To tell you the truth, until recently, I was kind of over Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I got on board with the series late, binge-watching my then-roommate’s box sets to catch up in time to watch the final season air.
There are so many moments from that show that really show what a television series can be—and the series is still frequently regarded as one of the most influential and important shows of modern television. When the show concluded in 2003, I was satisfied with the ending. I watched some of the last season of Angel and dabbled in reading the Dark Horse comics for a bit (Season 8 had some very cool moments), but I found my interest waning.
Buffy had been at its best, I felt, as a high school story, and even though there are some amazing episodes from later seasons, something about losing that teen flavor to adult darkness put a damper on my enthusiasm. This context is part of the reason why, reading Slayer, Kiersten White’s new YA novel set in the Dark Horse continuity of the original series, everything is shiny and new. White grabs onto the Buffy mythology I knew and loved, tweaks it, and starts in on the saga of the Last Slayer: Nina Jamison-Smythe, daughter of Buffy’s first Watcher.
If you followed all seven television seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you know that Buffy changed the game: instead of only one girl in all the world being chosen as the Slayer, Buffy and Willow enable a host of Potential Slayers to be called. It’s with that gigantic team of Slayers that Buffy is able to defeat the First Evil and, once again, save the world.
In the comics that followed, during Season 8, Buffy chooses to destroy the source of all magic in the world (the Seed of Wonder) rather than allow a mass-invasion of the world from the demonic realms. The act saves the world, but also leaves the planet a little less beautiful: according to Willow, “There hasn’t been a decent song, movie or book, since we lost the seed!”
It’s only by chance—or prophesied fate—that Nina Jamison-Smythe, one of the few members of Watcher families to have survived the attack on Watcher headquarters during Season Seven’s “Never Leave Me,” becomes a Slayer.
Along with the other surviving Watchers, Nina and her twin, Artemis, are in hiding in Ireland, where they watch, and wait, for a day when the Slayers will need the Watcher’s Council again. Not inclined toward the violence so prevalent in their world, Nina has trained to be the medic for the remaining Watchers. Her mother is distant, and her twin so capable that Nina is always in someone’s shadow. But, on the day the Seed of Wonder is destroyed, a demon attack on the Watchers results in Nina’s secret Slayer Potential turning her into a full-fledged Slayer—the last Potential to be activated before all magic is lost to the world.
While Nina navigates what it means to be a Slayer—and deals with her own hatred for Buffy, the girl who got her father killed and the reason that there are now so many Slayers—she also deals with her own conflicting nature. When she encounters a demon who seems to need help, she’s not sure whether to be a medic or a Slayer. And when helping that demon leads her into further intrigue that may shape the fate of the Watchers, and her family, forever, Nina takes agency of her actions, becoming responsible for her own choices—even when she’s not sure she’d making the right ones.
Because I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy jumping back into the Buffyverse, starting from a point of view character who hated Buffy was just enough outside of my expectations that I was able to throw away my doubts. Nina’s a compelling narrator, and her sixteen-year-old point of view, complete with a crush on a boy who might be exactly right—or wrong—for her and a tempestuous relationship with the sister she always thought was her closest ally in the world, took me back to those early seasons of Buffy, before she’d died the second time and the world felt bleak.
Nina can see the beauty in the world, and the hope, and others see her as a light in the darkness. She’s exactly the reentry point I needed, and she’ll be a fantastic starting character to bring new readers into the world. (The cameos from Faith and Buffy end up being delightful, as well, and White nails the voices of each of those characters with flare.)
Of course, new readers may also be starting from a comics launching point: Along with White’s novel, January also saw the first issue of the rebooted Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic from BOOM! Studios. (Disney’s Fox purchase led to a loss of the comics license for Dark Horse, making Season 12 the final canon season of the original storyline.) The new series essentially retells the same story as the original, but with a 2019 beginning setting instead of 1997. (The Issue 1 cover shows Buffy wielding two weapons: stake and cell phone.)
Add the comic to the news that a new Buffy the Vampire Slayer series is in the works (whether as a reboot or as a sequel series, which remains a bit unclear), and it’s possible that the Buffyverse is prime to have a whole new audience.
If the television show goes in the direction of introducing a new heroine, Slayer shows that there are plenty of stories to tell in the Buffyverse that center on characters beyond the original Buffy. That Nina may be at the center of a prophecy—and that she faces down one apocalypse while the original Scoobies are off handling another one on the other side of the world—shows that there can be more than one Slayer saving the world.
But even if the new series goes in an entirely different direction, it will be a delight to see where Slayer goes with its sequels, and Nina’s adventures may just make her the Slayer to follow.
Alana Joli Abbott writes about books for Den of Geek. Read more of her work here.