Slayer by Kiersten White might not star Buffy Summers, but this book has plenty of ties to the original show, all seen through the eyes of a brand new character.
Nina’s life is anything but normal. The daughter of two Watchers means she’s well aware of the things that go bump in the night, but while her twin sister Artemis would rather punch demons in the face, Nina is content to heal her friends and family instead.
Until the day everything changes. Nina not only realizes she’s a Potential-turned-Slayer, she also figures out she’s the last Slayer ever. Now she must figure out how to live in two worlds, as both Watcher and Slayer, as someone who wants to heal but has been Called to hurt.
As much as I love Buffy’s story from the original television show, I think it was absolutely the right call to make Nina the lead character in Slayer.
Nina hates Buffy for a lot of reasons, but namely because Buffy got Nina’s father killed. Beyond that, she also thinks all Slayers are violent, irresponsible, impulsive creatures. And it’s exactly that attitude that makes it so interesting when she finally realizes she’s become her worst nightmare.
White doesn’t overload us with information reintroducing us to the world of Slayers and Watchers, but she is thorough in what she does establish, which should make it easy for those who aren’t as familiar with the show to get a feel for what’s happened prior to Nina’s story. It allows us to dive quickly into what’s important, which is Nina discovering her powers and trying to solve several mysteries all at once.
Nina has a lot riding on her shoulders. She feels unloved by her mother, overlooked by the Watcher’s Council, and underappreciated as the castle’s medic. She’s never been properly trained and she’s always been coddled by those around her, so it’s no wonder she doesn’t quite know what to do when her powers erupt from her in all their violent glory.
But Nina pushes back against her instincts. She’s a healer, not a fighter. She doesn’t want to hurt people — or even demons — she wants to help them. This struggle is at the center of Nina’s story, and it’s what makes her such a dynamic character. Much like Angel, the series, Slayer recognizes that not all demons are evil, and some of them can even be good.
This attitude certainly shakes up what remains of the Watcher’s Council and gets Nina into more than just a little bit of trouble. But it’s also the right thing to do, and Nina soon learns to trust all her instincts, including her newfound ones as a Slayer.
As it was with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, White’s novel sets up a myriad of side characters who not only move Nina’s story forward, but stand as independent and interesting people all on their own. None of them feel like a replica of the original Scooby Gang, and for that I’m grateful. The group has their own dynamic that works perfectly for this story.
Though I did see more than one of the twists coming in the end, the villains are complex and human (relatively speaking). Their motivations aren’t as straightforward as just wanting to end the world, and the slow revelation as to who and what they are, along with what they want to accomplish, kept me turning the pages until I finally found out the truth.
On its own, Slayer is a fantastic book full of great characters, interesting plots, complex dynamics, and stakes about as high as they come. The conclusion answers a lot of major questions posed at the beginning of the book, while still keeping the door open for more to come in a sequel.
But what truly makes Slayer shine is its tie to the Buffy world at large. I love that Nina doesn’t hold back in her opinion about Buffy, who, admittedly has made a lot of big mistakes in her lifetime, but that she also learns how difficult it is to be a Slayer, to have the entire fate of the world riding on your shoulders.
You’ll see more than one character from Buffy the Vampire Slayer show up in White’s book, and there are also plenty of mentions of others. There are also countless references to what has occurred in this universe, which is a great reward for any superfan to receive.
Slayer is a strong enough story on its own to warrant an excellent review, but with the added benefit of being part of a world we already know and love, it really pushes this novel toward something extraordinary.
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