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Books for Review should be sent to: Don D'Ammassa, 323 Dodge Street,  East Providence, RI 02914

Last Update 12/10/18

Pretty Maids All in a Row by Christopher Golden, Pocket, 2000 

A Buffy novel without Buffy. This is a recounting of the adventures of Spike and Drusilla during World War II when they travel to Scandinavia to find a necklace that supposedly allows its owner to shapeshift. A demon offers to give it to them if they can steal a list of potentials from the Watchers and kill all of the girls. They manage to get most of them before Spike gives in to temptation and kills the current Slayer. That activates a potential at an awkward time and the demon is nearly destroyed himself. The story is necessarily downbeat since we know Spike and Dru survive, but it’s one of the best of the Buffy tie-ins. 12/10/18

Ghost Virus by Graham Masterton, Head of Zeus, 2018

The premise of this novel is rather silly but as usual Masterton makes it work. Haunted clothing begins possessing people who wear it, causing them to commit horrible murders. Things escalate and the clothing eventually begins acting on its own. Gangs of coats assault and dismember people, even tear the doors off automobiles. The explanation involves lingering personalities and a refurbishing process linked to a man who steals charitable donations and sends them to Lithuania. For some reason, all of the haunted clothing ends up back in the town where he operates, hence the crisis. Enjoyable despite the absurdity of the premise, but I wish the author had left out the last few pages. SPOILER. No mental institution would release four homicidal maniacs from their restraints just because they all announced that they were cured that morning. 12/6/18

The Book of Fours by Nancy Holder, Pocket, 2000 

A Buffy novel. The spirits of Kendra and one other dead Slayer have to help Buffy and Faith when a host of evil creatures, led by the Gatherer, descends on Sunnydale. Flashbacks, diaries, dreams, and other diversions flesh in the various parts of the story, which is rather complex and contains a large number of characters, both good and evil. Each Slayer is linked to one of the four elements – earth, air, fire, and water – something the author created for this novel. One of the dead Slayers was Buffy’s immediate predecessor, and Holder has used the character in another Slayer adventure. The complexity makes the story quite long, perhaps a shade too long in fact, but the apocalyptic ending is excellent. 12/3/18

Tales of the Slayer Volume Three, Simon, 2003 

The third volume in this series is more effective because it consists of four novellas, which allows more room for room. Nancy Holder’s story is set in 1990s Japan and Yvonne Navarro chronicles the adventures of a Native American Slayer before the Europeans reached America, so she did not have a Watcher. Mel Odom’s story of a Slayer in European dominated China is quite good. Christopher Golden adds a tale in which a nightclub in World War II California caters to demons and vampires, but also to a human murderer. 11/26/18

Tales of the Slayer Volume Four, Simon, 2004 

All of the stories in this collection involve the coming of age test in which a Slayer is deprived of her powers and forced to battle a vampire in that state. Many of the stories are not particularly interesting variations on the theme, and at least two of the entries struck me as rather badly written. The contributors include Nancy Holder, Michael Reaves, Kristine Kathryn Rush, and other. This was the final anthology in this series and probably the least interesting of the four. I found the premise irritating during the tv episode – “Helpless” – and nothing here made it feel more plausible to me. 11/26/18

Tempted Champions by Yvonne Navarro, Pocket, 2002 

A Buffy novel.  Buffy has the fight of her life when she meets a former Slayer turned vampire who now hates both the living and undead and exists just to destroy the best of both. Anya is considering resuming her former life as a vengeance demon. Spike and Angel, both of whom have met the vampiric slayer in the past, both admit that they are outclassed. There is a flashback to show us how the slayer was turned back in Greece in 1527.  11/21/18

Tales of the Slayer Vol 2, Simon Pulse, 2003 

Only two of these stories are about Buffy – the rest each deal with a different Slayer at different points of time and space. Michael Reaves has the most interesting one – a Slayer meets Dracula in Victorian London. One has Willow and Xander drifting back in time to alter the past. Another involves Frank Nitti, the gangster, and another ends with the French Revolution underway. One story has nothing fantastic in it until the last couple of pages when the Slayer shows up to rescue the protagonist from her boyfriend, who turns out to have been a vampire all along. 11/17/19

Take the Long Way Home by Brian Keene, Deadite, 2011

This is a novella about the Rapture, sort of. The protagonist is in a car with some friends when suddenly lots of people all over the world disappear. Multiple accidents and carnage follow. The protagonist has to make his way home on foot, surviving riots, insane people, and other dangers. It’s well written but there is no climax and it seems kind of pointless when it’s over. 11/15/18

Sweet Sixteen by Scott Ciencin, Simon, 2002 

A Buffy novel. Dawn befriends the new kid in school, who turns out to be the daughter of a demon who is destined to transform into a monster. Buffy and Giles try to help her, but her father tricks her into thinking that Buffy has killed him. They have a major battle and Buffy wins, which makes the father so angry that he reveals that he is still alive. Willow sends his soul into limbo and the half demon girl presumably lives happily ever after as a human and not as a demon. 11/16/18

The Adventures of Roderick Langham by Rafe McGregor, Theaker, 2017

This is a collection of stories about an occult detective, although not all of his cases are actually fantastic. The stories are generally more interesting for their ideas than for their story values. Langham interacts with Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, and with Mythos monsters along the way. Most of the stories are fairly good, but the opening one feels unfinished and unsatisfying. None of them, however, are really outstanding. 11/12/18

Bad Bargain by Diana G. Gallagher, Simon Spotlight, 2006

A Buffy novel.  A rummage sale goes awry when a lost amulet and a magic spell allow demonic germs to escape from the Hellmouth into Sunnydale High. Buffy is virtually powerless since there is no one to fight and her friends begin to succumb to siren like teddy bears, a small dragon, skin irritation, living decomposition, an electric bullwhip, and other dangers. She figures out the solution in time to expel the tiny critters and reverse all the damage to her friends. Clever idea, reasonably well done. 11/11/18

One Thing or Your Mother by Kirsten Beyer, Simon Pulse, 2008

A Buffy novel. Everyone in Sunnydale is having trouble sleeping. Drusilla has “adopted” an unruly vampire child. Angelus is targeting Buffy’s new tutor. A student has stolen one of Giles’ spellbooks and has summoned a dangerous demon. Has Buffy finally got too many things on her plate? Will she fail her friends? Of course not. As is the case with many of these tie-in novels, the perceived need to get all of the characters involved tends to dilute the focus. And oddly, although Joyce refers to having had “children”, Dawn is never mentioned. Principal Snyder is the key figure and the curse is the result of his evil mother having been given the means to escape the demon dimension. 11/5/18

Unnatural Selection by Mel Odom, Pocket, 1999  

A Buffy novel. Willow is babysitting when the baby is possessed by a not very nice spirit of the forest, who objects to a new development project. Buffy is out of touch, helping Giles figure out why the vampires are so interested in one particular park of late. The Scoobies are soon involved with an unscrupulous land developer, vampires who believe that leprechauns are running about, insane Russian elves, and changeling children. The various strands come together as Willow is about to be sacrificed but naturally Buffy arrives in the nick of time. Not as good as the previous Buffy novels I’ve read by Odom. 10/31/18

Tales of the Callamo Mountains by Larry Blamire, Lulu, 2008

This is a collection of weird western stories, that is, set in the Old West. Cowboys encounter a variety of supernatural and just plain strange creatures and events. Except for the setting, there is no common thread among the stories. None of them are memorable at all, which was disappoint since I enjoy the author’s film work. They are also printed in an eccentric format that makes them difficult to read. 10/31/18

Tales of the Slayer Vol 1, Simon Pulse, 2001 

This is a collection of stories of vampire slayers from various periods in history. One of them is Virginia Dare, for example, and others are in ancient Greece, medieval Europe, 1920s Germany, etc. Yvonne Navarro, Nancy Holder, Mel Odom, and others all contribute stories, in more than one of which the Slayer ends up dying. None of the episodes are particularly gripping or memorable. It's really hard to incorporate the mythos and create a character as well as a plot in a single short story. 10/28/18

Visitors by Laura Anne Gilman and Josepha Sherman, Pocket, 1999

Sunnydale High is hosting a wave of student teachers. Something else is in town as well, a malevolent presence that clandestinely watches Buffy and giggles to itself. A spy from the Watchers’ Council and sorcerer Ethan Rayne add to the tension. The creature turns out to be demon who causes his victims to dance themselves to death.  There is a reasonably could capture of the mood of the show and the bantering dialogue is pretty good. The plot is a bit crowded with characters because of the effort to include all the regulars from the television show. 10/24/18

Halloween Rain by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder, Archway, 1997 

A short Buffy adventure in which she learns that if it rains on Halloween and soaks a scarecrow, Samhain can enter the human world. After fighting a bunch of vampires and escaping from a horde of zombies, she has to confront Samhain on his own territory. Fortunately, the Scooby gang comes to the rescue and Giles provides a spell that neutralizes the zombies and gives them a breathing space in which they can plan the destruction of the murderous scarecrow. That proves to be alittle more difficult than expected, but naturally they overcome the unexpected obstacles. 10/18/18

The Harvest by Richie Tankersley Cusick, Simon Pulse, 1997 

This is a novelization of the first two episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They describe her arrival in Sunnydale, her meeting with Giles, Willow, and the others, including Angel, whom she does not know is a vampire. The Master has a plan to free himself from his underground prison, and his minions seize the Bronze as part of that plan, but Buffy and the Scoobies come to the rescue. This was the climax of the first season and includes two of the best episodes of the series overall. 10/14/18

Blood and Fog by Nancy Holder, Simon Pulse, 2003 

A Buffy novel. Jack the Ripper is a supernatural being. During the 1880s, Angelus, Spike, Drusilla, and Darla tried to kill him but failed. In the present he has returned to the Earth in Sunnydale and wants to resume his old practices. Buffy and the gang also have to contend with a more conventional demon as well, not to mention the usual contingent of vampires. Spike, still neutered by the device in his head, is an unwilling ally.  10/9/18

Little Things by Rebecca Moesta, Simon Pulse, 2002  

A band of fairies was cursed with the spirit of a demon, which turned them into vampires. When they show up in Sunnydale, Buffy has a problem. Stake them with toothpicks? Spray them with holy water? A toothache makes things even more difficult despite the fact that Spike seems to actually want to help for a change. They end up using improvised flame throwers to defeat them. Although aimed at young adults, this was actually a rather clever story. 10/4/18

Revenant by Mel Odom, Pocket, 2001 

This is a long and fairly complex Buffy novel in which a gang of Chinese criminals, some of them demons, comes to Sunnydale. They are led by a disguised demon who wishes to use the ghosts of Chinese miners killed in a cave in to open a gateway and allow a greater demon to enter the world. There are lots of gunfights in this one, which does not feel very much like a Buffy adventure. Each of the regular characters has his or her own story line, although they all converge toward the end. This was pretty good but I think it should have been considerably shorter. The gang fights became rather monotonous after a while. 10/2/18

Oz: Into the Wild by Christopher Golden, Simon Pulse, 2003 

This fills a gap in the television series. Oz went away to learn how to control his inner werewolf, but we only heard vague references to what happened. Now we see his journey of self-discovery, which eventually takes him to a Tibetan monastery where the last surviving monk, also a shapechanger, is battling the minions of an oversized demon that lives in a mountain fortress and commands trolls, vampires, and the like. Cain, the werewolf hunter who appeared on the screen, returns with his vampire assistants as he seeks to obtain the hides of werewolves, particularly that belonging to Oz. Pretty good but not great. 9/29/18

Crossings by Mel Odom, Simon Pulse, 2002 

A Buffy novel. As Buffy and Dawn try to adjust to the death of their mother, several interlocking problems begin to emerge in Sunnydale. Buffy, Willow, and Spike are on the trail of a demon who is trying to open a gateway between worlds. Tara and Giles are investigating a popular psychic who may not be a fake. Xander and Anya are puzzled when a friend of theirs suddenly becomes superhumanly strong and acts as though he is possessed, and all of this just after he was playing a demon character in a computer game. All of the separate stories draw together eventually and Buffy has to thwart a plan to resurrect an ancient demon. Fairly amusing but nothing out of the ordinary. 9/24/18

The Night Crossing by Robert Masello, 47North, 2018, $14.95, ISBN 978-1503904118

Bram Stoker inadvertently gets caught up in a plot involving Egyptian magic to steal human souls and prolong the lives of the villains. He is assisted in this by Mina Harcourt, who tries to conceal her Romany background, and by a young woman whose son has become a victim. A few other famous people have cameos including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The author has done his research, although he apparently chose to ignore the evidence that Stoker was gay. As always with Masello, the prose is graceful and the plot complex, but I was rather disappointed with the pace of the story, which I think suffered a bit from having too many viewpoint characters. I enjoyed it, but ended with the feeling that a more focused version would have worked better.9/21/18

Portal Through Time by Alice Henderson, Simon Spotlight, 2006   

Time traveling vampires want to disrupt the lineage of the Slayers so that Buffy will not be around to confront and defeat the Master. Giles figures out what’s going on so Buffy and the gang have to follow them and thwart their efforts. This might have been an interesting novel if treated seriously, but Henderson plays it for laughs, with mixed results. They are captured by druids, battle a god in ancient Sumeria, and get caught in the middle of a battle during the American Civil War. In each case, they prevent the assassination of the contemporary Slayer. They inadvertently bring about a future in which the Master wins because Angelus is dead, but they reverse their mistake in a very unconvincing ending. 9/15/18

The Wisdom of War by Christopher Golden, Simon Pulse, 2002 

There are Lovecraftian themes in this very long Buffy adventure. The Moruach are an ancient race of being resembling sea serpents who are descended from the Old Ones. They have started to appear in Sunnydale, as has another species of tentacled reptiles who come into existence through the transformation of a human being. This seems to be a contagious effect. The Moruach feed on the new creatures and the Watchers Council sends people to deal with the situation, setting off a fresh round of tension with Buffy and Giles. There is a rival group similar to the Watchers, and a rogue element within the Watchers as well. And a gigantic sea monster shows up for the finale. One of the best of the tie-ins to the series. 8/12/18

The Xander Years Volume 1 by Keith R.A. DeCandido, Pocket, 1999 

The Xander Years Volume 2 by Jeff Mariotte, Simon Pulse, 2000 

Six episodes from the first two seasons of the television show. Xander escapes the clutches of a giant praying mantis and a life sucking mummy in the first two, then becomes the subject of a love potion that turns everyone except Cordelia into a murderously obsessed admirer. He is then infected with the spirit of a werehyena and joins a swim team that is being turned into mermen by performance enhancing drugs. In the final episode he saves the world from an undead bomber, but no one else has any idea what has happened. 9/10/18

Flight or Fright edited by Stephen King and Bev Vincent, CD, 2018, $27.95, ISBN 978-1-58767-679-6

When I heard the theme of this anthology - horror stories involving air travel - I immediately thought of Richard Matheson's "Nightmate at 40,000 Feet," and sure enough it's there. I did not think of John Varley's "Air Raid," which is SF rather than horror, but it's here as well. This is a compilation of seventeen previously published stories that examine the proposition from a variety of viewpoints, plot elements, and prose styles, including work by Ray Bradbury, Ambrose Bierce, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as stories by relative newcomers like Cory Goodfellow and Joe Hill. The range of idea is pleasantly diverse and even the E.C. Tubb story rises above his usually unremarkable writing. One of the more consistently rewarding collections you're likely to read. 9/8/18

The Willow Files Volume 1 by Yvonne Navarro, Simon Pulse, 2001

The Willow Files Volume 2 by Yvonne Navarro, Simon Pulse, 2001

Each of these two books contains adaptations of three episodes from the television series. These include the episode in which we first discover that Oz is a werewolf, Willow’s first significant use of magical powers, and one of the best of the series, “Doppelgangland,” in which Willow unwillingly changes places with Vampire Willow from an alternate reality, causing considerable problems for both of her selves. The adaptations are readable, of course, but add very little to the original stories. Willow was my favorite character from the series so it nice to revisit them.  9/6/18

Jack’s Magic Beans by Brian Keene, Deadite, 2011   

This is a very short collection of short stories, dominated by the title novelette. In that one, everyone in the world who is not on Prozac becomes a murderous loon. A handful of survivors are briefly trapped in a grocery store and emerge into the aftermath. The story just stops there, as though it might be a fragment of a novel. Although I normally like Keene’s work, that and three of the four stories that follow struck me as very minor. “Without You” has some effective imagery and a stronger plot than the others but is quite short. 9/6/18

The Angel Chronicles Volume 2 by Richie Tankersley, Pocket, 1999  

The Angel Chronicles Volume 3 by Nancy Holder, Pocket, 1999 

Adaptations of six episodes from Buffy. “Halloween” is one of my favorites – Halloween costumes turn people into what they are dressed as. There is a two part story in which Spike manages to restore Drusilla’s strength, Kendra the Vampire Slayer appears, and a group of supernatural assassins target Buffy. “Surprise” is the episode in which Buffy and Angel make love, turning him back into Angelus. The last two describe the death of Jenny Calendar, and the complications that arise now that Angel is evil.  Both are nicely adapted with little new material. 9/1/18

The Cordelia Collection by Nancy Krulik, Simon Pulse, 2002

Three episodes from the tv show. Cordelia attracts the wrath of a fellow student so unmemorable that she has become invisible. Then she and Buffy battle to be elected Homecoming Queen, are thrown together by circumstances and have to cooperate to defeat a pair of impressive vampires. A teenaged Dr. Frankenstein is trying to build a girlfriend for his zombie brother but the brother is more interested in turning Cordelia into a fellow zombie. I always though Cordelia had more potential as a character but it was rarely developed until she split off into the spinofff show. 9/1/18

How I Survived My Summer Vacation, edited anonymously, Simon Pulse, 2000

A collection of short stories set shortly after the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Michelle West describes Buffy’s efforts to deal with her short lived death. Nancy Holder shows us what happens when Giles tries to perform a ritual over the Master’s bones. Cameron Dokey has two stories, one about a tormented ghost and one about a shapeshifter. Yvonne Navarro has a mildly humorous tale about zombie soldiers marching in a Fourth of July parade. Paul Ruditis has the most interesting story. Vampires start patterning their attacks after scenes from famous plays. 8/27/18

Long Way Home by Nancy Holder and Jeff Mariotte, Pocket, 2001   

Conclusion of the Unseen trilogy. All of the various characters have separate adventures as Angel, Spike, and Buffy visit other realities to search for missing teenagers abducted from our world. The rest of the group battles an infestation of extra dimensional monsters and gang warfare before discovering that an experimental Soviet machine exists which has caused the portals to open. They break Faith out of jail to help and there is general mayhem for a long time before everything gets resolved. Oddly, Dawn never appears in the story although it takes place after her advent in the series. 8/25/18

Door to Alternity by Nancy Holder and Jeff Mariotte, Pocket, 2001 

Second in the Unseen trilogy. Someone has opened an interdimensional door and creatures from another reality are flooding into Sunnydale while some people from our world are disappearing into the other realm. There are man eating trees and six legged monstrosities added to the usual vampires, zombies, and demons Buffy is accustomed to. Angel, meanwhile, is battling the Russian mob, a gang member who has dark magic, kids who want to be vampires, and a handful of renegade police officers. The Russians were working on a project to open the doorways between realities and the device has been brought to the US.  The various forces are headed for a showdown, which obviously doesn’t happen until the final book. 8/21/18

Dead Girls Don't Love by Sarah Hans, Dragon's Roost, 2018, $13.50, ISBN 978-0998887845

This looks like a collection of horror stories but I'm not sure that's the right description. Many of them are fantasy rather than horror, although almost always quite unusual fantasy. I had read none of these previously and the author's name was unfamiliar to me, but I wouldn't be surprised if that changes soon. The stories are almost always written in a brisk style that I sometimes link with a lack of depth, but that's not the case here. The prose is economical and effective. The stories themselves vary considerably, everything from fantastic historical adventure to unconventional ghost stories to Lovecraftian parody and a new look at a familiar fairy tale. There is even a pretty good story about a zombie. This is a good collection to pick up when you want a change of pace from ordinary fantasy and horror. 8/19/18

The Burning by Nancy Holder and Jeff Mariotte, Pocket, 2001   

First volume in the Unseen Trilogy. This is a crossover book so the story alternates between Sunnydale and Los Angeles. Buffy is trying to help save a young man who is using magic to ingratiate himself with a street gang, while a creature made of shadows is dismembering its victims. Angel is working for the release of a man unjustly accused of killing a drug dealer. The police who arrested him are the real murderers. Cordelia and Wesley try to help a band of runaway kids who want to be vampires, but find they have bitten off more than they can chew. 8/17/18

The Journals of Rupert Giles by Nancy Holder, Simon Pulse, 2002

Novelization of three episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer which largely concerned themselves with Rupert Giles. These include his brief stint as an inarticulate demon, a battle with the evil goddess Glory, and Giles’ temporary estrangement from Buffy after he agrees to put her through a terrifying test required by the Watchers’ Council. His role in two of the three segments is minimal so the book’s title is very inappropriate. 8/11/18

 The Faith Trials by James Laurence, Pocket, 2001

This was labeled Volume One but there was never a second book. It novelizes several episodes from the television program. They span Faith’s arrival in Sunnydale, Angel’s return from Hell, the assignment of a new Watcher for faith, who turns out not to be one of the good guys, etc. Faith eventually begins to turn to the dark side and the Watchers’ Council attempts to imprison her. I wasn’t a big fan of the Faith subplot until after she joined the Mayor so these were not among my favorite episodes. 8/3/18

Spark and Burn by Diana G. Gallagher, Simon Spotlight, 2005

Spike was a very changeable character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He was a weak spirited poet, one of the most evil of vampires, then fell in love with the slayer and went to great efforts to regain his soul and be worthy of her. This book covers many of the episodes in which he was featured, probably too many. Individual scenes are very short in order to fit them all in and the story jumps back and forth in time so much that I was occasionally confused even though I have seen all of the episodes. Coincidentally I read yesterday that a reboot of the series is being planned. 7/23/18

King of the Dead by Christopher Golden, Pocket, 2001  v1422

Original Sins by Christopher Golden, Pocket, 2001  v1423 

Final two volumes in the Lost Slayer sequence. Giles is the king of the vampires, Angel is dead as well as some of the Scooby gang, and the government is preparing to invade Southern California. Buffy has a split soul, one from the present and one from the future. The demon god who precipitated the current crisis has been enslaved by Giles, who uses its power to create more powerful vampires.  Even after she kills Giles, she has to figure out what decision she made in the past that led to this horrible world, and Willow has to find a way to send her back through time so that she can set things right. Not a bad sequence of books. 7/18/1

Prophecies by Christopher Golden, Pocket, 2001

Dark Times by Christopher Golden, Pocket, 2001

First two volumes in the Lost Slayer series. Buffy and Willow are off to college, but the vampires haven’t gone away. An encounter with some strangely powerful ones trouble Buffy, who is having trouble adjusting to her new life style. Buffy is given a vision of a future in which Camazotz has kept her alive but imprisoned so that another Slayer cannot be chosen. Faith has died, giving rise to August, but she is also a prisoner. Much of California is ruled by vampires in the future. August tries to kill Buffy to precipitate a new Slayer, but dies instead. Buffy fakes her own death in order to escape. Back in the present, the mysterious prophet who moved her to the future is now possessing her original body.  7/16/18

Broken Sunrise by Yvonne Navarro, Simon Spotlight, 2004 

Wicked Willow does her worst in an effort to regain control of Tara’s ghost. Dawn, Giles, and Xander are all mortally injured before she succeeds, but fortunately Tara convinces her to magically heal her victims. Willow then invokes a god, but that’s a losing battle. Discouraged, she decides to destroy the entire world but Xander intercedes and convinces her not to. The finale parallels that in the television series, although the interim story is almost entirely new. 7/9/18

Keep Me in Mind by Nancy Holder, Simon Spotlight, 2005

This is a Buffy the Vampire Slayer game book in which you make a decision at various points in the text, which take you to different pages and different story paths. The main story involves the return of Ethan Hawke, Giles’ old enemy, and his efforts to revive a German sorcerer. Several of Buffy’s earlier enemies make token appearances. Written for kids and not very interesting. 7/6/18

Shattered Twilight by Yvonne Navarro, Simon Spotlight, 2004

Wicked Willow has forced several other witches to help her battle Buffy and the others. She creates a golem and infuses it with the recently deceased spirit of Riley Finn. Unfortunately, Riley is able to exert some of his own will and refrains from killing Buffy when he has the chance. He then disrupts the coven and Willow is forced to destroy her creation. Giles manages to imprison Tara’s ghost, setting the stage for the final confrontation. 7/2/18

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