Review: Slayer (Slayer #1) by Kiersten White


Into every generation a Slayer is born…

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.

As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…

But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next.

One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

RATING: ☆★☆★

You know when you’ve had a bad day but then you read a book for three uninterrupted hours and absorb the personalities and problems of fictional characters and suddenly you’re doing much better? YEAH SAME.

I loved this book but don’t ever talk to me about Buffy because I’ll either end up getting so over-excited I start knocking lamps over or I start sobbing hysterically!

So, what’s this book about?

Buffy Summers had torn the world in half when she destroyed the Seed of Wonder that fed all magic on earth, and the rip was a wound. Buffy’s actions meant that no generation of Slayers will rise again and the powers of Watchers—those who guide the Slayers—have frayed to the point of breaking.

After years of tiptoeing through her life, trying not to set off memories like land mines, the last thing Athena needed is to find out that she’s the last Slayer, Chosen right before the magic vanished forever. Athena comes from a generation of Watchers, her father was assigned to Buffy and her twin sister, Artemis, was the only one given proper training to become one. Athena was the castle’s medic, with a mother she suspected hated her and a sister who bore the burden of Athena’s pain in addition to her own. Being a Slayer needed someone far more daring than her. It needed the thunder and the avalanche, the war cry and the whirlwind and the fire. Neither of these things Athena thinks she has. But Athena soon finds within herself, rising through all the consternation and fright, a strange bubble of gladness: everyone was the foreground of the painting that was Athena’s life and she was always the background. But not anymore.

But being a Slayer comes with hard choices, and, now everything Athena would do, she would do alone and with blood on her hands. And maybe Athena doesn’t blame Buffy for almost ending the world after all.

Being chosen is easy. Making choices will break your heart.

I’m a huge fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer so it was already guaranteed that I would certainly love the world in which this book is set, but I also know how spin-off series usually work, affording only fleeting glimpses of the characters to whom my loyalty is pledged, using the curious twinning of familiarity to lure me into the trap of the new. But reading Slayer was like revisiting a favorite story from childhood and realizing that while the details were the same, the entire meaning had changed. I absolutely loved it.

White takes a familiar world and builds upon it, readers will hear echoes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer while recognizing the imagination that has wrought old material into something entirely fresh. Her world is intoxicating, imbued with an unrelenting sense of peril that kept me riveted through every chapter—the jittery tension only slightly tampered with the characters’ sharp, laugh-out-loud observations. And when the final tiles of the story are set in place, and at last the picture shows whole, White closes the story raising more questions than answers, leaving you hoping she has another entry up her clever sleeves.

The bulk of this book is about Athena, her failures and successes, her loneliness and fears and frustrations—they all bud and blossom into a compelling adventure. White is most successful at delineating Athena’s internal conflict as she struggles to balance between her instinct to heal and fix bodies and her actual calling—being a Slayer. Athena has always tried to make herself smaller, to fit neatly into the ordered lines of expectation. She was finally settling into her role of medic before her life was uprooted and Athena now fears that if she’d so much as think of herself as a Slayer, she’d get pinned to everything she’d been trying to get away from. Being a Slayer might have freed her from the cage her mother has crafted for her, and allowed her to embrace her full strength and the potential her mother had so forcefully repressed for many long years, but it has also put a permanent tarnish on her relationship with her sister, Artemis, who is embittered by her sudden irrelevance in Athena’s life and considers her being a Slayer an “us” that spat on everything she’d done to keep Athena safe.

Athena’s journey of discovering the discrete entity that is herself, apart from environment, expectations, and the watchful eyes of everyone else is one of my favorite parts about this book.

It’s honestly only in surfacing from the story that I can cast a critical eye backwards and say, this part floundered, this part went on too long. The story begins a bit slowly, and it takes a while to disentangle exactly who or what the focal points of the plot are supposed to be. But once it’s up and running, it’s entirely riveting. There’s also a comfortable and realistic diversity among the characters. I just wish they were all given their own sets of longings and fears and impact the trajectory of the story instead of being set aside in favor of escalating the plot.

With that being said, Slayer definitely leaves the stall door wide open for improvement in further installments and I’m looking forward to it!

“The choice was to save the world—or to save you. And I chose you.”

5 thoughts on “Review: Slayer (Slayer #1) by Kiersten White

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