‘Buffy’ flashback: ‘Blooded’ (1998) (Book review)

Although “Blooded” (August 1998) is the fourth original young-adult “Buffy” novel, it’s possibly the book that inspired the publisher, Pocket Books, to split the title into adult and young-adult books after this point. Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder, who had previously launched this series with 1997’s “Halloween Rain,” write “Blooded” in the same style as their later adult books such as “Child of the Hunt” and the “Gatekeeper Trilogy” – with life or death stakes, and no themes from the TV show being off the table.

This is also the first book that makes the questionable decision to set the action further ahead on the timeline than the TV show was at – something that usually leads to continuity errors. “Blooded” hit bookshelves before Season 3 began, but it is set in early Season 3. Joss Whedon’s office seemingly gave Golden and Holder one piece of key information: Angel would return, and be back to normal. Summer TV commercials and news stories no doubt had revealed that Angel would be back, but it’s funny to think that a “Buffy” fan theoretically could’ve gotten their first insight into Season 3 from this book.

As is the case with almost all of the novels and comics set in early Season 3, “Blooded” takes place between “Revelations” (3.7) and “Lovers Walk” (3.8), the only time when everyone knows about Angel’s return and all the couples are still together.

Specific weirdness occurs when Buffy visits Angel at his apartment, which is in a large complex. On the TV show, of course, Angel lives in a mansion appropriate for a vampire with a soul. It would be interesting to know why the authors chose to relocate Angel to an apartment; one wonders if they were given bad information to work with.

Beyond that, “Blooded” plays in a reader’s minds’ eye like an episode that would be a tremendous acting showcase for Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan and Nicholas Brendon. Much like Xander in Issue 1 of the “Buffy” comic series, Willow – after getting mugged by run-of-the-mill villains — feels like she needs to beef up her fighting skills.

Feeling distant from Buffy, who is taken aback by the notion of training Willow as a fighter, Willow isolates herself as she falls into a sickness after cutting herself on an ancient Japanese sword at the Sunnydale museum on a field trip. Her body’s ensuing takeover by the Chinese vampire ghost Chirayoju plays with a similar sense of tragedy as Fred’s takeover by Illyria in Season 5 of “Angel.” The authors supply evocative details such as Willow showing up to school in a formal blouse and purple sweatpants, leading her friends to suspect that she’s not herself – figuratively at first, then literally.

Later, Xander is taken over by the Japanese Mountain God Sanno — Chirayoju’s just-as-bad rival from the old days and a precursor to the TV series’ use of the god Glory in Season 5 — and Buffy allows Chirayoju into her body for the sake of freeing Willow. As the authors describe Buffy being surrounded by blackness and trying to fight to the surface of her own body, it calls to mind what Angel must feel like when Angelus takes over. Indeed, that’s why he begs Buffy not to make the deal, even if it means they must kill Willow.

It might’ve been interesting to explore the aftermath of Angel suggesting that killing Willow is the proper course of action, but that’s not in the cards, probably because the authors don’t want to delve too deeply into an argument between Buffy and Angel that is distinct from their relationship issues on the series.

Golden and Holder give us flashbacks to the old days of Chirayoju and Sanno’s fight, an approach that they’d repeat throughout their “Buffy” writings, and something that gives their stories an epic scope. Impressively for this early in the book series, the authors are already establishing their own mythology within the wider Buffyverse. In one of “Blooded’s” best passages, Giles speaks on the phone with Kobo, the Watcher of a now-deceased Slayer. Giles’ attempt at proper Japanese conversational etiquette, and his eventual blow-up at Kobo, is fascinating. And I like how the legend of “The Lost Slayer” that Kobo references is explored in later books by that name.

In retrospect, one strange thing about “Blooded” is that Oz does not play a major role. Willow has assured him she is fine, and he takes that at face value and misses this whole adventure. It seems unlikely that he wouldn’t check on her more closely in the week when she’s alternately acting weird at school or skipping class completely – or outright missing.

Joyce likewise doesn’t play a major role, so it seems “Blooded” could’ve been set in early Season 2 and it would’ve played better than in Season 3. I guess at the time the publishers or authors felt that would date the story too much. They probably didn’t realize someone would still be reading these books 20 years later and would care about continuity more so than a sense of immediacy.

Click here for an index of all of John’s “Buffy” and “Angel” reviews.

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