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TEMPTED CHAMPIONS sees two of the Scooby Gang faced with a life-changing choice, and as the cover shows, the pair in question are Buffy and Anya.

As usual, there's a new Big Bad in town. After a run-in with Anya, it's obvious that she's possessed with skills way above that of a normal vampire. But who is she, and just how is Buffy going to deal with her?

Well, the first question is handily answered by the Pocket Books blurb writer as - not for the first time - whopping great spoilers are given away to anyone reading the back cover.

Sadly, this potentially interesting confrontation isn't explored to anything like its full potential as that old BUFFY fault of too many characters to include rears its head once more.

So instead of concentrating on Buffy, we get Anya faced with a choice of returning to her old demon ways, forcing her to question her relationship with Xander (which she also did in DOUBLEMEAT PALACE).

Despite my criticism of the inclusion of this element of the book, Anya has rarely been better. Freed from her tendency to say the wrong thing and talk about sex all the time, she is actually a three-dimensional character for a change.

However, this is also at the expense of fleshing out the main plot which could - and should - have been handled better. Instead we pretty much get the usual Buffy novels' Big Bad who is new in town and has some history with both Angel and Spike. The guest appearance by the former could probably have been dispensed with as well, and far more time could have been spent on the Buffy/Celina relationship, particularly in the final confrontation. The novel also falls into the TV series mistake of assuming that everything is available via the Internet, instead of having the Gang do some actual research.

There are also a couple of errors in the continuity department. The references to the "Magic Shop" (not "Box", and clearly the name of the place, rather than just a description) are relatively minor, but a far bigger howler occurs when we learn that the events of FOREVER have already taken place, despite the novel being set "at the beginning of the fifth season". Surely either the author or someone at Pocket Books should have spotted that one?

Still, after forcing myself to complete THE LOST SLAYER, it was good to find a readable Buffy novel. Just a shame, then, that the need to include all of the Scoobies and some dodgy continuity meant that TEMPTED CHAMPIONS wasn't as good as it could have been. Concentrating on Buffy and Celina would have been a fascinating novel, and it's disappointing to see that idea wasn't explored to its fullest. BACK TO THE TOP

TEMPTED CHAMPIONS

Written by YVONNE NAVARRO

POCKET BOOKS

£5.99


RATING: 6/10


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OZ: INTO THE WILD

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THE BOOK OF FOURS