Why I’m Excited for Kiersten White’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer Novel
Although the recent announcement of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer reboot has been met with mixed reactions, there are other ways to get your fix. The Buffyverse is finding new life in a series of young adult novels by acclaimed author Kiersten White, the first of which will be published by Simon & Schuster this January. White is the writer behind two very different YA trilogies: Paranormalcy and The Conqueror’s Saga.
Having grown up with BtVS and loving it for more than half her life, the author told Entertainment Weekly that every book she’s ever written “has been an audition for this.” Hiring an incredible writer to pen this series is a great start, but having a huge fan on the project makes it even more likely that this will be a worthy addition to canon. Even better still? The book won’t be about Buffy; White’s novels will follow a new slayer.
It’s somewhat miraculous that a critical and commercial flop like the 1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie was given a second chance at all, but Joss Whedon did not waste the opportunity to make something truly remarkable. Although Whedon’s recent fall from grace has certainly tarnished my image of him, ultimately, it can do nothing to truly diminish Buffy’s incredible legacy or the love that I have for the show.
It’s still a series that consistently challenged gender roles, subverted expectations, and shattered notions about what television was capable of. Also, Whedon didn’t do it alone. The writers’ room was comprised of a talented team of men and women who were all instrumental both in establishing tone and keeping the series going for seven unforgettable seasons.
Although subsequent years have seen the creation of worthy successors such as Freaks and Geeks, Crazyhead, and Veronica Mars, there is no denying a Buffy-shaped hole that has been in my heart since the series ended. I grew up alongside the Scoobies, following their lead through the perilous waters of adolescence and into the unavoidable confusion of my early ’20s. Buffy the Vampire Slayer changed my life.
Whether it was the crumbling foundation of first love, the gut-wrenching grief of loss or just an ill-advised romantic decision, Buffy Summers was there for me. I too have known these characters for more than half my life and although I can quote most of the dialogue by heart, I never tire of rewatching the series.
Buffy and the Scoobies have continued their amazing adventures in the comics, which are currently in their 12th season. White’s Slayer series will work in tandem with the comic continuation of the original show, specifically taking place after season 8. The books won’t be bound by the budgetary constraints of television or shackled to comparisons of the OG Buffy, because this will be an entirely different slayer. One thing is certain: We don’t want Buffy Summers 2.0. She needs to be her own character.
If anyone can reach into the Buffyverse and craft something that pays homage to its roots but establishes itself as unique as well, it’s Kiersten White. Look no further than The Conqueror’s Saga. White created two distinct and incredibly compelling characters and dropped them into the middle of the Ottoman Empire—and it worked. Sure, everyone wants more of Buffy and the Scoobies, but thanks to the comics, we know how their stories play out. However, there are many other avenues that White can explore in this world that has meant so much to so many people.
Meanwhile, White’s Paranormalcy trilogy actually has a fair amount in common with Buffy the Vampire Slayer: a plucky heroine who would rather be normal than be the chosen one; a beautiful, enigmatic creature old enough to be her great-great-grandfather; and a world of supernatural threats that most people remain ignorant of. The book’s main character, Evie, is undoubtedly awesome. She’s funny, clever, and relatable.
Paranormalcy might be closer to BtVS in tone than The Conqueror’s Saga, but the writing in the latter far exceeds that of the former. The author honed her craft significantly between these two trilogies, and it shows. I’ve never read anything quite like The Conqueror’s Saga, and I’ve read a whole lot of YA fiction. Although, much like BtVS, this series defies genre.
The trilogy centers on not one amazing character, but two siblings. Lada is a reimagining of Vlad the Impaler as a woman. However, Lada is just as ruthless and bloodthirsty as the man who inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. At times, Lada is truly monstrous, and yet, White still manages to make her sympathetic. We want Lada to win, not because she is perfect, but because we can relate to her struggle. Lada’s goals are the same as Vlad’s, but she is constantly underestimated and undervalued by lesser men. We have all seen the ruthlessness required not only to attain power, but also to keep it. The novel explores how that brutality would be magnified if a woman tried to achieve the same ends.
The book’s other POV follows Radu, his sister’s opposite in every way. Radu is sensitive, cunning, and more beautiful than Lada could ever hope to be. He is also gay, which is refreshing to see, especially in YA fiction. Radu wants desperately to be loved, but cannot reconcile the form that his own love takes. The only solace he can find is in his adopted faith, Islam, which is also portrayed in a way largely unseen in any form of media. In fact, various religions and lack thereof are treated in a way that is neither judgmental nor preachy. White weaves her characters throughout matters of historical record, crafting a truly extraordinary story that had me glued to every page.
As excited as I was by the mere announcement of her Buffy project, reading the preview chapter on EW only served to reinforce my feelings on White being the right one to tell this tale. Interestingly, not only is Buffy not the focus of this story, but she is also very much not the hero of the piece. As much as I adore Buffy, it’s intriguing to see her from a different perspective.
Spoilers ahead for those who’ve yet to read the comics, but Buffy was forced to destroy the Seed of Wonder at the end of season 8. With its end, all of magic withered and died. This act makes her less than awesome in the eyes of the few surviving members of the Watchers Council, most of whom were killed by the First in the show’s final season. Besides, let’s be real, Buffy and the Council were never on great terms, so it makes perfect sense that those remaining wouldn’t be her biggest fans.
White’s story takes place after that destruction of magic, but before magic was fixed, which was a very precarious period for the Buffyverse, making it a great point in time for a new tale. There are also several interesting connections made between the new characters and already established ones. For one thing, main character Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are the daughters of Merrick Jamison-Smythe, a.k.a. Buffy’s first Watcher, who died defending her—there’s one more reason for these girls to dislike Buffy.
Relations to other beloved characters are mentioned, as well, and there will likely be more sprinkled throughout the series. The first chapter sets up Nina as the last Slayer to be called, now that magic has been wiped out. It also gives some insight into why these newfound abilities would be particularly life changing for her, considering she has always been considered the less formidable twin. Artemis was the one that everyone thought would do incredible things, but now it’s Nina who has been granted a new destiny—another interesting sibling dynamic from an author who’s already proved she can handle them so well.
White completely nails the tone in the excerpt, as well, finding both the heart and humor, just like BtVS always has. Buffy resonates with people of all ages, because the show’s themes are universal. Though some of it hasn’t aged well, as a whole, the series is truly timeless. White’s writing has illustrated that she can craft unique and engaging worlds replete with characters who stick with you long after you put her books down. I’m sure that she can bring those same sensibilities to this new Slayer series.
If White can work within the restrictions of actual history as she did with The Conqueror’s Saga, surely she’ll handle the Buffyverse just fine. I can’t wait to read this book in front of a fireplace with a tea cozy. I don’t even know what a tea cozy is, but I want one.
Jamie Gerber is a writer who can’t seem to quit her job at the comic shop. She adores all things pop culture and prefers spending time with her pets to hanging out with actual human beings. Jamie aspires to write about the things that she loves at a job that can support her massive Thai takeout addiction.
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