Author – Kiersten White
Publisher – Simon Pulse
Publish date – 8th January 2019
Genre – YA
Pages – 416
POV – First person, present tense
Recommended for – Fans of the Buffyverse interested in delving into what remains of the Watcher lines. Though it can be confusing for fans who left off on the TV show as the book begins after events that take place in the comics (which I myself have not read and was a little confused and spoiled by).
To start with a small disclaimer:
I don’t fan girl over many things. I like a lot of shows, I really like a few books. But obsessions that stick, that I’ve grown with and continued to adore, love, in different phases of my life? Only Buffy… and Gilmore Girls. So, I’m not unbiased. In fact, it’s probably impossibly unreasonable to expect anything to fit into those Buffy sized shoes. I tried to remember it would not be that before I read. But I still had big expectations and… I liked it. Also, possible spoilers. For spoiler free reviews check out my quick review of Slayer.
Nina is the kind of character I enjoy. She’s wounded, she’s not particularly good at much and she relies on other people to shield her from things. She’s… Well any of us if thrown into the Buffyverse, to be honest, insecure and way out of our depths. Not really belonging. Her twin sister Artemis is the opposite. Capable and confident where Nina is flailing. The two are Watchers in training, raised in a boarding school style life. Their routine consisting of Artemis, favored by their mother (a member of the Watchers council), taking care of everything and everyone. While Nina, treated by her mother as inept and unfit for the same role, takes up as resident medic.
Nina struggles with past demons, the lack of any parental role in their lives and her own role in the last remaining group of Watchers. All of that turns upside down when Nina discovers she’s a Slayer. The last Slayer ever since Buffy infamously destroyed the seed of wonder to save the world (again), closing off other dimensions from us and cutting off all magic. And boy does Nina not like Buffy. She hates Buffy. Buffy is the bearer of all blame (to my great and constant irritation). She doesn’t like any Slayers for that matter. Feeling like they are all the opposite of her nature, what she’s built herself up to be – a healer, a thinker and despite what her mother claims a Watcher. As she discovers this; demons attack, the Slayer prophetic dreams ensue, a shadowy being starts to attack people and she is thrown into the thick of being a Slayer without much time for preparation.
I immediately found the premise interesting. Nina is a Watcher Slayer hybrid, so there presents an opportunity for her to intertwine the both, create something new of herself with both walks of life. I also hoped that perhaps it would be a chance for something to be done with the Watchers, who I was never a fan of because of their one-sided views and extremist practices that we saw through Buffy. And that hope for redemption and recreation is mostly what kept me reading (other than my hope for cameos with beloved characters which was there in ample doses).
Nina’s personal history with Buffy also makes her take interesting. She has a lot of personal reasons to dislike Buffy and a lot of work to do before she can understand Slayers and what role she can make for herself in between two worlds. The plot had a lot of potential and it did build up to some interesting and unexpected revelations in the end though it meandered a lot before getting to that pay off. Often times I was lost as to why things weren’t understood by the characters the prophecy being one of them. It was blatant from the beginning of the book and yet it’s ignored or a source of confusion for the characters for far longer than it should have been. Or the fact that Nina felt her change into becoming a Slayer months before and somehow managed to kind of but not really know it until the books plot takes off.
The characters I had a bit of a hard time with. I liked Nina. Some of the side characters were perfectly pleasant. Leo seemed kind though I didn’t feel like I really knew much of him in the end. But Nina’s relationships with her sister and mother were an endless source of frustration for me. None of them could actually talk or listen except (occasionally) for Nina who, I felt, took more responsibility than she deserved to for things she could not help because she was never given the opportunity to even know about them.
They’re all secretive and closed off and taking on things without discussion. Which is the entirety of their problems. Nina and Artemis seem on the surface to be close sisters but they aren’t and some of it is understandable and made for good complexity in the characters and relationship dynamics, but others were absolutely not. Artemis is not there for her sister on a few occasions where I felt her support was crucial. Her mother was constantly missing and a source of mystery and pain, all for the purpose of looking out for them. The reasons, once revealed, did not feel necessary or justified.
None of them seem to get on the same page until something is blowing up in someone’s face or feelings are hurt (often times not even then). Which left me feeling unable to connect with them. Also, I really dislike Honora, just throwing that out there. She’s a bully and again, in the end even when her ‘reasons’ for behaving like a bully are brought to light I continued to feel unsympathetic toward her.
The highlights –
- The continuation of the Buffyverse, taking on a story from the perspective of the Watchers.
- The Buffy humor.
- Nina’s growth into becoming a more rounded and capable character.
- Her slow journey into understanding Buffy and the heartwarming moment they share towards the end, Slayer to Slayer.
- A promising to be continued ending which is what really pushed the book for a 4/5 for me.
– 4/5 A new voice to the Buffyverse and a redemption and recreation of the Watcher organization.