It's a testament to the show's quality that BUFFY is able to produce a spin-off novel that doesn't feature the lead character. Even more impressive is the fact that it's a pair of the TV series' bad guys who take the lead in PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW, the second BUFFY hardback novel.
The vampiric nature of the two title characters means that the prolific Christopher Golden is also able to give us a setting other than the usual one of Sunnydale and/or late the 20th century, while the "one dies, another is called" nature of the Slayers means there's a degree of familiarity with their main adversary as well.
That adversary is Danish Slayer Sophie Carstensen whose country is invaded by the Germans early on in the book. But that's the least of her worries as she learns that Spike and Dru have entered into a bargain with the Ice Demon Skrymir, and their side of the deal is to kill all the potential slayers that the Watchers Council has in training.
Spike and Dru criss-cross a Europe over-run with Nazi soldiers (including Switzerland, which would presumably come as a bit of a shock to Steve McQueen in "The Great Escape") and an Atlantic Ocean in search of the would-be Slayers. Of course, this being Spike and Dru, they can't help having a lot of fun along the way.
Freed from having to include half a dozen regular characters, Golden is free to develop the novel's original characters far more than other BUFFY novels are able to. Most of the minor characters are to be more than just the sort of two-dimensional ones that we've seen in previous novels, and Sophie and her Watcher Yanna Narvik are also well-handled.
However, as you'd expect, and indeed, hope, it's Spike and Dru who get the bulk of the action. We know they're the bad guys, but like the series' best villains there's something about them that keeps you interested in a way that season 4's main bad guy didn't, almost to the extent that you want them to come out triumphant, even if that means the Slayers and the Watchers Council end up on the losing side.
As he's shown in the SPIKE & DRU comics, Christopher Golden has got a good handle of Spike and Dru, and both the characters and their relationship are well portrayed, although as with both the comics and the TV series, one or two of Spike's more Anglo-Saxon phrases don't seem quite right.
PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW features more sex, sadism and swearing than previous BUFFY novels meaning that it's not really suitable for the younger BUFFY fan, but - providing you don't mind reading a BUFFY novel that doesn't feature Buffy herself then most other fans should find it an entertaining read. BACK TO THE TOP