Dark Congress by Christopher Golden: B-

darkcongressFrom the back cover:
Since the beginning of time, the demonic races have gathered every century to resolve conflicts among them and to determine the course of their future. This centennial event is called the Dark Congress.

Buffy is horrified and disgusted to be included as an arbiter of these conflicts. After all, she is not a demon… is she? She knows so little about her powers that she cannot say for certain where they truly spring from. How can she spend so much time wallowing in the darkness without becoming part of it? Can she possibly agree to a truce with all the horrors of the world and allow them to come to the Hellmouth in Providence, Rhode Island without any attempt to stop them? And does she have a choice?

Dark Congress is unique because of it’s one of only two Buffy tie-in novels set after the conclusion of the series. (Here is the other. Its apparent cracktasticness is most appealing.) This removes some of the constraints placed upon a media tie-in author, and, free from said limits, Golden seizes the opportunity to do what many a fanfic author has done before him: break up Willow and Kennedy and resurrect Tara. Oh sure, lots of other stuff about demons happens, but c’mon. Who really cares about that?

Tara’s resurrection is actually handled admirably well for a novel such as this, prompting some very in-character reactions. Buffy, for example, wants to be happy but is cautious and worried. Later, after Tara proves herself to be genuine, she is fiercely protective of their happiness, a characteristic Buffy has displayed towards her friends’ relationships on the show, too. My favorite reaction, however, comes from a horrified Giles, whose very first words to Willow are, “What have you done?” I shan’t spoil how everything turns out, but their reunion is quite compelling.

Golden also has a good ear for the characters’ speech patterns, and there were many lines that I could hear perfectly in the actors’ voices, Oz and Faith especially. The plot about the demon council is really not very interesting, but it’s an excuse to bring all of our core characters (and a returning character from Golden’s Gatekeeper trilogy) together again. Although the whole back cover is devoted to the history of the Dark Congress, all you really need to know is that the lead demon, Kandida, wants to broker peace between demons and humans, but she’s killed, and a “mystery” ensues wherein the Scooby Gang seeks to find her killer(s). I say “mystery” because it is completely and utterly obvious who is responsible.

Obviously, most of this story is not going to fit with the canon Season Eight comic book series from Dark Horse. It seems Golden had a little bit of knowledge about it, though, since a mention is made of Dawn being away preparing a castle in Scotland to serve as the new Slayer headquarters. This book was published in August 2007 and the first issue of the comic was released in March of that year, so it seems possible that the reference was intentional and not merely a lucky guess.

In the end, this is one of the better Buffyverse books I’ve read so far. It seems like the demonic threats are always going to be lame in these stories, so the best anyone can hope for is a successful depiction of the characters, and Dark Congress does deliver on that front.

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