Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Wicked Willow Trilogy
Writer: Yvonne Navarro
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Reviewed by Justine Manzano
I have often heard it said, most often by my colleague, Melissa, that some things are better left the way they are. No need to mess around with a good thing. And while I respect the choices some make when they decide something needs a tweak to make it even better, I simply cannot get behind the latest of alternate universe style Buffy The Vampire Slayer inspired stories, The Wicked Willow Trilogy. I’m one of the many rabid fans of the series and, unfortunately, I still find myself on the fence as to whether this should have ever gotten the good Buffy name attached to it. Allow me to explain.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer, needless to say, is a television series about a girl named Buffy who slays vampires. Not hard to figure out, right? Except, if that’s all you know about the series, you’re missing a lot. Buffy doesn’t just slay vampires for her health, but rather because she has a destiny, and often the friends who aid her on the quest to that destiny are the most interesting part of the show. One of these friends, in particular is Willow, a sweet and innocent girl who happens to be a lesbian. At the end of the sixth season of the show, Willow’s lover, Tara, is killed and she goes into an evil, vengeful rage, attempting to kill those responsible along with anyone else who gets in her way. The season’s ending was spectacular, and the book was supposed to be a “what if”, exploring what could have happened had things gone differently and Willow’s friends had been unable to stop her as soon as they did.
It sounds like a good idea in theory, and perhaps it would have been, had it taken place in one medium length book, but by the end of the third and final short book in the series, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. The books were extremely similar, each book fitting into a formula. It was obvious that Ms. Navarro was trying to vary things up, but in the end, the story became the following: Willow does something bad. Buffy attacks, but gets her butt kicked. Willow gets highly pissed that Buffy would even try to attack her and summons some mystical demon to do her battles for her. Willow has a semi-redeeming moment. Book ends. At first, it was interesting. Even the second book was redeemable thanks to the fact that the monster she’d summoned was once their friend as well. (Not giving that away, lest I spoil it from those who will actually try to read through this series). But by the third time, it was the same old song, and that song was getting old.
Thankfully, there were moments of interesting reprieve. The return of Oz and Riley to the Buffy lexicon were exciting turns, although Oz’s exit in these novels left a great something to be desired. The use of the character of Gnarl, a character that victimized Willow the season after her killing spree in the series, as one of Willow’s minions, and the fact that he scared her beyond the normal amount were interesting little nods to the show. The writer kept it as though the characters could feel how things should’ve turned out, and the differences between that truth and the truth they now lived in. Another interesting bit was the fact that Ms. Navarro didn’t hesitate to give the full torture treatment to her characters, beating them up quite a lot along the way.
In the end, the good in this series does not justify the bad, nor does it alleviate the dirty feeling that comes with having spent over $12 for three stories that could’ve been sold for $6 as one. I think I may have been cheated. This might not have been Ms. Navarro’s fault though. She may have truly believed that she could make three interesting and original books from her ideas. But she was wrong. Stick to the original, television telling of this story. This one, while it has it’s moments, drags on for far too long.