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Book: “Bloody Fool for Love” by William Ritter
Publishing Info: Disney Hyperion, August 2022
Where Did I Get This Book: I received an ARC from the publisher at ALA.
Book Description: Bloody Fool for Love from New York Times best-selling author William Ritter marks the beginning of an all-new series that explores prequel stories about fan-favorite Buffy characters.
Spike just wants to enjoy the spoils of his new badass reputation. He’s now a legendary slayer-killer, and he’s returning to London―the greatest city in the world. Unfortunately, his new abode is far from ideal (mostly a dank basement), and the rest of his strange little “family” is reeling from the fact that their patriarch, Angel, abandoned them. Spike’s love, Drusilla, seems especially heartbroken over the loss and spends her time lost in her tarot cards and planning their next gruesome family dinner when they all can be reunited.
Desperate to break Dru out of her melancholy, Spike vows to steal a powerful relic that will help her focus on their dark future together. It’s the perfect plan―that is until a monster named Gunnar, leader of the demon underworld of London, steals the relic first. Forced to form his own ragtag group of mercenaries, Spike plans an epic heist against a ruthless gang of undead criminals. Confronted with paranormal plots, royal black ops, and tea (they may be abominations, but they’re British abominations, thank you very much), Spike soon realizes that his homecoming is about to get bloody.
This rompy, action-packed novel inspired by one of Buffy’s most infamous bad boys is part Bonnie and Clyde, part Sherlock and Watson, with just a bit more bloodsucking.
Review: Thank you to Disney Hyperion for giving me an ARC of this novel!
When Serena and I were wrapping up our time at the ALA Annual Conference, we were making a last pass at each publisher booth to see if there were any new ARCs to be had. I spotted one at Disney Hyperion called “Big Bad”, which is a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” book that showcases a lot of the villains from the show (we may see that in the near future on the blog, we will see!). I picked it up and said an offhanded remark along the lines of ‘well, if it has Spike in it I HAVE to pick it up’. Spike was my very favorite character on the show. He was funny, sarcastic, a bit of a dork, punk to the bone, and had a very interesting character arc that changed him from throw away villain to hero. I had a MASSIVE crush on him, he was probably my first TRUE teenage celebrity crush, the kind of crush that just sets the scene for a lot of crushes afterwards. So when the rep at the table said ‘We have a Spike book too. Do you want that as well?’, you can probably imagine how I reacted.
And that is how I stumbled upon “Bloody Fool for Love” by William Ritter. A historical fantasy-horror heist story featuring Spike, aka William the Bloody, on a quest to get a magical artifact for his fellow vampire lady love Drusilla in early 20th Century London.
[Let’s stop here to talk about an elephant in the room: Joss Whedon. Joss Whedon is an abusive asshole, and I haven’t revisited any of his works in a very long time. Partially because of the newish information about him, partially because of my own frustration with how he wrote some of his shows, partially because there had been whisperings of his terribleness for a LONG time and it had already made me uncomfortable revisiting (like, I’m pretty sure I was aware of the disgusting Charisma Carpenter situation around the time it happened because of rumors online shortly after it all went down). I was super happy to see a lot of “Buffy” actors speak out about the toxic set, including James Marsters, who played Spike, and while I have given up on Whedon’s creative visions with his direct involvement, I want to see what other people do with these characters.]
“Bloody Fool for Love” is, as I said, a historical fiction fantasy-horror heist story, and while I am not SUPER into heist stories, it’s Spike. We established I would probably follow him through a trip to the post office, so I will happily follow him through a heist. Ritter does a really good job of picking up in the show’s lore and setting the right tone that falls between action thriller and tongue in cheek. We have a very specific moment, after Spike has killed his first slayer and after he, Drusilla, and Darla have returned from China, sans Angel. Spike is riding high on his new reputation, while Drusilla is aching for her sire and Darla is having her own existential crisis. The story captures all of these characters pretty handily, and I believed all of them in terms of voice and actions. Spike is such a fun character who, even without a soul at this point, has his moments of being complicated in his actions while still coming off with a swagger and devil may care persona, and Ritter nails it. Having him stupidly attempt to heist an ancient artifact for Drusilla, even though it will surely put a target on his back, is so on point for the character in his impulsivity and his RIDICULOUS loyalty and love for Dru, it just spot on, and I loved seeing him fly by the seat of his pants. Like I said above, Spike could really do anything and I’d be entertained, but Ritter really had a good grasp on the character and all his complexities. I also liked the rag tag group of weirdos that he recruits to help go up against the demon kingpin he’s trying to rip off, from other demons to a werewolf, as they felt like they fit into the story and the universe really well. I could see this plot line being an extended arc on the show it fits in so well.
But what I liked the most about this book, interestingly enough, had less to do with the character of Spike and more to do with the character of Darla. For those unfamiliar with the show, Darla was part of the “Fanged Four”, which included Spike, Drusilla, and Angellus/Angel. Darla was Angellus’s sire, and she served a few purposes during both the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” series and the “Angel” series. Darla is always a bit left behind in the stories on the show, even if she was the first of the group. First she was an evil ex girlfriend who basically was killed as a way to prove Angel’s new, reformed ways. Then on “Angel” she was brought back as a human with torment, only to be turned back into a vampire for ANGEL’S torment, and then she was there to be a uterus so Angel could have a son named Connor (and that whole storyline is a SHIT SHOW), who then sacrificed herself for her baby. As one can imagine, I have a lot of notes about all of this, because through the flashback sequences we do see of her throughout the two shows during their “Fanged Four” time, Darla had a LOT of potential to be super interesting, but was instead relegated to a LOT of misogynistic tropes (I reiterate my up-page point: Joss Whedon sucks). But in “Bloody Fool for Love”, Darla has her OWN storyline that gets to explore these complexities, as she is privately reeling from the loss of Angel, and having to be the ‘mom friend’ to Drusilla, a very unstable waif, and Spike, who is, bless him, a reckless dolt. Darla doesn’t want to leave these two far younger and impulsive vampires to fend for themselves, but she also wants to have her life back, and you see the mechanisms and dealings that she is making in hopes of securing a new future for herself, while also keeping her loved ones safe. I loved seeing her interact with various players, as it shows her charm, her diplomacy, her cunning, and her resiliency.
I will be very curious to see what other ‘fan favorite’ characters get the prequel story treatment. Spike was the clear winner to start with, as he is such a dynamic and interesting player in the “Buffy” universe, and I think that William Ritter did him right. “Bloody Fool for Love” will probably be most fun for “Buffy” fans, and as a Spike fangirl through and through I had a blast with it.
Rating 8: A truly fun standalone tale with a vampire who means SO much to me, “Bloody Fool for Love” not only brings Spike to life, it also gives another of my favorites a great romp of a story.
“Bloody Fool for Love” is included on the Goodreads list “Best Buffy the Vampire Slayer Books”.