Greetings, Glancers! As with 80% of my new series of posts, this will probably stop before it ever gets going. Usually I get bored, or am sucked into some new temptation, or the reality of the magnitude of the task hits me and I go play Minecraft instead. For now, I’ll endeavour to actually complete this post and publish it – I’ll put it under the already barren Book Reviews portion of this site rather then creating a new Buffy Books section. Or do I put it under the existing Buffy Reviews section, which I planned on using for my thoughts on each Season and Episode but gave up shortly after starting. Decisions decisions. Pointless decisions.
I’m a big Buffy fan. I watched it when it first landed on BBC2 and it quickly became my favourite show. I have the box sets, I have the T-shirts, I drop dialogue into everyday conversations like perverts drop their pants at the play-park. I’ve read (most of) the comics, and hated them. I then moved on to the books, more as a way to keep connected to the world, more as a collector and completist. Reading them was always secondary – they’re almost certainly going to be crap, right?
Well, I did plan on reading them, but I wanted to read them in order. Order of release, or chronological order following the lore of the show? Who knows. That meant that I was rapidly building up and out of order collection, picking up second hand copies of books whenever I found them, and stacking them in a bookcase to my wife’s chagrin. When she asks why I never read them, I say I can’t until I have the first book in the series. She sensibly asks why don’t I buy that one, to which I reply I’ve never found it in a second hand shop. She sighs and asks why I don’t just buy it new. Well well, that would cost big money, while second hand costs little money. Then she tuts and walks away.
I’m now in a place where I can start reading the series. I’m also less Presbyterian about following my own rules and realise that there probably isn’t much crossover between books or chance of missing something important. These things are barely canon, they all have different others, and it’s clear when there’s a particular series of books following a central arc. As long as I don’t do massive shifts from one Season era book to a different season, we should be good.
My plan was to read them, then post some sort of mini review of each. Not full reviews, not even reviews like what I write in my movies posts. I wanted a simple framework which I could easily follow for any post, one which would hinder my inherent long-windedness and decrease the likelihood of boredom beheading my creativity.
For now I see the framework as – Synopsis, Era, Connections/Breaks from the show, General thoughts. Boom. I’ll do a secondary post with the list of Buffy novels and their rough order, so I have a place to store that list and so you can see how it all breaks down, should you be in the least bit interested.
At the time of writing, I’ve only read Spike & Dru. I’ve read the comics, which won’t be covered in this series, and I’ve read some of the Tales Of The Slayers series and Omnibus Comics which also will not be included. No novelizations either, though I do own those. This is just for the novels. Of which there are a lot. Not Warhammer numbers or anything, but still. I mention this because, well, I don’t read as much as I used to and because I have a massive backlog of books I want to get to. Hell, the last Stephen king book I read chronologically was Doctor Sleep, and it came out in 2013. He’s my all time favourite author and he has released 13 novels since then which I own, but haven’t read yet. Throw in all the non-King stuff too and you see what I’m getting at.
So, maybe this will be the only Buffy book post I make. Maybe there will be more to come. I have to read the things first.
SYNOPSIS: Set in the middle of World War 2, Pretty Maids All In A Row follows Spike and Dru as they travel the globe looking for a mystical object known as Freyja’s Strand after Spike promises it for her birthday. Or anniversary – I’ve already forgotten. In any case, that quest is secondary as the bulk of the plot sees Spike & Dru hunting down and killing various Potentials. We also follow the current Slayer and Watcher, Sophie & Yanna, as she do their thing and try to stop Spike & Dru. Finally, we see some inner workings of The Council as they try to keep the Slayer bloodline alive.
ERA: Pre Season 1. Pre movie.
CONNECTIONS: As you’ll gleam from the synopsis, we spend a lot of time with Spike, Dru, and The Council. Edna Giles is a minor character – the Grandmother of Rupert. Here she’s one of the Council higher ups. We also meet both Harold and John Travers – Quentin would of course be the Head of The Council once the show begins. Additional characters or groups from the show are briefly mentioned or turn up – Kakistos, the Order Of Aurelius, Xin Rong. Some of the potentials listed would go on to appear in other Tales Of The Slayers stories and maybe future novels.
The major break from the series though is when – SPOILER ALERT – Spike kills Sophie, making her the second Slayer he has killed. In the show it is known that Spike has only killedtwo Slayers – Xin Rong and Nikki Wood. Sophie would make that three. The author, Christopher Golden, wrote the novel before the show made the Nikki Wood reveal and was of course a little miffed. These things happen.
MY THOUGHTS: About as expected for a Buffy Novel. There’s enough solid connections to the lore that you feel back in the universe. However, it’s pre-Buffy and non-Joss, so the dialogue and humour is not there. Nor should it be. It’s also noticeably more violent and sexual than the show, with Spike & Dru shagging every few pages and plenty of scenes of children being killed. The Spike & Dru here are much more ruthless than what we see on the show.
I like the idea of following some of our longer established characters to see what they were up to before the events of the show. That’s what an expanded universe is all about. But the book leaps about too much for my liking, from time and location and plot. This wouldn’t be so bad if it amounted to anything, but most of the asides don’t seem to propel any plot or reveal anything we don’t already know about the characters. It all feels a little messy. I never enjoyed the Potentials plot in the show, not because those characters were annoying, but because it opened the door to too many uncomfortable questions about The Council finding Potentials and creating a whole mess which was always there, lurking under the carpet, but which had at least been out of sight and out of mind. Pun intended.
The main characterizations are mostly spot on – we can be picky till the cows come home but I want these mini reviews to be mini – and Sophie is an interesting enough character. Her Watcher, less so, with some added mysticism tacked on. There’s too much throwaway stuff from turning Nazis into soldiers, then that plot simply stopping, to Skrymir being something of a damp squib. The whole story probably could have been written without him being part of it.
Have you read Pretty Maids All In A Row? What did you think? How does it compare to other novels in the series? Let us know in the comments!