, such as the romance between Willow and Tara – which is still in my book one of the best LGBT romances ever committed to the small screen.
This show was so important in that it never shied away from confronting emotions head on. The writers sought to make you laugh, and make you cry, often very near to each other. I swear I owe a good 75% of my sense of humor and comedic timing to these characters that I internalized over the years.
This show is still so incredibly important to me. So much so that to this day, when I bump into old friends I often get asked:
“So, are you still obsessed with Buffy?”
So, with all that being said – I wish I could say that I liked this book more than I did – but it just didn’t work for me.
Canonically, this book takes place after the events of the series, and after the events of the comics as well – which is a strange decision, considering that the comics have been mostly panned by fans of the television show and are only followed by a small percentage of the larger fan-base, but I recognize that White might have been contractually obligated to set the story there, so I can’t fault it for its place in the timeline.
What I can find fault in though were things like the storyline that just didn’t grab me the way I hoped it would, and characters that were either almost completely forgettable, or endlessly irritating.
Me to all the characters in this novel
Unfortunately, Nina falls entirely into the latter category. For the POV character in this story and the newly minted Chosen One, Nina is essentially Season 1 Buffy without any of the charm, wit or inner strength that made Buffy Summers such a memorable character.
She commits the cardinal sin of never actually saying what’s on her mind to anyone – even her own twin sister – repeatedly throughout the course of this novel. If there was ever a decision to be made, you can rest assured that Nina would make the wrong one.
To make matters worse, the Hate-On that Nina has for our favorite girl and number 1 slayer really rubbed me the wrong way. Nina’s inner monologue repeatedly returns time and time again to Buffy, and how much she hates this woman she has never even met – aside from in dreams – or blames her for the situations she finds herself in.
Making girl-on-girl hate a focal point of a spin-off novel dedicated to a show about female empowerment was just a really strange direction to go in.
And it’s not just Buffy that Nina hates. She also hates Honora, because she made fun of her 3 years prior and read her diary. She also hates a number of older female Watchers, and also often has intrusive negative thoughts about her own mother and twin sister, Artemis.
It’s all good though – because Nina’s mother treats her daughters terribly. Also, Artemis never believes a word out of Nina’s mouth despite the fact that before the book started they were allegedly thick as thieves and each other’s closest confidant for 16 years. The fact that none of these characters could ever just give each other the benefit of the doubt was a really ridiculous way of prolonging the inevitable and moving the story along.
There’s very little emotional heart here. All of the drama between Nina and her friends, or Nina and the forgettable love interest, was manufactured and boring. I wasn’t moved because the characters never felt real, and the stakes never felt high.
And really, you’re going to make a sequel series to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and not even feature one vampiric character in this storyline, as an antagonist or anti-hero protagonist?!
For a story about prophecies regarding the end of the world, and about a newly minted slayer coming into her powers, there was so little action in this book. Everything comes so easily to Nina.
There’s a spooky prophecy out in the world? Don’t worry, Nina will find it in the first book she looks in – which she’s happened to have close to her all along.
Nina’s a brand new slayer who has never trained for physical combat once in her life? Not to worry, because she’s barely going to fight anything for one, and also because it’s all just going to come naturally to her. At least the televised version of Buffy showed Buffy struggle along the way from time to time.
One thing I did love about this book was the nostalgia it invoked in me. It was great to be back within the Buffy Universe – where Watchers and Slayers and creatures of the night abound. I love the magic of the setting and the possibility that absolutely anything can happen. I also loved the little cameos White threw in from time to time of familiar faces from the original series.
I think if one thing could draw me back for the inevitable sequel to this book it is the possibility of seeing more of my old favorites again.
Otherwise, I’m not sure this book really knew who its audience was, or succeeded in respecting the memory and emotional heart of its source material. I’ve been going back and forth about rating this book 2 or 3 stars, and while I was initially going to be lenient, the Buffy nerd within me really needed this book to be more than what it was, so I’ve got to go with my gut.
🌟🌟 ☆ ☆ ☆= 2/5 stars!
Have you read this? What did you think of it? Are you a huge Buffy nerd like I am? Lets chat about this show below!