In Review: Slayer

This is not what I expected, but it was enjoyable.

Slayer by Kiersten White

Published by Simon Pulse, a division of Simon and Schuster on January 8, 2018. Hardcover of 408 pages at $18.99. Also available as a paperback and Ebook. 

The cover: The jacket illustration is by Talexi, the Jacket design is by Sarah Creech, and the Slayer logo is by Craig Howell. The reader looks up at a Slayer who is standing in the woods, blocking the sun, who holds out a stake with her left hand. Decent cover, with the character’s flaming red hair instantly telling fans that this is not Buffy Summers. Having the character blocking the sun gives her a halo around her and makes the woods get a violet hue. Nice. Overall grade: B+

The premise: From the front jacket cover, “Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watchers 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 Watchers 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 harder.” I’m a huge Buffy fan and I’m always looking for more prose adventures of the Slayer. This is not that. Instead this looks to be following the adventures of the last girl who was chosen to be Slayer. I’m fine with that. I’m sure there will be more than one reference to the characters from Buffy’s circle of friends, enemies, and frenemies. I’m interested. Overall grade: B

The characters: The lead character is Athena, know as Nina, Jamison-Smythe. Her father was Buffy’s first Watcher, played by Donald Sutherland in the film. She’s not supposed to be a Slayer, so she’s training to be a medic to assist Slayers, specifically those in Shancoom at the Watchers’ castle. However, the castle was being attacked by a Kaiju when it was killed by Buffy when she destroyed the Seed of Wonder, ending all magic on Earth. The creature went splat and its goo fell on Nina, giving her Slayer abilities. Unbeknownst to her, she is the last Slayer. She has a hard time adjusting to her abilities and an even more difficult time trying to decide what’s the right thing to do in any given situation. I loved her voice and found her frustrations and hopes as strong as the classic Slayer’s. Her twin sister is Artemis. She was always supposed to be the golden child and with Nina now in that position, she’s not having an easy time in the number two seat. She continues to love her sister, but it’s revealed that she has several secrets that Nina hasn’t known and this leads to trouble between the two. Leo Silvera and his mother have been missing and presumed dead. He was always Nina’s first crush and his reappearance pulls on her heartstrings as she deals with being a newly minted Slayer. He, too, has secrets, with his final one not being believable. Rhys Zabuto is the bookworm of the group and disappears after the first third of the book, but he was interesting while he appeared. He’s important for being the boyfriend of Cillian, the pizza delivery boy who captures something in his backyard that becomes a major plot point. He’s an everyman character and I loved all his actions and words. Honora Wydam-Pryce is the Draco Malfoy of the book who loves to push Nina’s buttons, but when Nina has the ability to push back she’d better watch out! She’s snotty and superior to the nth degree and she, too, has many secrets. Cosmina is the Slayer that the crew runs into. She does not mess around. Nina is wasting her time with questions when she has a job to do. Imagine Faith, but more focused on killing vampires. Doug is a character I can’t speak much about without spoiling, but he is my absolute favorite character. Each time he appeared he was a joy. Sean is the mystery man of the book who is revealed as a problematic character. Like, Doug, no spoilers. He was also fun in an extra slimy way. Creatures of this book include Hellhounds, vampires, and zompires. They were fun. There are other creatures, but…spoilers. I enjoyed these characters except when it seemed everyone had a secret held from Nina that spun the book in a new direction. That got old. Really. Old. By the time Honora’s was given, I was done with character secrets. Aside from so many secrets, these are great characters. Overall grade: B

The settings: Present day Ireland is the setting with the Watcher castle in Shancoom the primary setting. It was hard not to picture Hogwart’s, but this castle is not that big. There are meeting rooms, living quarters, a library, and a surprising space in the basement. The shed in Cillian’s backyard becomes a major location for the character that is captured and kept there. It was a funny locale for it being like any normal family’s backyard, but the occupant is completely otherworldly. Sean’s store and backrooms is a neat setting. The store is like any grocery store, with the things sold not found anywhere else. The back is described as any other store, though has some very unique creatures, especially in the owner’s office. There are other settings, but these are the ones that are visited more than once. Overall grade: A

The action: A new Slayer tries to muddle her way through a mystery and encountering supernatural creatures of all sizes leads to some fun action. Fans will expect Buffy level expertise. That’s not going to happen here and that’s what makes this interesting. Nina makes a lot of mistakes, some are what one would expect and some are major errors. However, she always has her heart in the right place with her decisions. She has yet to think things out like a Slayer should. I enjoyed the pit fit and the final battle, where a particular thing was used as a solution to the larger threat. Overall grade: A

The conclusion: I wasn’t thrilled with Nina’s actual fate. To have the events of this book occur and then have this be her fate was a letdown. That said, the spine of the book does say BOOK ONE, so there could be more exploits with Nina. I would be open to more. Overall grade: B-

NOTE: The Barnes & Noble Edition in hardcover contains an 10 pages that have Nina speaking with Faith in the dreamworld. This was really great, not only because I’m a huge fan of Faith and want to read more of her, but what she tells the young Slayer is helpful to her growth. This isn’t a necessary inclusion, but I found it fun and left me wanting more of Faith. Overall grade: B

The final line: This is not what I expected, but it was enjoyable. Moving Slayer action to another continent with a new cast allows White to create her own characters while still being faithful to the events happening in the Buffy comic books, though — thankfully, no reading of those comics is needed to understand what goes on in this series. In fact, White is to be congratulated for writing a book that requires no previous knowledge of the Buffyverse to understand it. I’d welcome more from White and her characters in Ireland. Overall grade: B+

To see the full cover visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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