Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult

Chosen (Slayer #2)

Cover image for Chosen by Kiersten Whiteby Kiersten White

ISBN 978-1-5344-0498-4

 “Leo loved me, betrayed us, saved us, and then died, and I can’t be sad without being mad or mad without feeling guilty or guilty without feeling exhausted.”

When Buffy destroyed the Seed of Wonder, magic went out of the world. The hell mouths were sealed, cutting Earth off from the infernal realms. But the demons who were on Earth when the portals closed are now trapped here forever. Nina is the last Slayer, her powers activated in the final moments before magic left the world forever. It was an inheritance she never wanted; as the daughter of Watchers, she never asked or expected to be chosen. But she has chosen to use her powers for good, setting up the Watchers’ crumbling Irish castle as a sanctuary for non-violent demons who were trapped on Earth when the doorways closed. Yet despite believing whole-heartedly in this mission, Nina finds herself fighting the violent impulses of a Slayer, tempted to react to everything with anger and force. And although the infernal realms are closed, those who remain on Earth may still pose a threat, and Nina must decide who to save, and who to save humanity from.

With the Watchers Council decimated, Nina, Rhys, and Imogen take up the mantle of reorganizing the ancient institution for the next generation. Leo is gone, and Artemis and Honora have struck out on their own, unable or unwilling to accept Nina’s vision for the future. Artemis can’t quite come to terms with the fact that her twin sister, the gentle girl who wanted to be a healer, was Chosen, while Artemis, who trained all her life, will never have the power of a Slayer. In fact, now that magic has gone out of the world, she may never have any power at all. This conflict comes to be at the heart of Chosen, the second volume in Kiersten White’s Buffy spin off series. Artemis’ lust for power is not abated by the passing of magic, while Nina’s fear of and distaste for her own power complicates every choice she is faced with. Nor can Artemis accept her sister in any role other than the one she—and all the other Watchers—cast her in. Family, sisterhood, and having a choice versus being chosen are at the heart of this story.

As with the previous installment, Chosen focuses on the younger generation of Watchers, but also features cameos from beloved characters from the original series. Buffy and Faith feature in Nina’s Slayer dreams, while a certain popular werewolf makes an unexpected appearance in London. As with the previous installment, White captures the dialogue and banter well, balancing the darker themes with the pithy one liners, as when an exasperated Nina exclaims, “We don’t have time for an apocalypse… Maybe pencil in an apocalypse for May. It seems like a nice spring activity.” That said, Chosen wraps things up in a way that suggests this might be a duology, but there is still room here for further stories if the publisher decides to continue.

You might also like Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow by E. K. Johnston

Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult


Cover image for Slayer by Kiersten White by Kiersten White

ISBN 978-1-53440495-3

 “And that’s my struggle, the truth of my life among the Watchers, growing up and aiding a society that exists because of Slayers: I hate them. What they are, what they do. And I hate none of them as much as I hate Buffy.”

When Buffy destroyed the Seed of Wonder, magic went out of the world. The hell mouths were sealed, cutting Earth off from the infernal realms. But the demons who were on Earth when the portals closed are now trapped here forever. Some latent magic still remains; vampires have not stopped existing, though they can no longer properly sire new vampires, and all of the Potentials who became Slayers still have their powers. Nina is the last Slayer, her powers activated in the final moments before magic left the world forever. And as the daughter of Watchers, this is the last thing she ever could have wanted. Because Nina hates Slayers, and Buffy in particular. Her father died serving as Buffy’s first Watcher, after all. Buffy is the Slayer who rejected the Watcher tradition Nina was raised to respect and uphold. And Buffy is responsible for destroying magic, taking away what little power the remaining Watchers had to protect themselves in this brave new world.

The group of young Watchers that form the cast of Slayer are among the last survivors of the ancient organization that has watched over the Chosen One for generations. There are a handful of older Watchers, forming what is left of the Council, and a few very young children, but teens Nina, Artemis, and Rhys, along with the slightly older Honora, Leo, and Imogen make up the bulk of the survivors. Together, they form the Watcher version of the Scooby Gang, figuring out how to fight evil and stay safe in a world that is somehow no less dangerous for magic’s passing. The once-warded Irish castle they now call home has been stripped of its protections, vengeful demons might be lurking anywhere, eager for a bit of revenge, and the end the Watcher line forever.

I think some people will probably find Nina’s hatred of Buffy off-putting, because it is an intense and ill-founded dislike of the character at the heart of this universe. However, it felt like a genuine and honest motivation for someone who has never actually met the Slayer in person, but has suffered for her choices nevertheless. Buffy and other characters from the original canon do not appear directly, but do make various cameos by way of mention, as well as dream sequences. Wesley’s status as a fallen Watcher working for a vampire detective, for example, is the butt of many jokes. Nina also has her own characterization and backstory beyond hating the Slayer. She has carved out a place for herself as healer, since she has never been deemed strong enough for proper Watcher training, while her twin sister Artemis is more of the warrior. Her relationship with her mother is fraught, but she is tight with her sister, and her best friend Rhys

The tone of the book is very much in keeping with the middle seasons of the show, where Buffy was about the same age as Slayer’s protagonists. Kiersten White is on point with the quippy dialogue and off-beat humour in the face of danger that characterized the show’s writing style. The camp and melodrama counter-points the typical teen angst of the Buffyverse, making for a familiar return to a beloved world, even if the characters are different.

Fantasy, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Young Adult

Pitch Dark Days

This past Thursday, I visited the University Bookstore in Seattle, which was hosting the HarperTeen Pitch Dark Days tour, featuring five YA authors, including Kiersten White, Dan Wells, Debra Driza, Lauren Oliver and Claudia Gray. I was there to see Claudia Gray, whose new book, Spellcaster, I reviewed last week, but I was introduced to four more teen authors who write sci-fi/fantasy, and as a result my library holds queue just got a little bit longer. Here’s a preview of the books they were touring, and some of the questions they answered, and some speculation about what Claudia Gray has in store for us with Spellcaster #2, due out next year:

Cover image for Mind Games by Kiersten WhiteKierstin White was promoting her new book, Mind Games, a thriller about two sisters who are being held in a special school that exploits the supernatural powers of its students to conduct espionage. This book has a fantastic cover, which White touted as the best thing about her book! (She says the words are pretty good, too.) One of the sister’s in blind, which creating some unique descriptive writing challenges in the romance department. White started writing as a new mom, as a way to reclaim some time and space for herself. She wrote four books before she got published, but maintains that no book written is a waste, because you learn from your writing even when you don’t get published.

Cover image for Fragments by Dan WellsDan Wells is currently touring Fragments, which is book two in the Partials Sequence, a series of books about the extinction of the human race due to a virus. Wells described writing the book as “perversely fun,” because in book two he got to beat up his main character and show her that life isn’t fair. However, I was more intrigued by his descriptions of his  Mr. Monster books, which are apparently so dark that his mother-in-law was worried for the safety of his wife and children! When asked about his decision to set the books on Long Island, Wells explained that it offered the contained space he needed for his setting, but also put him in close proximity to Manhattan, allowing him to blow up famous New York landmarks.

Cover image for MILA 2.0 by Debra DrizaDebra Driza’s new book is MILA 2.0, the first in a sci-fi thriller series about a young woman who discovers that she is in fact a military grade android which her “mother” stole from the government. And, problematically, the series also features a human love interest for Mila. The most discussed (and joked about) item about this book by far was a scene in which Mila stabs someone with a hair dryer plug. Apparently the romance doesn’t get much page-time in book one since Mila has to go on the run from government operatives, but Driza assures readers the love interest will be back in book two. And, like Mind Games, this book has some fantastic cover art.

Cover image for Requiem by Lauren OliverMany of the fans who turned out for Pitch Dark Days were there to see Lauren Oliver, who just published Requiem, the final book in her Delirium series. The series is set in a futuristic society in which love has been deemed an infectious disease, and cured. The exciting news here is that there is currently a TV pilot in production based on the books, starring Emma Roberts. Oliver was also excited about the fact that she got to introduce a second POV character, despite the fact that this is the third book in her series. She also revealed that the Raven character was based on her own kickass, tough love sister. Though this is the final book in the series, Oliver mentioned that since she started out writing fan fiction, she loves “books where a door stays open for you.”

Cover image for Spellcaster by Claudia GraySomehow, of these five big name YA authors, I had only read Spellcaster, by Claudia Gray, which I finished just three days before the event. A little bit less sci-fi that the other titles, Spellcaster is a fantasy in which a young witch loses her teacher just as she moves to a new town with a cursed inhabitant and an evil resident witch. Gray described her villain as the coolest thing about her book, because she was so powerful that even Gray was sometimes stumped about how to have her protagonists triumph. Gray tried on many different hats before becoming an author, but finally got down to writing in time to, entirely by accident, have a vampire manuscript ready just as  Twilight  was taking off.

Gray also revealed that just before heading out on the Pitch Dark Days tour, she handed in book two of the series to her publisher. It is titled Steadfast, and is due out next spring. Although she got a lot of page-time in book one, Verlaine becomes a second lead in book two, and gets her own epic love story. The conversation amongst the panelists revealed that we likely already met her love interest in book one. (Warning: spoilers ahead!) There were very few male characters of the right age to be Verlaine’s upcoming love interest. Besides Mateo, the only teen boys with significant page-time were Mateo’s friend Gage, and the handsome-but-mean Jeremy Prasad. But Jeremy died, so it would seem that Gage is the de facto winner. Or perhaps not. One of the things I failed to mention in my review of Spellcaster was how much I loved a certain sassy and sympathetic demon named Asa, who is called up to serve the whims of the villain. He was genuinely one of my favourite things about the book, but he escaped mention because he doesn’t really do much, at least on page. However, towards the end of the book, he takes possession of the body of Jeremy Prasad, who, it is repeatedly mentioned, Verlaine finds handsome but obnoxious. I have a year to wait to find out if I am right, but casting Asa/Jeremy as Verlaine’s new love interest seems to offer a lot more possibilities than Gage (nice as he seems).

Already read Spellcaster? Who do you think Gray should enlist to romance Verlaine?