I thought the alternate-reality “Wicked Willow” trilogy was starting to get good with its second book, “Shattered Twilight,” but it comes crashing down again with “Broken Sunrise” (September 2004). In my reviews, I’ve somewhat facetiously said author Yvonne Navarro is exploring what would happen if Willow was evil for a longer time period, and unfortunately, that – and Willow being even more evil, but for no apparent reason – is what it comes down to.
With the tragic death of Luke Perry (1966-2019) from a stroke this past week, there’s been an influx of “Buffy” fans announcing that they loved him as Pike in the 1992 “Buffy” movie and they are rewatching the film in his honor. Some are even going so far to say they like the movie, giving it a bizarre short-term boost in cult popularity.
“Wicked Willow II: Shattered Twilight” (July 2004), the middle chapter of Yvonne Navarro’s trilogy, doesn’t have a lot of plot to it, but – part purposefully, part accidentally, perhaps – it’s a good meditation on how we define good and evil and why factions fight each other. As with the first entry, “The Darkening,” Willow is gathering magical power and – along with her coven of 12 witches – researching ways to resurrect Tara; this mostly happens off-page. But I liked this book more, perhaps because I’ve grown accustomed to the concept of this Season 6 alternate trilogy that essentially asks “What if Willow was evil for a longer time period?”
Yvonne Navarro expands on the Dark Willow period of Season 6 in her “Wicked Willow” trilogy by asking “What if Willow had been evil for a longer time period?” Evil Willow is a short-lived but iconic villain in Buffyverse lore, and this alternate-reality trilogy is a way to spend more time with her, since in “Grave” (6.22), Xander talks her back from the dark side.
In 2008 when the “Buffy” book line was canceled, author Yvonne Navarro lamented to SlayerLit: “Dangling out there is a golden opportunity based on the final show in the series … an unlimited number of tales about Slayers from all over the world, doing what they do best in their own environment but under the Buffyverse rules. Let the book line grow beyond Sunnydale or Los Angeles. The whole world awaits!”
“Roswell High” authors Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz – who also wrote for the “Roswell” TV series – try their hand at “Buffy” with “Apocalypse Memories” (March 2004), an imperfect but intriguingly out-of-the-box entry. Set early in Season 7, the book delves into religious theory and asks “What would happen if Buffy was pitted against the forces of good instead of evil?”
As he did with his love letter to hardboiled fiction, “Hollywood Noir,” Jeff Mariotte lets his passion for bloodless British mysteries show in “Solitary Man” (December 2003) – but in a different way. He invents Mildred Finster, a woman in the mold of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple or “Murder, She Wrote’s” Jessica Fletcher – at least, that’s how she sees herself. As the story begins, Mildred finishes reading the last of the 79 Christie books, then tells her cat that she’s going to become a detective herself.
Doranna Durgin crafts a more readable and entertaining “Angel” book her second time around with “Fearless” (October 2003). It has the same structure as “Impressions,” which I didn’t like as much, wherein we know what’s happening early on and there aren’t any twists and turns before getting to the end. But because of better character writing for the Angel Investigations team and better guest characters, “Fearless” is the superior entry.
Jeff Mariotte recaptures some of the hardboiled style from “Hollywood Noir” in “Sanctuary” (April 2003), which has a straightforward mystery that all takes place in one night. It’s also an excellent character piece for Fred – marking one of her rare early ventures outside the Hyperion Hotel – even though she spends most of the book chained to a radiator as the kidnap victim that Angel and company must retrieve.
Doranna Durgin did solid work on her short stories in “Tales of the Slayer, Vol. 1” and “Angel: The Longest Night,” but she trips up when making the leap to a full-length novel with “Angel: Impressions” (February 2003). Tuingas demons from a pocket dimension accidentally lose a deathstone in Los Angeles, and the stone gives off emanations that make the local demons go berserk. For no good reason, it takes nearly 300 pages for the Tuingas to reclaim it. In the meantime, the gang fights crazed LA demons and Angel struggles to keep Angelus at bay.