Reviewed by Morgan Elektra
Written by Stephenie Meyer
Published by Little, Brown Young Readers
**WARNING – This review will contain spoilers for this and the preceding books in the Twilight series. Brace yourself. **
Ahhh, love triangles. I remember the first one I was involved in. It was in high school, of course. I was madly in love with a boy several years older than me, and endeavored to spend as much time in his presence as possible in order to claim him as mine. And it worked ... but in the process, I also became very good friends with his best friend. I’m sure you can imagine how that worked out. We three spent the next several years locked in "Young and the Restless"-level drama.
I can look back on it now and smile, because we all managed to remain friends. But at the time it was nothing if not painful and emotionally devastating. It has been my experience that you can’t really have a love triangle without high levels of drama. And that’s just speaking of normal boys and girls. Throw in the added bonus of it being a werewolf in love with a girl who’s in love with a vampire, and the two species natural hatred and aversion to each other, and things get even more interesting.
In New Moon (review), Bella and Jacob’s friendship blossoms in Edward’s absence, even after the revelation of Jacob’s wolfy status. Jacob makes it clear he feels more than just camaraderie, and though Bella contemplates accepting her life without Edward and moving to the next level with Jacob, in the end she makes it clear she just wants to remain friends. But Edward’s return changes that. Jacob can’t stand that Bella has forgiven Edward for leaving her, or that she’d risk her life to be with a bloodsucker. And Edward, notorious for his overprotective instincts toward Bella, doesn’t want her spending time with a volatile young werewolf (Meyer’s werewolves can’t control their changes in the beginning, and tend to “phase” involuntarily when in the grip of strong emotions). Bella is stuck between the vampire she loves and her werewolf best friend.
Which is where we are at the beginning of Eclipse. Bella is under house arrest after her whirlwind flight to Italy to save Edward – not to mention that Jacob told Charlie about their motorcycle riding. Still, she’s ecstatic to have Edward back, and has even exacted a promise from his father Carlisle to turn her after high school graduation. She’s studiously avoiding Edward’s offer to turn her himself in exchange for getting married. And she’s mourning the strain on her friendship with Jacob. Of course, not even Bella’s love for a vampire can keep Jacob’s bubbly spirit of optimism down for too long.
Adding to the tension of the situation is a string of murders in nearby Seattle that the Cullens believe are being perpetrated by a group of out of control newborn vampires. At first, this isn't something that worries Bella much except as it pertains to her upcoming transformation; she’s much more concerned with repairing her friendship. I have to admit, Edward’s unwillingness for Bella to spend time with Jacob – he even goes so far as having Alice “kidnap” her and keep her in sight the whole time while he’s gone hunting – was aggravating and overbearing. While Meyer couches it in his genuine concern over Bella’s safety, the reader feels her eye-rolling exasperation with it as well. After all, as Bella argues, she spent the better part of New Moon hanging out with the wolf pack before Edward’s return and received nary a scratch.
So it was a big sigh of relief when Edward realizes he must trust Bella and reconciles to her spending time with Jacob. He’s even fairly blasé about Jacob’s admitted plan to try and win Bella’s heart away from him. Though he does have Bella’s assurance that she loves him, and the physical proof of that – when Jacob tries to kiss her, she punches him in the face hard enough to break a knuckle. The following scene with Bella, Jacob, Charlie and Edward when she gets home is pretty hilarious and one of my favorites in the book.
But a world where Bella’s biggest worry is an overly amorous werewolf can’t last long. As Edward points out on more than one occasion, she’s a danger magnet. No one’s forgotten that James’ mate Victoria is still out to get Bella, of course, but with a powerful vampire family and a huge wolf pack to protect her that’s not a primary worry. Nor is anyone all that concerned about the powerful Volturi coming to check on Bella’s human status after Alice’s promise that she would be turned. But when Edward realizes that some stranger – a vampire stranger – has been in Bella’s bedroom while she was out, all of those threats come back to the forefront. Everyone becomes focused on trying to figure out who’s the paramount danger to the young girl.
Despite being surrounded by powerful and gifted supernatural beings, it’s the defenseless young girl (and I say that with more than a modicum of sarcasm) that brings all the clues together and figures out what exactly is going on: that the army of newborn vampires in Seattle has been created by Victoria with only one mission – kill Bella. Wiping out as many of the Cullens as possible is just a bonus. Luckily for Bella, and the Cullens, they have Alice and she can see the future so they can set a trap. The plan is simple, they’ll lay a trail of Bella’s scent for the newborns to follow and be laying in wait for them. They even enlist the help of the wolf pack.
Of course, while all this is going on, Bella is still trying to finagle the vampiric life she’s imagined since Edward put her change date on hold due to the imminent danger of Victoria’s newborns. The scene in which the pair hash out their future is another of my favorites, and they proceed to the day of the fight in agreement – they will get married (Edward’s demand), attempt to consummate the relationship while Bella’s still human (Bella’s idea), and then she will be turned.
The best part of this book, I think, is Meyer’s ability to temper heavy emotional scenes with a really fantastic wit. My favorite scenes were all ones like this – where what’s going on is sincerely emotionally charged, whether it be with anxiety, anger, concern or frustration – but Meyer manages to highlight the humor, awkward or otherwise. Several times I found myself chuckling, and yet feeling the characters unease as well. The portion of the story that takes place the night before the fight, with Jacob, Edward and Bella in the tent, is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. It was both hilarious and sad at the same time.
Unlike the preceding two books, in which the climax is either outside of Bella’s scope of knowledge (she’s on the brink of unconsciousness when Edward shows up to save her from James in Twilight (review)), or resolved without physical conflict (the Volturi’s menace in New Moon is purely verbal), Eclipse’s confrontation actually comes to violence. Edward goes tooth to tooth with Victoria while the rest of the Cullens handle the army of newborns she’s created. It’s a nice change of pace. Eclipse ramps up not only carnage, but raises the stakes in just about every way. While Bella is maturing, graduating from high school and taking her relationship with Edward to the next level, Meyer’s writing is maturing as well.
She develops Jacob’s feelings for Bella, and (much to the upset of some of the more passionate romantic readers) addresses Bella’s feelings for Jacob as well. I was pleased that she decided to take a more adult approach to their connection, and acknowledge that, while Edward is Bella’s true love, there are all kinds and levels of love out there. She also gives Edward and Bella’s relationship more depth. But that’s not to say that all is well. The first half of the book, while Bella is trying to include Jake back in her life, feels too drawn out. I really wished that Meyer had taken New Moon and Eclipse, cut out a lot of the long interludes where nothing much happens, and smooshed them together. It feels almost as if they were one story at some time, and it was cut in half and the two halves padded out to be two separate books. While they’re both enjoyable, they are each a little weak (although New Moon more so than Eclipse) and some of the padding seems needless.
Still, Eclipse is a stronger book than New Moon by far and a really enjoyable read. Much like Twilight, it does a great job of leaving the reader’s appetite whetted for the next book. The added bonus of a chapter at the end told from Jacob’s perspective ends the book on a very high note (from a story-telling standpoint, rather than an emotional one) that’s well worth the shaky beginning. It’s hard to not get emotionally invested in these great characters, and Eclipse provides a good framework for them to inhabit. But the best part of it is the anticipation it builds for the next book. Meyer definitely knows how to leave the reader wanting more.
3 1/2 out of 5
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