“It”s a drag to be the Chosen One. Occasionally a girl would rather be at the mall … or even doing homework than saving the world from unstoppable evil ” Finally, a character whose dilemmas mirror my own: Study for class, or slay vampires? If your name is Buffy, the answer”s clear.

The first volume of the “Faith Trials” in the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” book series opens with a new slayer”s arrival in pleasant Sunnydale. The new slayer, Faith, a sexy and mysterious brunette who enjoys staking vampires in the nude and long walks on the beach, inspires Buffy and her gal pals” envy. Let”s face it: Faith oozes chic cool, while the often tightassed Buffy takes her role as civilization”s savior way too seriously, and she even hesitates to date anyone new. Only a few months previous, she gave her love a one-way ticket to hell because he turned into a vampire. Talk about a traumatic breakup. No pint of Chunky Monkey will make that baggage disappear.

To Faith and Buffy, slaying vampires becomes routine, almost boring. However, all hell breaks loose when the Jabba the Hut of the vampire underworld arrives in town, seeking an extraordinary glove apparently they heard about the return of the blue light special on Isotoner gloves that holds the power to “ascend.”

And therein lie the primary problems with this fantasy. First, I never discovered the alluring qualities of this uber-glove. Second, the book fails to build to any climax. The author creates “suspense” by refusing to divulge the point of the book. Ever.

Beyond Faith and Buffy, few characters ever develop. Most personalities linger for less than a page before they die or simply disappear without explanation. A saving grace is the liberal use of witty and sarcastic lines by most characters. Many lines elicit hearty guffaws and sustained laughter. One agent of evil pulls a He-Man in her thrilling moment of triumph, as she stretches one arm towards the sky, she sneers, “Faith, a word of advice. You”re an idiot.” That”s not one word, hell that”s not even advice, just a pretty accurate comment on the obvious.

Another favorable factor rests in the quickly moving plot. I could not put the book down, not for the aforementioned suspense (or lack thereof), but for keeping track of the plot. Plot lines I had followed for a paragraph, in which I felt deeply invested, started and finished within the same page. My eyes wandered for a moment. Returning to my page, accidentally beginning a sentence below where I had stopped, cost me Faith”s selling her soul to the dark side and the stunning revelation that Buffy”s ex is actually a good guy.

In its greatest moments, this book offers solid laughs and reassures its audience that life as a student can be balanced with life as a Slayer. And I was stressed.

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