FROM THE ARCHIVES (Buffy book reviews)
Since this review was originally written, Joss Whedon's "Season Eight" comic series for Dark Horse has rendered this novel officially non-canonical.
QUEEN OF THE SLAYERS
Nancy Holder (2005)
RATING: 4/5 Stakes
SETTING: After Season 7
CAST APPEARANCES: Buffy, Dawn, Xander, Willow, Faith, Robin Wood, Kennedy, Giles, Rona, Vi, Andrew, Oz, Marie, Senaya (first Slayer), Whistler, Tara (as ghost), Nikki Wood (as ghost), Anya (as ghost), Angel, Gunn, Illyria, Spike
MAJOR ORIGINAL CHARACTERS: The Immortal; Aram, Bey (Immortal’s servants); Lucy Hanover (ghost of former Slayer); Lord Ambrose-Bellairs (Watchers Council); Cesare Borgia, Lucrezia Borgia, Antonio Borgia (villains); Belle, Ornella, Haley (Slayers); Golden One (Oz’s master); Janus, Eo, Shri-Urth (other-dimensional deities), Malfeo.
BACK-OF-THE-BOOK SUMMARY: “With the closing of the Hellmouth and the awakening of hundreds of potential slayers, Buffy Summers thought she had earned herself a much-deserved break. But the thrill of victory is short-lived. The forces of darkness are not ones to graciously accept defeat, and the collective rage unites disparate and powerful parties more eager than ever to reclaim dominance. Willow's magickal distribution of the Slayer essence left girls across the world discovering their latent power. Giles races to reorganize the now much-needed Watchers Council, and the Scoobies relocate to Europe. And there, in Rome, Buffy is drawn to the Immortal--a charismatic, if inscrutable, figure. But then comes word that a number of the fresh Slayers are being coerced to join an army of Slayers governed by the mysterious ‘Queen of the Slayers,’ an awesome evil determined to claim the intoxicating Slayer essence for herself. Xander is sent to Africa to learn more about the origins of the slayer essence. Instead he returns to report that, alarmingly, there’s not enough good in the world to counteract the overabundance of evil and that the deciding apocalypse is drawing much too near. Alliances are formed and loyalties betrayed as it comes down to Slayer versus Slayer, leading to an ultimate battle of champions--from Buffy’s past and present. And then an unimaginable gift arrives. . . .”
Queen of the Slayers, although not the best, is certainly the most important Buffy novel for fans of the show. Why? Simply because it tells the story of what happens to the Scooby Gang after the Hellmouth closes and Sunnydale is swallowed up forever. Indeed, until a movie or some other Joss-penned work contradicts, the novel line (and perhaps comics) are the only places to look for the official, canonical exploits of Buffy and her friends. It will be very interesting to see in the coming years if the editors work hard to maintain strict continuity between future novels (a la the Star Wars novel line) or allow for multiple tellings of what happens after the Hellmouth closes. One of the virtues of Queen of the Slayers is how well it is integrated into Angel Season Five.
On the whole, Queen of the Slayers should satisfy most fans curiosity about life after Sunnydale. The story picks up *right* after the end of Season Seven, when Buffy and crew are still on the yellow schoolbus speeding away from the crater. The aftermath of the battle is portrayed well by Holder, who, after several novels, has a good grasp on the characters and their unique personalities. In particular, Buffy’s grief over Spike’s “death” and Andrew’s hilarious dialogue are captured perfectly.
The main plot takes a bit to get started, and then suddenly it seems like there are several major plot threads to be resolved. In order to avoid major spoilers, I’ll stick to the most basic: Faith and some of the Slayerettes head to Cleveland where the Hellmouth has opened completely, wreaking enormous havoc; Buffy ends up in Rome living with the Immortal, as they try to summon Slayers from all over the world; and Giles moves to London to work with the newly-formed Watchers’ Council. Of course, three Hellgods from another dimension have decided to try to seize the initiative to land a foothold on earth, as have the enormously powerful Borgia clan of vampires and a rogue, evil Slayer who fashions herself “Queen of the Slayers”. The Borgias are given extremely satisfying personalities and backgrounds, and halfway through the novel I couldn’t help but think this was by far the best Buffy novel ever written.
Unfortunately, things start to go downhill at the end. Holder has a real leaning towards cosmic, epic stories that lack the punch of the more “realistic” stories (for example, Cleveland is rendered post-apocalyptic, earthquakes are swallowing whole islands, tidal waves are wreaking havoc all over the world, etc.). In addition, the book concludes suddenly and in a disappointingly abstract, metaphysical way. After so much excellent build-up, Queen of the Slayers feels like the first in a trilogy, but as far as I can tell it is intended to stand alone. It’s almost as if Holder was forced to stop writing a few weeks early and wrap everything up in a single chapter. The “unimaginable gift” that arrives is, to my mind, both slightly creepy and extremely silly. Queen of the Slayers is a very good book and worth reading—just don’t get your hopes up too much.