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XENA:WARRIOR PRINCESS The Complete Illustrated Companion by K. Stoddard Hayes
14.99 ($19.99), Titan Books
March 2003 239 pages.

It's been a while since any new XENA books came out, and the latest, XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS The Complete Illustrated Companion by K Stoddard Hayes, has a lot to live up to. Robert Weisbrot's Official Guide to the Xenaverse that came out in 1998 was an excellent guide to the first 2 seasons of the show. A follow up covering the rest of the series seemed an obvious move.

K Stoddard Hayes was a regular feature writer on Titan Official XENA magazine, and indeed, the book definitely bears the stamp of that publication - quotes from the magazine's interviews with actors are used quite extensively, as are the pictures - all those in the book were previously seen in the magazine. Sadly, there don't seem to be any new interviews or new photos - indeed, this is one of the minus points of the book; that there is nothing new for existing fans of the show. There is little here that you can't find on the net or have read in the XENA magazine. It would have been nice to have had Lucy or Renee's take on the episodes, as there was in Robert Weisbrot's book.

However, Hayes does a good job of bringing together all the information about the show, from its early beginnings as a HERCULES spin off, up to the present day. Personally, I enjoyed reading the first section on the introduction and development of the show, more than any other section of the book. These first sections do focus on the genesis of the show rather than recycle the old "Lucy was a gold miner" stories.

Next, there is the episode guide - a handy precis of the six seasons, with brief credits, plot summary and disappointingly brief notes. I suppose with so many episodes to cover, there is a limit to how much information and trivia you can include about the individual episodes, still, I was rather disappointed with this section. Only one or two guest stars are listed and there is little insight about the episodes. Robert Weisbrot's book had Lucy's take on each episode here - probably the best part.

Next are character profiles, and indeed, these are about the characters, with very little about the actors. Hayes does a decent job af analysing the characters and their actions and motivations based on what we see on the show. While this is quite useful for people rather unfamiliar with the show, any fan worth their salt will already be familiar with most of this. The most detailed profiles are of Xena and Gabrielle, of course, and included is a short look at the whole subtext issue. The section on Ares was an opportunity to have more about the late Kevin Smith - there is a tiny "In Memory of Kevin Smith" on the title page. While the book doesn't include much at all about other actors, surely more of a tribute to Kevin Smith could have appeared here.

The character profiles include most of the significant characters and several minor ones, plus a section on lookalikes - although adding Pao Ssu/K'ao Hsin and Belach/Borias seems rather like padding as they were very unimportant characters. Yet the more interesting reincarnated characters, like Mel and Janice and Mattie and Harry, are all dealt with in one paragraph! Hmm....

The behind the scenes section next is interesting, covering costumes, make up, stunts and special effects, and has nice little quotes from actors and the crew. Then there is a section looking at the people and places where Xena went, and giving background information on the actual religious and historical figures. All very interesting stuff.

Finally, there is a shortish section on the fans of the show, including a look at the internet and the relationship between the fans and the makers of the show, and a list of a few websites (including this one!!) As with much of the rest of the book, there is nothing really new or surprising here, just a fairly quick look. The book ends with a fairly rubbish A-Z of Greek mythology.
Included in the middle of the book are 8 pages of colour photos - and actually, very nice ones have been chosen too.

So is it worth shelling out 14.99 ($19.99) for this book? Well if you are a XENA fan, it's the only book you can get that covers the whole series, so as a reference tool, it is probably worth it. The book provides a pretty good look at the whole series but is sadly lacking in anything noteworthy, and mainly recycles old information, presenting a clear but brief look at the show. Let's face it, new, nicely produced XENA merchandise is not that common these days. I suppose Titan's market is not rabid fans like me, it's more casual fans, who probably DON'T know most of this already! So if you are a XENA know-all, there's little here for you but a single book that is handy to have, if you're a XENA fan who has come late to the show, or would just like to know more, well, you'll probably enjoy the book very much.

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