Book of the Dead by Ashley McConnell: B+

From the back cover:
Wes has been a compulsive reader since childhood. It’s an addiction like any other—he craves books, loves them, can’t live without them. So when his former colleague Adrian O’Flaherty comes to town and invites Wes along to a highly secret auction of rare occult books, Wes can’t say no.

What Wes doesn’t know is that Adrian is looking for more than dusty old tomes at the auction. He’s out for revenge. Before the Watchers Council was destroyed, a man named Rutherford Circe stole a number of rare books from the council’s libraries—and killed the librarian, Adrian’s father, in the process.

At the auction, Wes buys a box of old books that holds one of the most famous books of magic ever collected. The Red Compendium is known for totally absorbing its readers—and Wes, always a sucker for compelling literature, couldn’t put it down if he wanted to.

Note: One spelling of magic with a k was changed because it is lame.

I freely admit to being a Wes fangirl, and I couldn’t resist a book centered around him. This is my first original novel set in the Buffyverse, and I’m happy to report it’s far superior than the novelizations I’ve read previously. Characterization is very good for all characters, in inner thought as well as dialogue, and evoked no cringes whatsoever. I particularly liked Wes’ reminiscences back to his Watchers (Watchers’?) Academy days. I’m sure it’s like other English boarding schools, but to me it just seems Hogwartsian.

The plot is not the most stellar thing ever, but it’s pretty good. Some bits I could imagine in an episode, though not all of it. It takes place in the fourth season while Wes is still estranged from the others, but at the point where some reconciliation is slowly taking place. The timeline’s a little hard to pinpoint, though, because it’s definitely after Caleb blew up the Watchers Council, but seems to be before Angel turned into Angelus. And Lorne is still running Caritas, which I thought he’d given up by this point in time since Angel-tachi kept wrecking it.

One irksome thing is that the publisher can’t seem to decide which way it wants to spell the word magic. It uses the variant with a K on the back cover, which I dislike. At first, the text used the regular way, then it shifted to the K way, and then back again. I thought maybe it only used the K when it was black magic, but this theory was dashed. On page 118, both are used interchangeably: “death magick amulets” and, a few paragraphs later, “death magic amulets.” After the first appearance of magic with a K in the text, I started keeping a tally box. Here are the results:

Magick: 14
Magic: 12

Despite these little flaws, I still enjoyed the book, and would recommend it to anyone looking for some new stories featuring beloved characters.

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