Kiersten White’s Chosen will fill the Buffy-shaped hole in your heart

Photo: Chosen by Kiersten White.. Image Courtesy Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Photo: Chosen by Kiersten White.. Image Courtesy Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing /

Chosen, the conclusion to Kiersten White’s Slayer series is a satisfying mix of old and new that will warm the heart of any Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan.

For those of us who still miss iconic sci-fi series Buffy the Vampire Slayer – yes, even all these years later – Kiersten White’s Slayer series has felt like water in the desert. A duology set in the world of Buffy, complete with all the mythology, sassy one-liners and brave hearted heroines we could ask for, complete with a few cameos from familiar Buffyverse faces along the way.

Honestly, the  only bad thing about this is that White’s series is only two books long.

Chosen wraps up the story of Nina Jamison-Smythe, a Watcher-in-training turned Slayer who came into her powers just as magic was erased from the world. (It’s a long story.) With the help of her friends, she’s turned their castle into Sanctuary, a home for lost demons of the non-lethal variety and other Slayers who need some friends or just a place to crash.

But NIna’s new life as a Slayer has come with its fair share of problems. Her twin Artemis is still struggling with her sister’s sudden acquisition of Slayer abilities and believes their job should be to take out demons, not save them. Her prickly relationship with her mother isn’t exactly going great. Her maybe-boyfriend is dead. And her Slayer powers seem to have a lot more rage and darkness around the edges now.

Basically: It’s hard out here for a Slayer. Still.

On its surface, Chosen is the story of Nina saving the world. Again. (With a little help from her friends, of course.) But it’s also about a young girl attempting to balance her many competing personal loyalties, accept the person she’s become, make difficult choices and discover her own inner strength. In other words, just like the Buffy we all remember.

There’s also a hellgod, a weird cult, a demon convention and a potential Apocalypse, because that’s the Buffy we remember too.

The best part of Chosen isn’t its many connections to Buffy, though they are great and a real treat for fans. (There are at least two cameos from familiar faces that had me squealing.) No, it’s the way it gives a real sense of heft and scope to the Buffyverse, and to the decision Buffy made at the end of the series to make all the girls who could be Slayers into Slayers themselves.

There are so many of these girls. And so many terrible people and monsters for them to fight. The lack of magic and hellmouths just brings them into more stark relief.

Chosen allows almost everyone to make messy, selfish decisions. People lie to one another, and keep secrets, and make decisions “for the good of others” without bothering to inform those impacted. It’s a messy, complicated story in many places, but also one in which we get why everyone behaves the way they do – even, and most especially when – we don’t agree with them.

White is such a self-aware writer that she leans into many of the most obvious tropes in this story, and occasionally even allows the novel’s exposition to poke fun at the things we all know are coming. A lot of these twists are predictable, especially if you’ve seen more than ten minutes of the show, but getting there – and guessing correctly – is half the fun.

Though I so wish the novel had gone a bit more into the motivation of Imogen, daughter of a legacy character who once served as the Watcher to Faith Lehane. Her sudden and inevitable betrayal, to use a Whedon-ish phrase, of both Nina and everything she’s spent her life working for could have used a bit more fleshing out. Just saying.

But, for the most part, Chosen is a fun, fizzy, satisfying romp through a world that I’m not sure many of us realized how much we missed. I don’t believe White has plans to return to this universe anytime soon as an author, but the setting is so delightful it’s hard not to hope that, one day, she’ll change her mind. Fingers crossed, anyway.

Next. A Heart So Fierce and Broken isn’t at all what we expected and that’s great. dark

Chosen is now available. Will you be adding it to your to-read piles this month? Let us know!