Neither of the two previous 'Tales of the Slayer' collections hit the mark, although the second was far better than the first. This time around, Pocket Books have given us a collection of novellas rather than short stories, with just four Slayers sharing their stories.
As someone who thought that the earlier volumes didn't really give us a chance to know the Slayer in question, this seemed like a good move before I started reading. On the other hand, having only four stories (vol. 1 had seven, vol. 2 had ten) means that no writer can afford to serve up a clunker, and we've had a few of those in the first two collections.
All four stories are written by experienced "Buffy" and "Angel" writers, and although none are perfect, there aren't any absolute disasters either.
The first story, 'Dark of the Moon' is the weakest of the four, as Yvonne Navarro gives us a 13th century Native American Slayer, who has received little or no training, and consequently fails to protect her village from the forces of darkness.
It was interesting to see a Slayer who doesn't know what she is or what she's up against, and Dark of the Moon's helplessness and sense of doom is quite well done. However, this story didn't quite work for me, although then again, these settings rarely do (in any case, haven't we already had a Native American setting in 'White Doe' in the first volume?)
Mel Odom's 'Ch'ing Shih', which tells of a Slayer in mid-19th century Shanghai, is the longest story here, accounting for a third of the book's page count.
Xiaoqin is another potential who isn't fully aware of her destiny, although she does know something about vampires. She is already protecting a group of young girls who live beneath a hotel, supporting them by her job at the docks (no, not that sort, she's passing herself off as male) and by a bit of thieving.
The extra pages allow Odom to explore the position of females in 19th century China, as well as Xiaoqin's life before her calling, as well as her recuperation following a critical injury. The story is a rare venture into first-person narrative for the "Buffy" novels, and along with Christopher Golden's effort, one of the two best stories in the collection.
Golden's 'Voodoo Lounge' is a sequel to his Spike and Dru novel, 'Pretty Maids All In A Row', although it's not necessary to have read that beforehand.
With the Council and its potential Slayers having been all but wiped out, they're desperate to bring back a former Council member back into the fold. Consequently, Slayer Eleanor Boudreau and her Watcher are sent to Los Angeles to persuade him to return. The only problem is string of murders, and the ex-Councillor is one of the suspects.
Eleanor comes across well, and it's good to see her managing to ensure the murderer gets justice, while also standing up the demons' desire for blood.
Another Slayer we've seen before crops up in the final story, Nancy Holder's 'The Code of the Samurai', India Cohen who appeared in Holder's "The Book of Fours".
I didn't really rate that, but here, Holder serves up a surprisingly entertaining story. In many ways it's similiar to "Van Helsing", with a family pledged to defeat an ancestoral vampire regardless of how many generations it takes.
This being a "Buffy" novel, we know that nothing's going to come of India's crush on her Watcher (since she's only fifteen). Her constantly mooning over him is a little annoying, but on the other hand, it does help to demonstrate the short lives that most Slayers will know.
Holder has previously struck me as an author who loves a couple of the "Buffy" characters (mainly Buffy and Willow) and consequently others (notably Faith) get treated rather badly. Here, it's good to see her making better use of India and her Watcher than she did in "The Book of Fours".
Overall, not a bad collection, with Odom and Golden's stories the best of the four. However, even the weakest of the four wasn't too bad. BACK TO THE TOP
THE SLAYER, VOL. 3