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Despite many fans' praise for Nancy Holder's BUFFY and ANGEL novels, I can't really see what all the fuss is about, and the third BUFFY hardback novel does nothing to change my opinion.

Yet again we're in the bizarre world otherwise known as Pocket Books' take on season three. You know, the one where there's never any sense that the novels follow on from one another (and given the number that have been published it would be nice to feel that they did), let alone how they fit in with the TV series.

For a series that took time to develop its characters, this puts the novels at a distinct disadvantage as far as I'm concerned - given what happens to both Sunnydale and at least one of the characters here, how can the novels have any more canonicity than the average fanfic?

Anyway, onto the novel itself, which is subtitled A HISTORIE OF THE FOUR SLAYERS, although more than four Slayers actually feature. However, the four that get most of the action are Buffy, her successors Kendra and Faith and her predecessor India Cohen. Well, sort of.

Whilst it's nice to actually see Faith featured for a change, it's a shame that she had to be reduced to little more than a slut. Additionally, her presence means that there are even more characters to fit in than usual, with virtually every character who could appear in a season three popping up here. Coupled with the numerous flashback scenes, the action feels a little disjointed as a plot strand is picked up for a while before we move onto another one.

If you're a continuity fiend then you'll love spotting all the references, particularly to previous novels (especially THE GATEKEEPER TRILOGY and IMMORTAL), although I found this more irritating than anything else. Given the book series' overall lack of continuity, either with itself or the television series, this came across as the usual fannish tendency to throw in a load of references, most of them to the author's previous novels. This is even more annoying since basic facts from the TV series, such as the name of Kendra's Watcher can't be got right (Sam Zabuto according to WHAT'S MY LINE? PART 2 but Roger Zabuto here).

As a result of all this, I found THE BOOK OF FOURS one of the weaker BUFFY novels. On several occasions, it felt as if the novel was just getting into its stride, but then it would hit another annoying patch - the uninteresting Ghost Roads, or the daft idea of a character in ICU with all the Scooby Gang showing up. Whatever the bonds between them are, wouldn't the person's parents tell them all just to get lost?

The two previous BUFFY hardbacks, especially PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW, have at least felt a little "special", but THE BOOK OF FOURS only appears to have been afforded that status because of the multiple Slayers angle. As a long-time DOCTOR WHO fan, I'm conditioned to finding stories featuring multiple incarnations of the title character a little disappointing, and this isn't really an exception.

Thirteen quid is certainly on the steep side for this one, and to be honest, I'd wait for the paperback rather than shelling out that amount of cash. BACK TO THE TOP





RATING: 5/10