FROM THE ARCHIVES (Buffy book reviews)
Tales of the Slayer, Volume 1(2001)
RATING: 4/5 Stakes
SETTING: Before Season 1
T.V. SHOW CHARACTERS: None
MAJOR ORIGINAL CHARACTERS: Greece, 490 B.C.E.: Thessily Tessilonikki (Slayer); Thoas (Watcher); Phidippides (Messenger). London, 1586: Virginia Dare/White Doe (Slayer); John White (colonist); Eleanor Dare (colonist); Manteo (Croatoan Indian); Takes From Eagle (adopted father); Ceremonial Fox (elder conjuror). Hungary, 1609: Idilko Gellert (Slayer); Kurt Rendor (Watcher); Countess Bathory (villian); Jo Ilona (Bathory's servant). France, 1789: Marie-Christine (Slayer); Edmund de Voison (Watcher); L'Hero (Vampire leader); Mathilde (adopted girl). Kentucky, 1886: Mollie Prater (Slayer); Ethan Bentley (Watcher); Harly (lover). Munich, 1923: Britta Kessler (Slayer); Friedrich Lichtermann (Watcher); Erich Sahr (vampire). Florida, 1956: Asha Sayre (Slayer); Laurent (Watcher).
BACK-OF-THE-BOOK SUMMARY: "Into every generation a Slayer is born. One girl in all the world, to find the vampires where they gather, and to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their numbers. In our time, that girl is Buffy Summers. But Buffy is merely one Slayer in an eternal continuum of warriors for the Powers That Be. We've known of others: The Primal Slayer, who stalked the earth and the forces of darkness in fierce solitude . . . Nikki, the funky hipster whose demise at Spike's hands lent an urban edge to his wardrobe and a bigger bounce to his swagger. Slayers by nature have a limited life expectancy; for each one who falls, another rises to taker her place. Tales of the Slayer, Vol. 1 chronicles Slayers past who have influenced--and are influenced by--the traditional and mythologies of yore. From ancient Greece, to aristocratic Slayers holding court in revolution-era France, to the legend of the Bloody Countess Elizabeth Bathory, to 1920s Munich, each girl has a personal history, a shared moral code, and a commitment to conquer evil, regardless of the cost . . . ."
Tales of the Slayer (Volume 1) is an excellent collection of short stories and adds some much needed tension to the Buffy fiction line of books. The reason is simple: when reading about Buffy, Xander, Willow, etc., the reader knows for sure that they can't be killed off; when reading about these home-brewed Slayers, however, it's far from certain they'll survive the end of the tale. Indeed, all but one of the Slayers chronicled in Volume 1 end up dying--which one survives?
Well, that's why you have to read the book . . . Given the high mortality rate, the reader should expect stories more gruesome and tragic (some might even say depressing!) than average episodes of the television show.
As a whole, the various writers do a nice job with placing Slayers and Watchers into different geographical and chronological settings. My favorite would have to be Marie-Christine and Edmund de Voison, Slayer and Watcher in 1789 France--the aristocratic ethos has pervaded even their lives, to the point where they question whether saving the lives of the poor is really worth it. A little more variation in the stories' villains (almost all are vampires) would have been nice, but perhaps that is saved for subsequent books.
After finishing the collection, I was left with the question--did the Slayer matter? If we put Buffy and the Hellmouth to one side (where she saves the world every season), it seems like having one Slayer at a time would be like having only one police officer for the entire world. Sure, that cop will catch his or her share of criminals, but won't have any impact on the crime rate across the world--just like one Slayer couldn't possibly impact the number of vampires in the world.
Anyway, if you can handle stories set in the mythos but not featuring television show characters, Tales From the Slayer vol. 1 is well worth reading.