The Burning by Nancy Holder and Jeff Mariotte

The BurningEvery month or so, I find myself idly spinning the Young Adult paperback book racks at my local library, looking for anything that catches my eye. Oh-so-often my eye seems to catch on original novels based on my beloved Joss Whedon-created characters. I came across The Burning, marked the first in a trilogy, and it piqued my interest. It wasn’t just a Buffy book. It was a cross-over between two Joss Whedon series, Buffy and Angel. For any of you who watched both shows, you know how rare and precious cross-overs were, especially once UPN got involved.

It’s summertime in Sunnydale, and Salma de la Navidad, a friend of Buffy’s from Sunnydale High, needs help. She and her family immigrated to America, and now she fears her brother, in an attempt to gain social acceptance, has stumbled into supernatural gang warfare. To make matters worse, an unknown creature has been doing a little night stalking. Buffy is certain that this new demonic presence has its roots in L.A. — Angel’s turf. So with the help of the Slayerettes, she heads off to battle demons — both actual and personal.

Meanwhile, in the City of Angels, Cordelia stumbles upon a vampire-worshiping cult of runaways as Angel investigates an invisible presence wreaking havoc in the local prisons.

Now Buffy and pals must deal with identity crises of their own. Buffy may be the Chosen One, but she is, ultimately, expendable. Angel is unique, yet his particular status isolates him from humanity and monsters alike. So while all wonder — do I make a difference? — the humans and demons who surround them answer that question in astonishing ways…

If you don’t know the shows, Buffy Summers is a teenaged girl who lives in Sunnydale, California. Sunnydale sits on top of a hellmouth. Buffy battles the forces of darkness, including, but not limited to, vampires and demons. She does all this with the help of her closest friends: Giles, Willow and Xander. Her true love Angel is a vampire cursed by gypsies with a soul…

The Unseen Trilogy takes place after the fourth season of Buffy and the first season of Angel. The book assumes that its reader already knows the characters’ histories. Angel has moved to L.A., helping the helpless. Buffy has been dating Riley, a boy from a secret government program, the Initiative. Xander is still with Anya, ex-vengeance demon. Willow has had her heart broken by Oz and is now in love with Tara, both of whom are powerful witches…

In this original story, Willow’s friend, Salma de la Natividad asks Buffy et al. for help finding her brother Nicky, who’s been missing for days. She has discovered spell books in his room, and dark magick spell books at that. A little bit of investigating leads the gang to think that, while Nicky might be involved in some black magicks, he’s most likely also involved with a Latin gang, with ties to Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, in the City of Angels, our brooding hero, Angel, finds himself doing some investigative work of his own. A seeming poltergeist turns out to be the telekinetic powers of an innocent man framed for murdering a member of the Russian Mafiya by crooked cops. Cordelia and Wesley find themselves trying to help a group of runaway girls who are determined to become vampires.

Of all the Buffy tie-ins I’ve read, those written by Nancy Holder and/or Christopher Golden are hands-down the best. The Unseen Trilogy, co-authored by Holder, with Jeff Mariotte, is among the better group of Buffy books I’ve read. While you won’t be stunned with Nobel Prize winning literature, if you were a fan of the shows, you will be impressed with how well the authors have captured the mannerisms of each character. Even more than that, they’ve managed to create an interesting story and tie it in with each character’s back story, all without disrupting the continuity of the already-told stories from the television series.

The pacing of The Burning is good, moving from Sunnydale to L.A. with enough regularity to keep the action fresh, but the book is what it is: the first book in a trilogy. It sometimes feels trite, as each character and dilemma has to be introduced with painstaking detail.

It’s a great book for what it is, and though the title sounds more like something that would send you to the gynecologist, I highly recommend it if you’re at all a fan of either show.

Read Order:
The Burning
Door to Alternity
Long Way Home