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ENDANGERED SPECIES was the first ANGEL hardback novel, but the fact that I didn't even bother with it until the paperback was released probably tells you something about my feelings towards Pocket Books' BUFFYverse novels these days. However, my decision to wait for the paperback turned out to be fully justified.

Nancy Holder and Jeff Mariotte have plenty of solo BUFFY and ANGEL credits under their belt. However, since I'm mystified as to why Pocket Books keep commissioning Holder, and since the pair were jointly responsible for the largely awful UNSEEN crossover trilogy, hopes weren't exactly high.

As so often happens with a BUFFYverse novel, the authors seem to use the lack of budgetary and logistical constraints as an excuse to use every possible recurring character. Here that means a couple of attorneys from Wolfram & Hart, the return of Faith and flashback scenes featuring Darla, Drusilla and Spike.

That would be more than enough for a novel set in the days of three regulars, but ENDANGERED SPECIES takes place during the early part of season 3, by which time there were six regulars, if you include Lorne. It's simply too many, and like many previous novels the character bloat pulls the whole thing down.

Faith is a prime example of this. If you're going to bring her back, then at least use her properly. Cordy's vision that she's in danger, despite still being in prison had plenty of potential. The method of springing her from jail was fine, but just about all she ends up doing is running around an island in a Slayer Hunt. Admittedly she missed Slayerfest '98, but it still feels like Mr Trick's little money-earner from HOMECOMING.

Despite my negative comments, there are a few interesting things in ENDANGERED SPECIES - Darla's attempts to rid Angel of his soul; a vampire who wants to mate with the beast that is the origin of all vamps on Earth; and the idea that Angel would be prepared to destroy all vampires on Earth, including himself.

However, the realisation is far less satisfying. For a start, free from having the sort of time limitations that a TV episode imposes, the authors fail to keep a tight rein on the plot.

Add this to the character bloat and you've got a novel that tends to wander aimlessly in places. The habit of sudden lurching into a recap of a previous episode is also annoying and broke up the flow of the novel on more than one occasion.

It's not as though it's particularly well written to compensate for this. Faith is pretty much wasted, and Angel's characterisation is largely awful, veering from mooning over Buffy to thinking how gorgeous Cordelia looks. The rest of the characters are serviceable at best, although Fred's fear of leaving the hotel seemed a little overdone to me.

Even as a spin-off novel, ENDANGERED SPECIES is a below average read, and certainly doesn't justify its status as the first ANGEL hardcover. If you waited for the paperback, then you made the right decision, but even in that format it's far from being an essential purchase. back to the top

ENDANGERED SPECIES

Written by NANCY HOLDER
and JEFF MARIOTTE

POCKET BOOKS

£6.99 (paperback)
£12.99 (hardback)


RATING: 4/10


NEXT RELEASE:
THE LONGEST NIGHT, VOL. 1

PREVIOUS RELEASE:
VENGEANCE