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The Official Guide to the Xenaverse
by Robert Weisbrot

Doubleday Books 1998. 230 pages.

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My highest recommendation to this very good book that even hardened Xena fans will enjoy. OK, so the episode guide only covers seasons one and two and isn't that in depth, but each episode has Lucy Lawless' own view of it. (Her comments range from the insightful to the frivolous, but it is a real scoop.)
The book is divided into sections; the origins of the series, a facinating behind the scenes look, cast profiles, a look at tv heroines, and an episode guide. For many of us, the behind the scenes section is the most interesting as author Weisbrot clearly had the opportunity to talk to all of those names that flash past before the witty disclaimer. Ever wondered what stuntees do? Or how to pronounce Ngila Dickson? How about casting Kiwis? Insider information that I hadn't heard before had me rushing back to my tape of Sins of the Past to spot Rob Tapert in the staff fight and the production staff being walked on by Xena! Most Xena fans know the Lucy-was-a-goldminer story, or the acting background of Renée O'Connor well enough, but there is so much original information here, I am sure fans will be well pleased. There are also some very good quality colour photographs and an interesting appendix on how to do a convincing US accent for New Zealand actors, accounts of a writers meeting, what the actors get up to between takes and during read through sessions and much, much more. Get out there and buy this book!

The Unofficial Companion: Hercules and Xena
by James Van Hise

Renaissance Books 1998. 270 pages.

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I'll admit right off that having bought these two books recently, its the Official Xena book that's been the one to get my attention. Naturally, this book hasn't got the sort of information that Robert Weisbrot's has, and it covers Hercules AND Xena. The main difference appears to be a more in depth episode guide in this book, with a fair amount of mythological background information included, and a useful detailed cast list. However the actual episode guide is sketchy and contains numerous errors. The commentary on the episodes is not very insightful, and the opinions of the author are at times facile. He picks up on trivial things and makes no comment on the significant events of many episode.
Interestingly, Van Hise includes a section of the subtext of the show, although the chapter about subtext is virtually copied from internet sources. He also mentions some web sites - although nice for the authors to see, there are many omissions and some of those mentioned no longer exist. Van Hise also repeats the nasty allegation that Lucy's unfortunate RedWings Ice Hockey 'exposure' was staged.
The character and actor profiles are not terribly good. Van Hise has made use of a variety of magazine and internet sources, but there is little original information at all.
Almost worth the cost of the book is Kevin Sorbo's appallingly bad high school photo and Lucy Lawless' Mrs New Zealand photo spread with hubby and baby Daisy- whose name Van Hise gets wrong. Hardly any Xena or Hercules photos, but a few Lucy and Kev ones- copyright dahling!
This is an infinitely inferior book to the Official Guide reviewed above, but it is useful to have a comprehensive episode listing, and cast list for the Hercules and Xena episodes. While the information and opinion on the episodes is rather poor, at least there is a decent mythology section. Casual fans might like it, hardcore nutballs will be irritated by the errors.

Graphic Novels

Xena comics were pulished first of all by TOPPS, then by DARK HORSE. Sadly, production has ceased, but you can buy them in book form.

Buy Xena:Warrior Princess - comic compilation book 1 (June 1998)

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Tooth and Claw - comic compilation book 2 (March 1999)

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Xena's back, ready once more to cross swords with wayward warriors, clip the wings of rogue dragons and cut errant giants down to size. Xena and her trusty protegee Gabrielle find themselves caught in a conflict of mythic proportions, against a prince, Dragon's Teeth warriors, and a Sphinx.

The Warrior Way of Death (July 2000)

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Condemned to death, Xena faces it the only way she knows how: stoically, as a warrior born. But unbeknown to her, dark powers, and an old bitter enemy, are conspiring to lead her down a very different path: straight to hell! Now Xena must battle for her soul.

Slave (Dec 2000)

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Eager to uncover the mystery of a slave ring and save the life of a young girl, our heroine is taken as a slave to Egypt where she starts a cat-fight with Cleopatra, and a battle royal against a cult dedicated to the resurrection of the ancient god Set.

Blood and Shadows (March 2001)

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Xena - Gladiator! From the hit TV series, Xena: Warrior Princess, all-new adventures of the battling broad(sworder). Like stories with gladiators in them? No, it's okay guys, you can own up now, really, especially as the arena-bound combatant in question here is none other than Xena herself. So, if you want to excise those uncomfortable memories of Charlton Heston and Russell Crowe in leather straps, then we recommend a major dose of our wildcat Warrior Princess in all-out arena action. See Xena as she battles the might of the Roman Empire, both in and out of the Circus Maximus. Chariots, tridents, tigers, blood and sand, this one's got it alll Grrrr-ah!

Darkness Falls (August 2001) NOT AVAILABLE at amazon.co.uk BUY at Amazon.com

The gods have abandoned the Earth, eternal night has descended, and the denizens of the Netherworld are running amok. Can Xena make the sun rise before the Earth is devoured by the creatures of Hell? Next, meet Legion...sent to collect demons escaped from Hell and deliver them back to their rightful home. But Legion has made a mistake and is after an innocent young girl, and only Xena stands between her and eternal damnation. Finally, the master thief Autolycus uses a spell to bring to life sculptures of Xena and Gabrielle in order to rent them out to lonely gentlemen. But the spell is stolen to create an army of golem-like monsters. Will Xena be able to stop the madness before it's too late?

Other Books

There are a number of other unofficial books around on Lucy Lawless or the show itself, some of which are worth reading, others a rip-off.

Lucy Lawless & Renee O'Connor: Warrior Stars of Xena by Nikki Stafford.

Read Michael Lynch's review here

I liked it a lot.
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Battle On!
"An Unauthorized, Irreverent look at Xena:Warrior Princess"
by Greg Cox

ROC books November 1998, 238 pages.

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Of the growing number of Xena books, at first glance this didn't look promising. No photos at all apart from the not terribly good cover photo of Lucy, and the clunkiest title imaginable. However, this is a nicely written book that has a playful but very positive tone.
The bulk of the book is a very enjoyable episode commentary that has the big plus of covering all of series three. There is a small attempt to have a few chapters, but Chapter 4 , the Xena Chronicles(the episode guide), starts on page 19 and lasts for over 200 pages! There is a brief look at some of the female warriors that came before Xena, and the events leading up to the beginning of the show in those brief opening chapters, and at the end is a look at the Xena phenomenon- the comics, novels, merchandise, internet popularity and fanfiction. The episode commentaries are what makes the book worth the money. Unlike some books, Cox doesn't spend pages describing the plot of individual episodes. He summarizes in a few lines, has his own remarks and comments that while very much those of a fan, are fair and positive without being gushing. There is also a Reality Check section- just to remind us all that reality has NOTHING to do with the show. Greg's ratings are, of course, subjective, but he argues his points well, and I disagreed only on a few episodes. Interspersed throughout the book are boxes with quoted from interviews or particular points of interest, like all those things that happened "ten winters ago".
The words "unauthorized" and "irreverent" give a false impression of some sort of cash in revealing sordid details, whereas this is a well written set of episode reviews, that bring up all sorts or trivia points and in jokes. Cox is clearly a fan, and even has a go at his own disclaimer.
No smart aleck writers were harmed during the production of this volume, but my VCR sure got a workout."

Quick Reviews of Other Xena Books

Life Lessons from Xena

Chris Kreski 108 pages

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Now here's a genuine cash in book. I must own up that I haven't read all of this book, but a lengthy session in a book shop soon convinced me what a load of rubbish this is. Someone has made up a load of sub-Snoopy witticisms that they supposedly learnt from watching Xena. The funniest thing about it is the sub title- "A guide to happiness, success and body armour." No photos, not even on the cover. Rubbish, pray no unsuspecting relatives don't think-"oh that'll make a nice Xmas present". Avoid.

Lucy Lawless: Warrior Princess!

Marc Shapiro
191 pages Berkley Boulevard Books September 1998

The best thing about this book is that it is cheap! I got it for £5.99 and the price on the back is $5.99. There are 8 pages of poorish black and white photos but this really is a biography of Lucy Lawless and while it is quite well written, the amount of errors and mistakes is quite staggering. Shapiro goes on about the lesbian film Peach and Lucy kissing the girl in it when she doesn't, he gets the plot of Destiny wrong, calls The Quest All of Me, when it was BASED on All of Me and describes it as Xena inhabiting Iolaus. His descriptions of several episodes will leave fans wondering if Shapiro was watching the same show as us! Most of the information is from sources on the net of from magazines, although Shapiro gets quotes from some of Lucy's work collegues in her early days, William (Cancer Man) Davis, Lucy's acting teacher for a while, and even a few indiscreet comments from Bruce Campbell about Lucy and Rob Tapert. Indeed it is the gossipy stuff that is about the most fun. I have no idea how truthful it is as Shapiro gets simple facts wrong, but the snippets about Lucy and Rob's romance and her marriage to Garth Lawless are nice and juicy. Covers up to Lucy and Rob's wedding and includes a pretty pathetic section on Xena web sites. As a cheap paperbacks go, this is trashy but good value. You get a pretty good bio of Lucy and while it is certainly unauthorised, it is one fans will enjoy. Shapiro clearly has respect for his subject. Besides, it is almost as much fun spotting the goofs!

Xena X-Posed by Nadine Crenshaw
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Less said about this one the better! A quickly cobbled together book with old information and old photos. One of the first books out though, so may be of historical interest!

The Xena Scrolls by Ru Emerson

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Not a book, a poster featuring quite nice pictures and fictional letters between Janice and Mel from the episode, The Xena Scrolls. Opinions vary as to whether this is worth the cash.

All I Need to Know, I Learned from Watching the Warrior Princess by Josepha Sherman

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Officially sanctioned but a bit dull. Supposedly Gabrielle's thoughts on some of their early adventures.

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