Crystal Anne With An E comes to us from a sunny clime, though she is an indoor cat that prefers to remain pale. She is an autism consultant by day, and recently completed a degree in information science, mostly because she could and it was fun. She likes to read (obviously), watch TV while cross-stitching something geeky, play video games, beg her plants not to die in the hell heat of summer, and walk while listening to podcasts that likely involve some sort of murder.
One will never accuse me of not being loyal to my fandoms. It’s been approximately 19 years since the finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired, but here I am, diving headfirst into a new book about the Slayer line. Since that show aired, its creator and writer would go on to mega-fame with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and also turn out to be a major shithead.
Despite that, Buffy has continued in other media, with many talented creators giving their own spins on the universe that began with her story. Which brings us to In Every Generation, written by Kendare Blake. My primary familiarity with Blake stems from the fact that I had previously read Anna Dressed In Blood and Three Dark Crowns. I already knew that I liked her style, and was interested to see what she would do with this.
Note: this book appears to have absolutely no relation whatsoever to the two Buffy spin-off novels written by Kiersten White, which I previously reviewed. At this point, I just go with the idea that maybe we’re dealing with an alternate universe. Who knows, maybe this is the World Without Shrimp. Nor do we seem to be dealing with anything that happened in the “Season 8” comics, which for me, is not a bad thing (I am never accepting that time Buffy and Angel spent an entire issue sexifying a universe into existence and then destroyed magic). Buffy is a robust enough property that, like Star Trek and Marvel, I can accept a multiverse.
One thing that these books do seem to have in common is that they focus primarily on a new generation, and in none of them so far have we spent any significant time with the OG Slayer herself. In this case, that means that our main character is Frankie Rosenberg, the daughter of Willow Rosenberg, who becomes the very first Slayerwitch. She has inherited her mother’s affinity for magic, and um, her mother’s Slayer legacy as well (who’s her mother, you ask? That would be telling).
This one was a little hard for me, because while there was a lot that I enjoyed, there were also some things that didn’t feel very Buffy to me. One of these was the use of Spike in this story. He honestly did not feel a lot like Spike from the show, even taking into account the fact that, given the timeline, he would have had his soul for about 20 years by now. The book presented a Spike that has tamped down his natural impulsivity and arrogance, which I often found to be his strengths. He comes off as fussy and a bit pestering, which, okay, Spike’s a Watcher now (another plot contrivance that I’m not sure I bought, I don’t really see Spike wanting to be a Watcher), but still.
I did find it funny that one of the plot points was that they needed to have him look a bit older to sell a fiction that he was a British librarian (i.e. the New Coke version of Giles) and so glamoured him, which he takes personally. Hey, so now James Marsters could totally come back if he felt like putting on the white hair and the accent again.
The references to the original show were often funny and effective, with some funny asides about how good we humans are at explaining the weird shit that can happen around a Hellmouth.
My favorite one was “Following the town’s complete destruction in that freak sinkhole incident in the early 2000s, it had remained in mostly good shape.” Blake also snuck in a few references to other vampire media. I particularly liked the vampire that made a point of dressing like Kiefer Sutherland and felt very validated when Frankie noticed.
Frankie herself is an interesting character, in that she has grown up idolizing her “Aunt Buffy” and comparing her magic powers to those of her mother, who skated pretty close to godhood at the peak of her powers. This combination causes Frankie to have a pretty good case of impostor syndrome. She spends a lot of the book thinking that she’s not a “real Slayer”, and this sense of self-doubt causes her to have significant difficulty stepping into her power and using it effectively.
She has her own nascent Scooby gang: werewolf and brother-figure Jake Osbourne (the cousin of one Daniel Osbourne), Hailey, the sister of Slayer Vi (one of the Slayers activated when Willow used the Scythe in the Buffy finale), and Sigmund, a lovable, if somewhat timid, Sage demon. She even has a crush on an approximately 2000 year old demon with male model looks and a tendency toward the brooding (her mother is none too pleased about that part). They are all generally charming, and I enjoyed their relationships with each other, particularly the brother-sister dynamic between Frankie and Jake and the sweet, shy romance developing between Hailey and Sigmund. I particularly enjoyed Sigmund, with his aversion to placing himself in danger (solidarity, my dude) and his powers: he feeds on stupidity, so when he’s done feeding, people are actually sharper than they were before. It also leads to an effective joke about how Sage demons like to be around constant sources of stupidity, which is why his mother works in government.
All that said, some of the cultural references absolutely did not work, because I did not believe that current teenagers would make some of those references. The most glaring one, for me, was this:
“Here we go”, she said, and used her phone screen to illuminate a headstone. “The first one. Robert Palmer.” ‘Like the guy who sings ‘Simply Irresistible’?” Frankie asked.
I absolutely called in my fifteen year old on this one and asked her who Robert Palmer was. Allow me to gif-ify her response.
Is that a reference that would likely be easily understood by an OG Buffy fan reading this book? Sure. Is it legitimately a reference that I think a current teenager would make? Not bloody likely.
The plot is standard Buffy fare, as the book starts with an attack on the Slayer line and follows the calling of Frankie, the process of her learning to use her powers, and the inevitable confrontation with an eldritch monster that has been attracted by a closed, but still rumbling, Hellmouth (can’t keep a good Hellmouth down, y’all!). The eldritch monster in question is Elizabeth Bathory herself, and she has come to rule. Thinking about it, I’m actually a little surprised that we never got her or Carmilla in the original series (I do love a scary female vampire, and Carmilla was one of the best characters in the Netflix Castlevania series). I enjoyed the conceit that other vampires don’t actually think Bathory is real, just because they’ve seen so many other vamps impersonating her over the years. You get all of the Buffy plot beats: introduction, everyone researching, a mysterious loner with a connection to the Big Bad, and the ensuing fight, with a background plot of our Scoobies trying to figure out who attacked the Slayers and how many actually remain. That, I believe, will be the continuing thread as the series continues.
While the plot is efficient enough at hitting the beats we expect from a Buffy universe story, I think I would have liked to see more indication of Frankie’s cleverness; it really only manifests at the end, as she learns to use both of her power sets together to make a symphony of violence, instead of treating them like pans that she’s bashing together. At the end of the day, yes, Slayers are strong and durable, but the best ones are smart and resourceful.
Did I have some problems with it? Yep, the OG Buffy fan in me had notes. I do feel like this book will appeal more to fans of the original series, both due to its reliance on legacy characters like Willow and Spike, and the fact that some of the references are more likely to be understood and enjoyed by both old-school Buffy fans and ahem, people of a certain age group (Gen X rise up…or not, we’re very tired). Will I read the next ones (this appears to be the start of a contracted trilogy)? Probably. I’m curious to see where Frankie’s journey goes.