Written by Keith R.A. DeCandido, The Deathless is a Buffy novel set in the series’ third season. On her nightly hunt with Faith, Buffy discovers that vampires act strangely around a certain house, and after returning to her home base, the school library, she soon learns what is behind the strange behaviour: the time is right to resurrect a long-dead evil sorcerer, and the necromancer responsible for his death is in town. With her ability to control vampires, they naturally try to avoid her residence. Striking an uneasy alliance with both her and an immortal contemporary of Koschei the Deathless, Buffy and her friends try to avoid the sorcerer’s resurrection, while at the same time trying to get the traditional Ring Day behind her and deal with the disappearance of half the senior class. Soon, Buffy can’t really determine who she can trust.
While The Deathless isn’t one of Keith R.A. DeCandido’s strongest novels, it is an entertaining, quick little story. My main gripe regarding the novel, though, is that it pretty much consists of too much build up in contrast to the pay-off; the story develops rather slowly and then the conclusion comes rather quick. Actually, I think that the problem was the limited word count of a Young Adult novel – the amount of build-up isn’t really too much, but it feels more as if the author kind of ran out of space when bringing the story to a conclusion. Nonetheless, you get a satisfactory story, perfectly able to entertain you for a few hours. The plot itself actually would have worked well as an episode, I think, tying a very familiar Buffy feel with a bit of Russian folklore.
One thing I noticed is that SSE/Twentieth Century Fox have obviously toned down their restrictions for Young Adult novels between DeCandido’s previous Buffy novel (Blackout) and this book, since here it seems he was able to get away with some more mature scenes/allusions – by no means offensive ones, even in the strictest scenes; just unusual in YA novels I think. I actually like that, since in my opinion it brings a realism to the novels sometimes missing in books aimed at a younger audience.
Admittedly I have seen more episodes of the latter seasons of Buffy, and only the odd one from the third season, where this story is set, but like I said above the book captures the Buffy feel rather well. That extends to the characterisations for basically all known characters, from the main ones like Buffy down to the supporting characters like Cordelia or Snyder. Of the original characters, pretty much only the villain remains somewhat pale, since he is mainly featured in the final chapters, probably a result of the rather quick conclusion of the novel I mentioned above. The others are fleshed out better than you would think given the limited word count of the novel.
Overall a fun story, best suited for occasions where you just want to kill some time, without having to commit to a massive story or epic storytelling. Pretty much the perfect novel for a train ride of medium length.
The Deathless (by Keith R.A. DeCandido) was released by Simon Spotlight in April 2007.