Stephenie Meyer is still everywhere and it looks like that will be the case for some time yet.
Age: Young Adult
First Published: 2008
Date Reviewed: 14th December 2009
Breaking Dawn is the massive final chapter of the saga. It saw quite a change from the previous books.
So Bella agreed to marry Edward, and marry they did, a lovely if over-the-top (for Bella’s sensitivities) ceremony in the Cullen house attended by the usual everyday mix of humans, werewolves, and vampires. The honeymoon was lovely too, courtesy of Esme, but things aren’t destined to stay perfect when a human is in love with a vampire, no matter how many trials they’ve got through. Bella thinks she pregnant, and this little creature is going to shake everyone’s life, whether they be immortal or not.
The book is divided into three smaller “books”; the first and last are from Bella’s point of view and therefore read the same as the previous three in the saga. The second takes up the story from Bella’s pregnancy and continues it from Jacob’s point of view whereupon we get some interesting plot turns.
Breaking Dawn is a complete turnaround from the others. Whereas New Moon and Eclipse were undoubtedly fillers, sub plots written to keep the saga in the charts and in the minds of fans (as well as provide more income for the movie makers), Breaking Dawn reads like the follow-on of Twilight. It certainly seems as though Meyer has had more power and say in what she writes and most definitely she knows what’s she’s doing and what makes a good story. For the most part, Breaking Dawn is utterly fantastic, a real page-turner.
The other major differences with Breaking Dawn are the viewpoints and storytelling. Though at first it may seem a pity that Meyer has chosen not to honour Bella seamlessly it doesn’t take long to feel comfortable with Jacob. Meyer writes from his viewpoint well, there’s that extreme difference in the style from the chapters themselves and the chapter titles. Whereas Bella’s chapters are all titled abstractly though in accordance to the main theme of each, Jacob’s are a very simple summary of what is happening at that point in time. Ever blunt, they are great in themselves.
It’s in the storytelling that a debate may arise. Meyer has taken the fantasy to a whole new level. It’s brilliant and so much more mature and detailed than before – but there it is, “mature”. The “problem” with Breaking Dawn is that it’s too graphic and at times lingers on the fence between fantasy and horror. Bella’s pregnancy is full of blood but as it’s not the human birth we accept in the real world it becomes a point to ponder upon – is this content appropriate for young readers? Do they need to read about a huge strong vampire foetus that might just bite through it’s human mother in order to get out of the womb, killing the mother in the process? In Meyer’s defence, those theories do turn out to be simply theories as the Cullen’s manage to deliver the baby without it turning into such carnage, but the thoughts are still there on the page and actually, when it comes to the birth there is a lot of gore included. The way Bella becomes a vampire is also relatively horrific. It may not be, as Carlisle observes, as bad as the usual way of converting, but that’s only in the context of the story. So while the book itself is a fantastic departure from the other three, for parents it may prove worrying and for their children the stuff of nightmares. The older reader will find the book to be far superior. Even those who have previously shunned the saga may enjoy it to some extent.
In lure of young readers there is a lot of sex in the first quarter of the book. It’s not graphically detailed but there are a lot of references and some not-so-subtle innuendo. Even as an older reader the sentence about knowing a better way to lose calories reads badly. Make no mistake: yes, Bella and Edward are married now, and yes, they are enjoying themselves immensely.
As mentioned, the plot this time runs smoothly with every sentence having a reason. One wonders if the saga would be more credible to critics if it hadn’t been at the mercy of the promotion team so early on in it’s journey.
Although in general the plot is exciting there are a few times where proceedings run at a sluggish pace. Of note is the end, which is predictable. The problem with Meyer is that she has an obvious disliking for killing off major characters and while this may be admirable it’s not realistic nor does it make for a good story. Throughout the saga whenever there has been a confrontation of some size the planning that the characters do picks up the pace. But it’s always the same: there’s mention of a battle, there’s planning, and then… oh, all it needs is discussion, or just a five minute fight between a couple of people in an otherwise large army. Victoria was too easy, the Volturi sound menacing but are ultimately too easy, and every confrontation is predictable and miss-able because you already know from all the other times that nothing will happen. If this was Meyer’s decision in light of the age of her target readers then it’s laughable because of the horror elsewhere. And as much as it’s a good idea to promote talking instead of fighting, and that bullies are really cowards, there are better places for it.
All in all, Breaking Dawn is a brilliant read and the number of pages doesn’t matter in the least. But one hopes Meyer’s grasp of what works will improve in her adult fiction because really, it’s there that she shows most promise for lack of boundaries.
May 1, 2010, 4:24 pm
Hm, I did not enjoy Breaking Dawn that much, but I wonder if it was because I read all of the books right after each other. I was somehow left with the feeling that there was “enough drama already”.
Charlie: I spaced my reading out for that reason, and I knew from past experience that reading books one after another when they are a series puts me off (this was the first series I’d ever finished!). However you’ll notice I didn’t review New Moon or Eclipse – those I did read one after the other and I agree with you that there was too much drama.