Breaking Dawn (Review)

Contains spoilers.

Well.  Here we are, at last.  It’s been a journey covering two months, from tedium to anticlimax, from the occasional high to the more frequent low, but now, at last, the Twilight Saga is over.  I considered rambling my thoughts for Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer, in the same way I did for Eclipse, but then, to my shock and horror, found some parts of the novel were actually redeemable.  Not very redeemable.  But a bit.  So I decided to go with a full review – or at least, to be as structured as my reviews ever are.  Breaking Dawn is split into three separate ‘books’, two from Bella’s perspective and one from Jacob’s.  Considering my vastly differing reactions to each section, breaking the review up by ‘book’ seems the most apporiate way to discuss the novel.

Book 1

I’m just going to say it: reading these 150 pages or so almost caused me to lose my faith in literature.  Singlehandedly, this section convinced me to never read a book/series out of plain curiosity ever again in my life.  Sorry, 50 Shades!  In this book the ‘events’ of Bella and Edward’s wedding and honeymoon are explored.  And that’s it.  The wedding itself only covers, I can’t remember, about 2 pages, with the reception perhaps another 10 for when the werewolves arrive and get angsty and stuff.  The rest is spent either preparing for the wedding and on the honeymoon.  The honeymoon chapters, where Bella and Edward retreat to ‘Ilse Esme’, this bizarre island off the coast of Brazil which has suddenly been introduced.  These chapters refused to end, despite my fervent wishes.  Everything is described in intricate, mind-numbing detail – apart from the sex, where Meyer avoids as many details as possible.  I’m not complaining.

Then, Bella gets pregnant.  This is an interesting idea, although I’m not sure how it’s possible, and it determines the direction which the rest of the novel will take.  Edward plans to kill it but Bella has suddenly developed an attachment for the monster growing inside her.  I couldn’t comment on the nature of maternal instincts, but this doesn’t seem wise.  Whatever her thoughts, I fail to be engaged in the ‘action’.  This section’s most successful achievement is making a good case for contraception, although not one which could be applied to most couples.

The characters are all exactly the same as they’ve been in previous novels.  Nothing new to comment on here.

I genuinely can’t think of anything else to say for Book 1.  I finished reading Breaking Dawn a couple of weeks ago and have since tried to scrub it from my mind; this section was the first to go.  Just as I’m on the brink of putting the book down, of giving up on a novel for the first time in many years, the narrator switches to Jacob and the book suddenly becomes original again.  That’s the problem with this first section; it’s not only bad, but it’s repetitively, tediously bad.  There is virtually no conflict.  I don’t know whether Meyer planned this, but it was very well timed.

Book 2

In transferring to Jacob’s perspective, the novel is injected with life once again.  Perhaps still much more of a focus on his ‘feelings’ than a typical teenage boy would feel, Meyer has convincingly written from a male perspective.  I’ve mostly forgotten how she wrote it so can’t say to what degree her writing style changes – I was mostly in awe of the fact something mildly interesting was happening – but I think there were a couple of noticeable differences.  As a writer (well, amateur writer), I do appreciate the difficulties of writing in the first-person from just one character’s perspective, let alone two, although I would expect such a renowned and successful writer to be adept at this skill.  I’ll take my lack of scorn and criticism whilst reading as evidence that she has at least partly mastered it.

By far, the most enjoyable feature of this Book of Jacob (sounds rather Biblical) is to see the werewolf pack mechanics up close.  I can clearly imagine how, as the pack grows, the characters would begin to suffer from collective schizophrenia from all the thoughts of the other wolves chattering in their heads.  The power struggle between Jacob and Sam, resulting in Jacob unwittingly creating his own pact between himself, Seth and Leah, is also one of the highlights of the book.  In fact, the complex division of alliances is probably my favourite aspect – the Cullens are also split on their opinion of the baby, as Rosalie and Carlisle are against killing it and so protect Bella from Edward and the others.  This  is the kind of conflict the rest of the novel has so desperately needed!  It really makes the reader wonder how it will be resolved.

Another genuinely interested fantasy element in the Twilight series is that of imprinting.  I really respect and can relate to Jacob’s horror of the concept, that it takes control of the affected werewolves’ emotions and therefore their personalities by making them blindly in love, at first sight, with someone who could strengthen the genes.  This is made worse by the fact that the subject is often a young child.  I would certainly feel the same way.

Jacob and Leah’s exchanges, both of whom have been wounded by love (in Leah’s case, her boyfriend Sam imprinted on another woman and their relationship suddenly ended), can be touching at times.  I would say that Leah is probably one of the more likeable characters in the series, in that she doesn’t actually irritate me at any moment.  In fact, her snide bitterness makes a welcome contrast from the gooey, perfect lives the other characters experience far too frequently.

Watching Bella’s pregnancy from Jacob’s point of view adds to the sense of horror which is already extremely prevalent.  The idea of being beaten from inside, of her baby kicking so much it gives her bruises and even cracks her ribs, is sickening – and also very effective.  The only way to placate the baby is to feed Bella blood, which she drinks with a relish.  This is truly skin-crawling stuff.  However, Meyer never quite creates the right atmosphere, as these scenes tend to be mired in humour, inanities and dull characters, causing these wonderful horror concepts to never reach their full potential.  And then Bella gives birth, a process which would have killed her if Edward had not performed a C-section with, uh, his teeth, and in doing so transforming Bella into a vampire.  Rather yucky stuff.

The baby is carried out of the room, and at that moment Jacob takes a glance at it, imprinting instantly.  Oh, dear.

Book 3

Back to Bella’s perspective again.  Oh well, an interesting protagonist was nice while it lasted.  Although this is the new and improved vampire Bella, so we never quite return to honeymoon levels of tedium.  It is fascinating to read Bella exploring her new powers and abilities as a vampire, although it’s a bit of a cop out that she avoids all of the bloodlust associated with newborn vampires.  I suppose waiting years for her to gain self control would jar the novel’s pace more so than it has been already.
I am really disappointed that Jacob imprinted upon Edward and Bella’s daughter, who they named Renesmee.  His resistance to the idea and his desire to maintain some control over his thoughts and actions are completely undermined.  Suddenly he is completely in love, and happy, and no longer salivating over Bella and getting depressed about her being a vampire.  In fact, he’s cool with it.  I know there are fantasy elements at work, but this is sudden, lazy and feels wrong.

Actually, a large portion of this section (about half of the book) consists of everyone being happy.  The feud with the werewolves vanished when Jacob imprinted, because there’s some ancient code forbidding them to attack the subject of a fellow werewolf’s imprint, or something.  That’s another reason I hate imprinting in the series: it’s a plot device to remove each individual strand of conflict.  The concept is fine, but Meyer uses it in ways to my distaste.

Then, suddenly, the action ramps up again.  Alice has had a vision of the Volturi attacking and killing the entire coven, in response to a vampire called Irina witnessing Renesemee and mistaking her for one of the feared Immortal Children.  This is a bit of a dull way for the threat to unfold, though it makes sense.  She then suddenly departs with Jasper, presumably having abandoned the Cullens in despair although I just know they’ll be back later.  Meyer does manage to craft an intricate mystery in their disappearances.  Alice, through code, leads Bella to J. Jenks, a fabricator of identities, in order to implant the idea of letting Renesmee escape with Jacob if the battle with the Volturi goes badly.  Giving this idea to Bella, whose mind Edward cannot see into, is a clever touch.

So, in order to stay alive, the Cullens gather together a band of ‘witnesses’, whose numbers are intended to make the Volturi halt, just for a moment, so they can realise that Renesmee is not an ‘Immortal Vampire Child’.  From South America, from Transylvania (of course), from Ireland, from Alaska – from all over – vampires gather to testify for the Cullens.  So much mythology can be gleamed from this gathering, although few of the vampires have had a lasting impact upon me and few of their names I can remember.  I quite liked Alistair the hermit.  Also of interest is the development of Bella’s powers, which is to shield herself and others from the powers of other vampires.  Considering her only motivation previously has been to keep the people she loves alive, this feels fitting.


The battle lines are drawn, and the two sides converge.  As Meyer points out on her website, in order to prevent the characters she loved from dying this conflict had to be one of the mind.  That’s fine – a bit disappointing, but fine.  The utilisation of various characters’ mental powers push the conflict back and forth, as Aro (well characterised again) and his Volturi associates, particularly Caius, try to find an excuse to kill the Cullens, who they perceive to be a threat.  This is done well, and is surprisingly gripping.  But it’s the final resolution which really, really pushed me over the edge and confirmed my hatred of this series.  Alice and Jasper return, predictably, with some random, previously unmentioned hybrid vampire they found somewhere in the Amazon.  Aro realises he no longer has a case and says, “oh well, let’s go home.”  The Volturi return home.  The conflict is over.

YOU CANNOT DO THAT!  Has Meyer ever heard of a phrase called deus ex machina?  She studied English Literature at university, so she has no excuse not to have.  It literally means, “God from the machine”, where a plot is suddenly resolved by a factor pulled from out of the blue, and is a hated technique among literary circles.  Occasionally it can work, although not often, and this certainly is not one of those times.  The Volturi threat is not even resolved.  They’re as close the series comes to having an antagonist, and they end the final book by going home?!  No change in stance, likely to attempt another attack in the future…  No.  That’s just… No!  I did not spend two months reading over 500,000 words for THIS.

The characters then proceed to live a normal life forever, or, at least, before the Volturi find a way of avoiding Alice and rip them to shreds.  I look forward to when that happens.  The novel does have a *somewhat* fitting ending when Bella, using her new-found powers, lets Edward into her thoughts.  This moment of ultimate intimacy between the characters is the peak point of their relationship, and is a marginally satisfying way of ending the book, if such a thing is possible after the previous plot disasters.

Final rating: 5/10.

I will not miss this series.

Eclipse Ramblings

This isn’t going to be a review on Stephenie Meyer’s third book in the Twilight ‘Quartet’ because I don’t have the will or energy to write about this book in that much detail, and most points have already been covered in my reviews of Twilight and New Moon.

Basically, this book just droned on and on.  The same angst, the same dilemmas, the same relationships – none of which experienced much development until the final 100 pages or so.  I was bored throughout reading, which, say whatever you want about the first two books, didn’t happen as I read them.  The quality is no lower than the others, and that’s precisely the problem; it’s basically the same book rewritten.  I excluded the final 100 pages because they are more engaging, though still never reaches what ought to be the novel’s full potential.  The book’s full of unbelievable gimmicks, such as Bella suddenly realising she loves Jacob when he forces himself upon her for the second time after threatening to virtually commit suicide – how much more morally abhorrent can you get?  Bella is increasingly dull and irritating and I am left unable to comprehend why these boys are so desperate to have her.  The bizarre morality debates (which also go on and on) about becoming a vampire and marriage completely jar with me.

But there are points I liked.  Jasper’s backstory, being involved in the American Civil War and then becoming apart of unrest in Mexico, was fascinating.  I enjoyed the theory that vampires can exacerbate human violence and instability in certain areas.  The werewolf myths were also highly an enjoyable read.  Victoria was an interesting character, though was not explored nearly enough – the same goes for every character besides the main protagonists, who are explored far too much and far too repetitively.

Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend Eclipse.  Read Twilight, sure, but New Moon and Eclipse are not necessary reads.  I *will* read Breaking Dawn at some point – my friend has offered to lend it to me, perhaps against my better judgement – and I hope it will be more entertaining than the others.

Final Rating: 4/10

New Moon Review

Contains spoilers.


   Well.  My ambition to read all four Twilight novels (written by Stephenie Meyer) and review them continues with the second book in the saga (though the term ‘quartet’ would be more apt).  In this second instalment, vampire Edward Cullen leaves human lover Bella Swab in an attempt to keep her safe from himself and his family after an incident involving a paper cut and his ‘brother’ Jasper.  Overcome by grief, Bella first goes into catatonic shock then spends months in a lifeless void.  Her pain finally begins to heal as she spends time with her friend Jacob, until he develops into a member of the vampires’ bitter enemies: the werewolves.  Bella and Edward are reunited after he, believing her dead, seeks suicide by displeasing the power Volturi family – the vampire equivalent of a royal family – but she convinces him not to go through with it.

That’s the plot in a nutshell.  It really doesn’t sound like much and, well, that’s because it isn’t.  Plot was not a strong point in Twilight either, though that did pick up pace and develop well towards the end, something which can’t be said of New Moon.  The beginning is fine; the birthday party introduces well the underlying theme of Bella’s ageing and mortality, as well as forming a reminder of the dangers vampires pose to humans.  However, once Edward leaves Bella and walks out of her life, the narrative simply stops.  About 30 pages pass then until Jacob even makes his first appearance (6% of the book), and then around 80 pages (16%) spent developing Bella and Jacob’s relationship and sewing seeds for the werewolf reveal until an event actually happens.  The pace is so incredibly slow.

And yet, it was never once boring.  That’s perplexing me.  The development of characters does pay off and the reader gets to know them intimately, but as a rule this should never be at the expense of the narrative; rather, the two elements co-exist and feed off one another.  So how come New Moon somehow gets away with this?  It isn’t through the plain, clichéd writing style.  I’m not convinced it’s a reflection on the characters either.  Perhaps it’s in the relationships, which Meyer spends most of her time developing.  Is it possible for the relationships to feel deeply developed if the characters are not?  Perhaps so.

The pace does quicken with the werewolf reveal, although this does feel like a less detailed rehash of the vampire reveal in Twilight.  The book’s antagonist is revealed to be Victoria, bitter after previous events, who is seeking to kill Bella in revenge.  The werewolves are tasked with protecting her, and this seems to be where the story is going.  Then, suddenly, Alice Cullen arrives out of the blue after she ‘saw’ Bella jumping off the cliff (more on that later) and finds out about Edward.  The pair are consequently whisked away to Italy where the climax of the novel takes place.  The werewolf strand is utterly dropped, scarcely to be mentioned again.  I know this will be continued in the next two books, but to review New Moon as a novel in its own right – which is it – this is rather sloppy.  In addition to that, the threats are resolved astoundingly easy.  Edward’s about to kill himself!  Hold on, he’s seen Bella, he’s fine.  They’re being taken deep into the Volturi’s lair!  Wait, they’ve been let free after Alice wordlessly promised to turn Bella into a vampire so she’ll keep their secret.  Literally back home in time for tea.  When they return Esme thanks Bella for everything she did in saving Edward, and while it’s true she did risk her life in going to Volterra, she did little else.  This makes logical sense, but emotionally and structurally feels utterly wrong.

What didn’t make logical sense was Bella’s dreaming.  Every night, for about four months, she dreamed the same dream.  Then suddenly, when her lifestyle changed, the dreams also changed.  This shows a lack of understanding towards either dreaming or effective symbolism.  Even worse symbolism was the sledgehammered references to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which revealed in advance exactly how the plot would go.

Bella was starting to grow on me throughout Twilight, but I’m afraid after New Moon I’m finding her completely unbearable.  I can empathise with the deep trauma she feels when Edward leaves, particularly when it is later explained that she not only grieved for him but for his family, her way of life, and her future.  Yet, after four months, she really ought to have had the capacity to at least smile, or communicate with people.  It’s hinted she may have deep psychological problems when her father suggests a psychiatrist, and the more I think about it the more it makes sense: Bella is crazy.  Insane.  Loopy – mad – doolally!  It all fits!  Her hallucinations of Edward are shrugged off as being ‘merely her subconscious,’ but since when have hallucinations being natural and normal?  This is why she is immune to the effect of vampires’ powers!  Her erratic, self-destructive personality, and her lack of awareness towards danger, is now finally explained.  Her shocked reactions to reveals which were obvious from the beginning…  The Twilight quartet suddenly works, thinking from the perspective of, forgive me for the lack of tact, a lunatic.  It almost becomes a work of high literature.

My opinion has not changed of the Cullens since Twilight; while Edward was extremely flawed to abandon Bella in the way he did, it’s in his character to do so.  It’s also in Bella’s character to so rashly forgive him without a trace of anger.  The most interesting character to be developed in New Moon is Jacob Black.  To fully analyse Jacob, he needs to be treated as two characters: pre-transformation Jacob and post-transformation Jacob.  Pre-transformation Jacob is likeable, reliable, and the reader feels compelled to appreciate him.  Then, when he becomes a werewolf, his character seems to change.  He’s far angrier, more assertive, less of a ‘klutz’, more reckless… Maybe, in Meyer’s mythology, these are the normal effects of a werewolf transformation, but in terms of characterisation it feels wrong and cheated because the reader is expected to sympathise with New Jacob just as much as with Old Jacob, which doesn’t happen.  I have no idea what Meyer intended Jacob’s purpose to be.

His werewolf comrades fare little better.  All males, inexplicably, and all overtly boyish.  If Twilight oozed suppressed tension and desire, New Moon is sweating in testosterone.  Another inexplicable facet is how virtually every male with a speaking role seems to fancy Bella: Edward, Mike, Jacob, Quil… Bella laughs and shrugs it off awkwardly, as she only can do, but it feels wrong.  Girls (and boys) with this talent do exist but I don’t believe Bella to be one of them – I’m not convinced.  There’s no reason for her to be so ‘fanciable’.  Bella admits this herself, going on about how worthless she is, but drawing attention to a quandary without resolving it does not make it go away – Meyer might as well have stuck an arrow saying “Look!  Irregularity!”

I did, however, like the Volturi – particularly Aro.  His friendly enthusiasm, greeting people as friends one moment and planning to kill them the next, makes for edgy reading.  The moment when dozens of unaware humans are led in for ‘feeding’ is intentionally horrific and has precisely the desired effect.  They are a real and credible threat, which makes it all the more disappointing that this threat is not yet realised.

One final criticism: Meyer’s repetitive writing style is beginning to grate on me.  How many times did she use the word ‘twisted’ when referring to someone’s facial expression?  The convoluted references to literature and science in explaining everyday occurrences – although if we’re going with the “Bella is insane” explanation then this is suddenly genius.  But I return again to my earlier point of how readable Twilight is.  It absolutely shouldn’t be… And yet it is.  Meyer must be doing something right, but what that is escapes me.  I must give her credit for the unresolved threads at the end of New Moon, nevertheless.  Victoria is still loose, the Volturi will kill Bella if she does not become a vampire but the werewolves will declare war if she does, Bella’s impending choice of either Edward or Jacob… I have to go on, keep reading…

Overall, New Moon is not a spectacular work of fiction.  It’s slow, all over the place, at times nonsensical and unconvincing.  And I enjoyed reading it despite each of those potentially ruinous flaws.  I had a conversation with the school librarian today about the Twilight quartet (she gave me a look of shock when I asked to borrow Eclipse), who told me she feels New Moon is the weakest book of the four, and that the next two improve.  Will I agree?  Watch this space.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Twilight Review

Contains spoilers.


I’m not sure why I was possessed by a sudden desire to read the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer.  As its reputation demands, any books about such fantasy romance should be hideous to all males.  I guess that’s precisely why I decided to read them, so I could decide for myself what I think of the books.  And also, I feel compelled to read books which reach a certain level of popularity so I can see what the fuss is about.  (Fifty Shades of Grey is on the same pile.  At the bottom).  I’d seen the film before and wasn’t greatly impressed, but I know too well how little this says about the book.  So, after particular difficulty acquiring the book – I decided not to take this as a sign – I began reading with great interest.

And, you know, it’s really not that bad.  Sure, it is a romance novel which I appreciate isn’t everyone’s thing, but I don’t feel as if any shred of ‘manliness’ I possess has been compromised for having read it.  The concept is very simple: vampire and human fall in love, vampire fights desire to kill her and drink her blood; he must then protect her from less restrained vampires.  It’s a good concept but the execution, I think, is the main flaw with the story.

The book begins when Isabella, ‘Bella’ Swan moves to the dull, wet and green town of Forks to live with her father.  Her reasons for doing so are immediately unconvincing: she wanted her mother and her mother’s boyfriend to have space as they travel across the USA, although mildly in character, as it is revealed that Bella generally response to situations in the opposite way which would be expected.  It took me a while to warm to Bella.  She seemed very conceited to begin with but I began to realise it was all part of her awkward, but generally pleasant, manner.  However for someone so independently minded it’s disappointing that she becomes so submissive and thoughtless in Edward’s presence.  At the book’s end, as she pleads with Edward to let her become a vampire, it’s clear she really hasn’t thought it through.  Sure, she’s infatuated with Edward now, but is that really worth an eternity of putting humans in danger, having to seclude yourself from society?  Granted, I wouldn’t necessarily turn down the offer myself, but her knee-jerk reaction is rushed and for all the wrong reasons.

I also was less than impressed with the development of Edward and Bella’s relationship.  While that may be down to my distaste of the flimsy nature of relationships in general, I would expect such feelings of love to come with some appreciation of the other’s company.  Yet all Bella and Edward do for the first half of the book is endlessly debate the philosophical nature of their relationship, or prattle on about how they feel about one another.  Which is fine, I’m not criticising that, but there’s never any indication they actually like one another beyond their attraction towards each other.  Edward is in love with Bella’s scent and she is in love with his perfection.  I suppose that’s just how relationships work, but it never felt believable until their love for each other had been established.

Despite my criticisms of their relationships, I do like the characters in Twilight.  Bella is interesting and unique, particularly when contrasted to the ‘typical teens’ of Forks High School.  That said, everyone’s so innocent in Forks.  When Mike arranges a trip to the beach everyone’s content to build a bonfire and then go exploring.  From my experience this outing would not be complete without at least a dozen tins of various alcohols – but perhaps that’s more a reflection on the culture I live in; Forks is four and a half thousand miles from where I live, after all.  But I digress.  Although Bella was different, there are a lot of people like her in the world and I couldn’t see what made her so special in particular.  Edward is initially the most interesting character with one hundred years of experiences, though he does begin to get repetitive as the novel progresses.  And what’s with his dominance over Bella?  I get that his domination over her, more than once dragging her to do his will (she always stops complaining before long), is meant to be romantic, but I see it as verging on misogynistic.  Charlie is your stereotypical American police officer, unable to cook and hobbies consisting of fishing and watching football.  The teenagers at the school are just as stereotypical, though mostly realistic.

The Cullens are the most interesting and varied characters.  Some are not given much development yet: Esme is ‘kind’, Rosalie is ‘hostile’, Emmett is ‘funny’.  Jasper, Alice and Carlisle are the most developed characters, and are consequently the most likable.  Carlisle in particular garners the reader’s respect, and takes the role of a wise mentor for the others.  Jasper and his ability to mildly control people’s moods is an intriguing character.  Alice, with all her enthusiasm and intuition, feels the most human of the vampires.  Then there’s James, the sadistic hunter after Bella’s blood.  He was very well crafted, and responsible for the novel’s most suspenseful moments.  I knew Bella would survive – I practically know the plot of all four novels – yet I was gripped.  The plot leaps in pace after James’ introduction and feels as if it’s finally found its feet.

Overall, Twilight is a far better book than I expected.  Not perfect, certainly, and nor is it aimed towards my demographic, yet I enjoyed it nonetheless.  I intend to read the three remaining books in the series, though I fear my resolve may fail at the repetitive nature, particularly as the love triangle around Jacob is formed (side note: Jacob’s far younger, clumsier and awkward than all the promotional images for the films would have me expect.  Interesting marketing techniques).  But I’ll persevere.  It’s been years since I last abandoned a book and I don’t intend to start now.  Who knows – I might even enjoy them.

Final Rating: 7/10

(PS: How do I tell whether I’m ‘Team Edward’ or ‘Team Jacob’ ?!)