It was only a matter of time before Buffy came up against a truly heinous evil --- politics!
Set after the end of the series (post Season 7), this is the second of only 2 novels that were written to depict events that occur after Sunnydale goes from being an outie to an innie (as Faith would say). Thankfully, "Dark Congress" is blessedly better than Queen of the Slayers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), although it's not without a few problems of it's own.
In this novel, Buffy and gang are slowly drawn to Providence, Rhode Island, were a bizarre collection of Demons and magickal Beings are quickly gathering. Why, and for what purpose? Through classic exposition skills (Giles, of course) they come to learn that all manner of magickal creatures are gathering to convene whats known as the Dark Congress -- an assembly of representatives from the magickal community who come together to iron out various squabbles and differences among their races, as well as ultimately attempt to decide the fate of humanity (as in, destroy and conquer, or live in semi-peace). Now, as the Congress reconvenes after thousands of years, Buffy is selected to act as arbiter of the whole shebang. Reluctantly she accepts this duty, as it would give her the inside scoop, and the possible ability to sway the outcome in favor of humanity -- but after murder befalls the sacred meeting, it is up to Buffy and Scoobies to discover the identity of the killer, or risk a declaration of war on humanity...
This was a fairly satisfying post-season 7 novel. All the main players were present, and the actions, attitudes, and personalities of each character were more or less intact. By the end of season 7 of the series, each character had grown considerably as a person, compared to how they had begun way back in Season 1. I liked that Xander was still coming to terms with the loss of his eye, and how Faith was a participating member of the Scoobies, but was still struggling to redeem herself from her past sins and control her darker instincts. Even Oz, stoic as always, is once again utilizing his Lycanthrop abilities to aid in the fight (he was sent to the Congress as a representative for the Werewolf community). These are the types of character consistencies that I appreciate, both as a reader and as a fan of the show. I would expect nothing less from a longtime Buffy author like Christopher Golden.
Now, on with the few things I didn't enjoy as much -- I felt the beginning of the novel was very drawn out and unnecessarily long, while the ending felt rushed and a little incomplete. The Dark Congress itself isn't even mentioned (much less explained) at all until around page 120 (out of about a 220 page book), so everything leading up to that point is nothing but setup. And, I hate to say it (and I'm sorry if this ruins anything for anyone else), but I was really hoping to see either Spike or Angel (preferably both) make an appearance. Keeping in mind at the end of Season 5 of "Angel" things are pretty much left at a cliff-hanger, with the feeling that we have no idea if they made it out of that last fight alive. This would have been a great opportunity to reintroduce one or both of those characters, and offer a creative explanation for what happened. Sadly, I guess I'll still have to wait for that. I also felt the Tara thing and the ending were a bit of a cop out. You'll know what I mean when you read it.
Bottom line, this book is still a lot of fun, despite some of it's flaws. It's an interesting story, and it's done well. Buffy fans definitely shouldn't miss out!