Slayer (Slayer #1), by Kiersten White
Publish Date: January 8, 2019
Published by: Simon Pulse
Genre: YA Fantasy
Tags: pop-culture retelling, demons, slaying, mystery, action, splash of romance, family angst, mother issues
My Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5 stars)
**I received this as an egalley from the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.**
Into every generation a Slayer is born…
Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s 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 Watcher’s 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 hard.
I don’t normally read these pop-culture novels. You know, all these ones based on Wonder Woman or Batman or Star Wars. They’ve just never really interested me all that much before. But when I heard about this story based on Buffy the Vampire Slayer something in me went “ooh, yes.” Obviously it was that part of me that adores Buffy the Vampire Slayer and that’s been itching to go back to it again. I was still a little hesitant in going into this book, but I was surprised to find myself easily enjoying it and getting sucked into the story in no time. It’s filled with some great characters, excellent story and character arcs, and of course, demons and other things that go bump in the night.
I think at first I had some trouble wrapping my brain around the world-building that was in the beginning of the novel, because a lot of it included information that I was not familiar with. I quickly concluded that it was from those post-TV Show comic books that I never read. It made things a little confusing at first, but I soon was able to jump into the flow of things and really get a good idea of what was going on (although I don’t know if I can attest to how well readers unfamiliar with the lore of the Buffy-verse will understand this if they try reading it without watching the show, or even just the movie). The story itself takes off quickly, with lots and lots of things happening so that there is never a dull moment, between demons and mysterious deaths and familial relationship issues. It kept me hooked from the first moment, with writing that is both succinct and delicious to read, filled with character banter that is reminiscent of the dialogue from the show while also being strong and true to these characters that White has created.
I love Athena. (And yes, I call her that, even though everyone else in the book calls her Nina. It feels more right to me, especially since Leo calls her that and that’s how she introduces herself to so many people.) I love how complicated her emotions are about being a Slayer, having grown up hating Slayers because of Buffy’s role in her father’s death, as well as how it conflicts with her natural tendencies towards being a healer rather than a killer. I love how strongly she loves her sister, and cares for those closest to her, and how despite her past and the way her mother acts towards her, she still remains strong and determined to do her best to help out in whatever way she can.
Athena is also annoying at times, unfortunately. She can be very self-centered and narrow-minded about things. She misses so many hints and clues, and makes quick judgments about things despite her constant mantra about how she hates that Slayers react rather than research first. I knew from the start that there was something about Leo and Eve that wasn’t quite right, and yet despite all the little nuances and slips of behavior that Leo said or did, Athena just never gleaned onto them. It definitely made for a more interesting twist at the end since, Athena being the narrator, we the reader can only see what she sees, and she just was not seeing as much as she could have.
On the other hand, her character growth is beautiful and exponential. She goes from hating Slayers and blaming Buffy for everything, to gradually accepting that she is a Chosen One, and not just that, but accepting herself for who she is, not what she feels like she should be in one way or another. And her relationship with her sister, Artemis, makes for such a strong and emotional part of this book. There is just so much growth between them and it is both heartwarming and heartbreaking at times and absolutely perfect in every way. My only wish would be that her relationship problems with her mother were dealt with sooner in the novel, because by the time they were the ending was near and it felt like the stitches had been sewn but the healing still needed a lot more time.
I just really enjoyed the characters and the relationships in this book. There was so much depth and growth and change to deal with, with secrets being kept and secrets being revealed, feelings approached or forced out into the open, and on top of it all, mysteries abound and Slayers slaying. Looking back it seems like it all should have been too much, but it wasn’t. Athena’s emotional growth and the character/relationship development with those around her balanced so well with the demons and deaths and Slayer mysteries that it just all flowed so well and kept me hooked from start to finish.