by Nancy Holder
Published: May 1, 2003
Genre(s): YA, paranormal, media-tie in
The strongest magick ever distilled, and the deadliest butcher England has ever known...
Buffy Summers is on the trail of a killer demon in Sunnydale, and reluctantly accepts the help of Spike. Anything's better than his moping around. But Spike -- as usual -- has his own agenda, and it involves something the demon is carrying: a vial of pure magickal power. Spike knows plenty of people and demons who will pay top dollar for this vial: Doc, Rack...and an ancient evil known as The First.
Spike has encountered The First before. In the good old days in Victorian London, when Spike, Drusilla, Angelus, and Darla ran through the night in pursuit of dark fun, another evil being was stalking the streets, dispatching young women with brutal efficiency. But when the so-called "Jack the Ripper" struck too close to their twisted "family," the vampires found themselves on the same side as the Slayer of that time. Working to bring down Jack, and running afoul of The First, Spike and the Slayer formed an uneasy alliance, which followed Spike all through the twentieth century to present day Sunnydale, now blanketed in a mysterious fog....
I had this one on my shelf for a LONG time, and so I’d forgotten what it was about. When I picked it up again I was excited to realize that it was about Jack the Ripper! I was looking forward to a truly spooky and gruesome story.
-- Review --
* Spoilers for season 6*
A thick, mysterious fog has taken Sunnydale into its hold, and is not letting go anytime soon. This makes patrolling a bit harder for the Slayer and her friends. Buffy doesn’t become concerned about the fog (and the mysterious demons rolling into town with it) until she starts noticing that it has some unusual side effects - like making everyone paranoid, anxious and ultimately, insane! However, she also has other things to worry about, like her little sister Dawn, Tara & Willow’s break up, the loss of Giles’ services as her Watcher, and most pressingly, her unhealthy relationship with Spike. Then to top it all off, they discover that the fog isn’t here all on its own - Jack the Ripper has come back as well. Needless to say, Buffy yet again has her hands full!
Let me just go on record and say that Nancy Holder is one of my favourite Buffy the Vampire Slayer novelization and media tie-in authors. I’ve read quite a few of her novels, and thoroughly enjoyed them, but unfortunately this one did not impress me as much as some of my favourites, like Queen of the Slayers. While it did have its moments, there was a bit too much happening, which was coupled with an overly complicated backstory, and a few issues with the writing.
In Blood and Fog Holder takes the story of Jack the Ripper and Buffyfies it, making him a supernatural creature, a faery halfling that has gone mad and is determined to take over the world, descending it into a monster’s playground. The idea is interesting, but I actually found Jack the Ripper to be more terrifying and horrible as a faceless human being carrying out the atrocities that he did than a supernatural being that was orchestrating a war between two faery races. The story gets a bit bogged down with the telling of Jack’s backstory and about the faery world and all its players, etc. I found this really confusing and by the end I still don’t think I figured it all out, unfortunately. However, I did like the idea that the fog that is often described in Jack the Ripper retellings was supernatural, and in some way, a form of psychological torture. That part did really creep me out! The descriptions of it were just overwhelming, as I was imagining this ever-present gross yellow fog that just seeped into your brain!
The story also alternates between numerous time periods and points of view. We are given a glimpse at Jack the Ripper’s beginnings, and then London in 1888, present day Sunnydale, and present day London (where Giles is). The story alternates between the point of views of Jack, Spike, Elizabeth (a previous Slayer), Buffy and most of the Scooby Gang. Sometimes this got to be a bit much, but for the most part, it worked. Holder had a real grasp on Spike, Willow, Drusilla and Anya’s characters! In fact, I absolutely loved her portrayal of Drusilla - she got all her idiosyncrasies down, and made her appear insane but psychic at the same time - it was brilliant!
Lastly, the writing was a bit hit-and-miss for me. There were some excellently crafted passages that I bookmarked, such as:
“It was like any bad breakup, any divorce - friends trying to stay neutral, friends trying to pretend that there wasn’t a big, wide chasm in everybody’s lives and in the fabric of their everyday world.” (p. 16)
“For over a hundred years the men and women of London, no, of the world, had through themselves safe from this bloody monster, rescued from his atrocities by the inescapable kiss of Death. Blissful fools - naive and innocent - they had no clue that Death could be recanted or avoided altogether, and that time itself could be twisted into a tool for renewing age-old battles.” ( p. 246)
However, at times it also seemed like the author was trying to incorporate too many puns, or Buffy-speak and it made the writing and conversations feel stilted. I also noticed a few times that words were used somewhat improperly, or misspelled, in addition to some grammatical errors.
Overall, while I was excited for a Jack the Ripper vs. Buffy showdown, the execution of the concept was just OK in my opinion. I think if you are trying to read all the Buffy books then sure, go ahead and read this one, as I’ve definitely read ones I liked less. However, if you are just looking for a good Buffy book to read, however, then I think I’d recommend a few others (such as Queen of the Slayer, also by Nancy Holder, and Out of the Madhouse by Christopher Golden) before this one.
Previously on The Sunnydale Project (Sept. 2) …
- “Love Makes You Do the Wacky:” How Buffy Slayed My Heart
- X Marks the Spot: Family in the Whedonverse (Teen Librarian Toolbox)