First published in 2004 Heat is a cross over story featuring both the characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off show Angel. It was written by Nancy Holder, who (if you’ll recall) was the same author who wrote Queen of the Slayers a year later. This is a novel that is considered non-canon so the events contained within do not form part of the Buffy universe.
Now as you are undoubtedly a loyal fan and have read all of my reviews to date then you will know that Nancy Holder also wrote another Buffy book called Queen of the Slayers which I was not exactly a fan of. If you haven’t read that review then scroll up this page a little and check it out…do it now…I’ll wait…
…Right moving on. So as an author that relies on a lot of description and very little else was Heat going to follow the same pattern??
Naturally I am going to tell you but first let me give you the lowdown…
Buffy is fighting the good fight in Sunnydale whilst Angel is battling the forces of darkness in LA. Oh yes, I should probably mention that this story takes place sometime during Buffy Season 7 because Spike has his soul, and during Angel Season 4 after Gunn killed the man who sent Fred to Pylea to protect her. Jhiera who appeared in the Season 1 in the episode She reappears in the novel still trying to find a safe place for her women from Oden-Tal. Here she has teamed up with body jumping Chinese sorcerer named Qin who struggles to remain warm in possessed bodies, and is trying to bring about the Year of the Hot Devil by bringing a dragon into this dimension.
In Sunnydale, Buffy has to deal with Qin’s treacherous wizard Fai-Lok who wants to take the dragon for himself whilst in Los Angeles Angel Investigations are attempting to discover why Jhiera is back and more importantly what Qin is trying to do, who is naturally backed up by evil law firm Wolfram & Hart.
As the stakes escalate Sunnydale is destroyed as a dragon awakes but in the darkness of the Ice Hell an even greater evil lurks and all it needs is someone with enough heat to break it free of its prison…someone like Jhiera.
In my review of the TV show Angel I said that in my opinion Season 1 was the best, it featured pretty self enclosed episodes and introduced a host of new characters, some who would reappear and others who sadly didn’t. Jhiera was one of those characters that unfortunately didn’t pop up again. She was played by the super-sexy Bai Ling and her chemistry with David Boreanaz came through on screen as her character Jhiera clashed with Angel despite the obvious attraction between the two. Angel is strong, and powerful with the heat Jhiera produced when aroused making his cold body feel warm for the first time and Jhiera is a warrior and leader of her women, seeking freedom from those who would enslave them. Jhiera was only interested in protecting her women and did not care about innocent people who got caught in the crossfire, this lead to her clash with Angel who is sworn to protect the innocent.
That was where things had been left after the two parted company in She with Angel warning her not to bring her battle back to LA again.
In Heat she has been forced to return and has made a deal with Qin, the First Emperor of China, she will thaw his dragon Fire Storm and in return Qin will destroy the Vigories of Oden-Tal who are still hunting Jhiera and her women. Things take a turn for the complicated when Angel comes across Jhiera and realises that she is working with Qin and together they are planning to burn the world.
Meanwhile in Sunnydale, Buffy is having dreams about making love to Angel and burning alive with him. The Scooby gang are investigating a series of deaths and a mysterious robed group that have been kidnapping people. Despite the Slayer’s best efforts the fearsome dragon Fire Storm arrives in Sunnydale and levels the city forcing Buffy and co to travel to LA to join Angel and take the fight to the source, Qin’s demon father Lir.
I have to say that there is quite a lot to like her, Holder manages to capture both the sexual tension between Angel and Jhiera as well as the strong love that Buffy and Angel share that they can do nothing about. Angel could throw caution to the wind and just have sex with Jhiera but he knows that she cannot be trusted, whilst at the Hotel, Buffy is obviously jealous of the chemistry between her soul mate and another woman.
The tension between Gunn and Fred following his murder of Fred’s professor also features with Fred’s opinion of the man she loved irreparably damaged. She tries to look past what he’s done but night after night they lie beside one another not able to touch one another or even talk about what happened.
The characters are done well with their pasts naturally featuring prominently. This is also the first time that Dawn and Angel have ever interacted. Dawn entered Buffy after Angel left so apart from a scene in Season 4 of Angel when Angel had reverted to Angelus and called Sunnydale, he spoke to her to see if Buffy was still in Sunnydale after learning a Slayer was in LA the two have never shared any time together. Even that scene only featured Angelus’ end of the conversation, we did not see Dawn on the other end of the line. In Heat Angel obviously cares for Buffy’s fake kid sister and she also seems to be quite fond of him too.
Where Heat starts to fall down is in a couple of respects, one I can forgive, but the other is a real biggie that I will get onto in a bit.
In order to awaken his dragon Qin needs three objects, the Heart, the Orb and the Flame. One of these artefacts is hidden in another dimension…take a wild guess which dimension…yep Pylea. So Lorne’s home dimension just happens to be the location of the Flame. Gunn, Lorne and Lorne’s cousin head to Pylea and are able to find the Flame in short order and return without too much difficulty. A pretty big coincidence that of all the Hell Dimensions out there the Flame is in a reality that not only has Gunn been to, but Lorne is from and they have friends capable of helping them achieve their goals. I can forgive this because after all an author could probably write an entire novel on retrieving an object from a Hell Dimension that we are not familiar with…what I cannot forgive is the ending.
It is such a copout…basically Sunnydale is destroyed and LA is left in fiery ruin. If the book is non-canon then go all out, wipe out the main setting for the show, why the hell not, events are in an alternate or fan made universe after all. What pissed me off about the ending was that Xander is killed in Sunnydale whilst trying to rescue survivors and Jhiera sacrifices herself in LA so that Buffy and Angel can save the day…having the balls to kill of one of the main characters…that I might have respected except that after the final battle Wolfram & Hart do some mystical bollocks and reverses time thus restoring both Sunnydale and Los Angeles. Xander is alive again but for some reason Jhiera is still dead. I am so sick of books that do this, they raise the stakes, give a relatively satisfying payoff for the book’s build up but then don’t have the stones to follow through with their own ideas.
Plus why the hell does Xander now survive and Jhiera doesn’t??
I have no idea if the events of the story are actually supposed to have happened, presumably not because otherwise everyone in Sunnydale and Los Angeles would have seen a couple of dragons battling in the night sky…but if it didn’t happen then how is Jhiera dead??
For a pretty decent story this bullshit just pissed me off…if you are going to write a story set mid-season then it is obviously not going to result in anything earth shattering because otherwise the season wouldn’t have been able to continue. So what is the point of writing something epic or earth changing if you’re going to just have to restore the status quo at the end of the story through some contrived means??
I read this after Queen of the Slayers and it hasn’t turned me into a Nancy Holder fan, whilst I don’t dislike this one as much as Queen of the Slayers it is such a weak ass ending that it just left me wondering why I’d bothered reading it in the first place.
Overall this book is getting a Thumbs Down because it doesn’t live up to its own ideas and gives such a pointless copout of an ending that killed off one character but bizarrely spared another.
4/10 – Better than Queen of the Slayers but my advice to Holder would be this, if you don’t have the nerve to write something epic then don’t try to write something epic. I have no problem with small stories but trying to build up a story only to completely wuss out in the ending always leaves a bad taste in my mouth.