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Spike and Dru: Pretty Maids All in a Row    by Christopher Golden order for
Spike and Dru: Pretty Maids All in a Row
by Christopher Golden
Order:  USA  Can
Pocket, 2001 (2000)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Most people have heard of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, although those who do not follow the television series tend to dismiss her as one of those silly and inexplicable pop phenomena that gain undeserved fame. Without arguing the merits of the show (I'm a fan myself), it is undeniable that the dark- and-dangerous fascinates; and Spike, one of the vampire characters from the series, is dark, dangerous, and ruthless. His character in the television show is restrained by an experimental device surgically imbedded in his brain, which prevents him from harming any innocent.

However, in this novel, author Golden returns to the time period of World War II. Spike is unfettered, free to indulge any whim - and his whims are cruel, for vampires are soulless. The theatres of war provide ample scope for Spike's appetites, either for blood or for perverse diversion. He has a goal this time: he wants a special gift for his lover Drusilla, another vampire. Once an innocent, as Spike himself was, she has the gift of second sight. Turning her into a vampire was an act of great cruelty that brought her to the brink of insanity. Pitiful though her history is, she is now a deadly killer..

In Buffy's world, myth and legend and all the dark forces of the supernatural are real. Drusilla has her heart set on owning Freyja's Strand, a mystical necklace forged by the Norse gods. However, the demon Skrymir, who owns the necklace, has his own agenda. To win Freyja's Strand, Spike and Dru must work to undermine the secret order of Watchers, a group devoted to protecting the world against supernatural threats. Their champion is always a young girl, chosen by powerful unseen forces. Once chosen, she acquires superhuman strength and also shoulders a crushing burden as protector of innocents.

Slayers have short life-spans, so the Watchers identify likely candidates all over the world, and train them against the possibility of inheriting the mantle of the Slayer. Skrymir's mission for the two vampires: kill the Slayers-in-waiting. Since it is a task they find amusing, with the necklace as reward, they undertake to do so, leaving a horrific trail of bloody murder as they travel across Europe, to North Africa, and to the United States.

This era's Slayer is a young Danish girl, Sophie, who faces war on two fronts: Nazi invasion of her homeland and two powerful and experienced vampires (Spike has killed more than one Slayer in his time). Sophie faces her daunting challenges with strength and grace and courage. The author paints a haunting picture of her as well as the other defenders against an overwhelming darkness. The climactic event, in which the Watchers fight their last battle against Skrymir and his minions, takes place against the backdrop of the V-2 attack on Britain.

Spike and Dru: Pretty Maids All in a Row is a suspenseful and satisfying read. It does not require familiarity with the television series, although its fans will appreciate how the author fills in the background and history of the Watchers as well as that of Spike and Drusilla. I found this novel in the Teen section of the bookstore, though I'm not sure this is an appropriate place for it. The author tells a riveting tale, but it certainly isn't happily-ever-after.

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