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Close To The Ground

Despite not having the greatest source material to deal with, Jeff Mariotte's The Xander Years, Vol. 2 was one of the better Buffy novelisations, but how does his first Angel novel fare?

Quite well, actually, although there are a few unfortunate similarities to the previous novel in the series, Mel Odom's Redemption.

Doyle's latest vision leads Angel to search for a young girl who needs his help, and he thinks he's found her when he saves Karinna Willitts, the teenage daughter of studio boss Jack Willitts, from a getting roughed up by her bodyguards.  In fact, the pair are so impressed with him that he soon replaces them - at least during the hours of darkness.

Karinna's father runs Monument Pictures, so naturally Cordelia thinks this is her big break, and it certainly looks like it, until she arrives at the studios and discovers what she's going to be doing.

The early run-ins and fights turn out to involve mere minions of the novel's main bad guy, Mordractus, who is deteriorating rapidly and badly wants to summon the demon Orias before he drops dead.  Naturally, Angel is central to his plans.

The first two thirds of the book concentrate on the Angel/Karinna storyline, broken up by Cordelia acting as a tour guide and Detective Lockley investigating a series of bank robbers that end up with her taken hostage.

I must admit that there still seemed a fair chunk of the novel to go once Mordractus had been dispatched, even allowing for the fact that Kate still needed to be rescued, which surely wouldn't take the best part of fifty pages to accomplish?  There was also what looked like a bit of a plot hole that hadn't been explained earlier.

These were both tidied up, although it felt as if there was a element of the Charmed episode 'Dead Man Dating' going on.  However, that's a minor criticism and it was nice to see how the Kate subplot tied in with the rest of the story.

The regular characters are all handled quite well.  Cordelia is still trying for that big break so it was great to see her trying to cope with the menial job of tramdriving.  There's also a couple of nice scenes where we see that Doyle feels more for Cordy than he's letting on.

After a fairly average average start with Not Forgotten, the Angel novels seem to be getting into their stride.  It's nice to see Doyle featuring in a few more stories, although hopefully Pocket Books will move onto novels from the second two-thirds of the seasons at some stage.  Nevertheless, Close to the Ground is a worthy addition to the range.

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RATING: 8/10