Unless you have been living under a rock (or without access to media of any kind, which is pretty much the same thing), you probably know that the third book in Stephenie Meyer's vampire trilogy (after Twilight and New Moon) was published in early August. Eclipse had an almost unprecedented (for a young adult book without Harry Potter in the title) initial print run of one million copies. It reportedly sold 250,000 copies in the first week (as reported by USA Today), and Little, Brown has already entered into a second print run. This book is HOT.
And, as is often the case when a series becomes very popular and people have bonded with the characters, the reviews are decidedly mixed. I adored Twilight, and was a bit disappointed in New Moon because of the absence of one of my favorite characters. But I quite enjoyed Eclipse. I feel a bit like I feel about the Harry Potter books, actually. I love the characters, and a new book in the series is a chance to spend time with them, and experience some new adventures. I wouldn't miss it for anything. The only thing that kept me from reading Eclipse sooner was the fact that I was traveling for weeks, and I didn't like to travel with such a large book.
I'll try to refrain from spoilers about Eclipse in this review, but if you haven't read Twilight and New Moon, I recommend that you stop here, and go read those first. Eclipse begins as Bella Swan is approaching her high school graduation. Edward has reluctantly agreed that after graduation, if she still wishes it, Bella can be turned into a vampire. He'll only transform her himself if she'll marry him first, but otherwise Edward's father figure, Carlisle, will take care of it.
Bella faces her upcoming change with a mixture of eagerness and trepidation. Bella's friend Jacob, a werewolf and natural enemy of vampires, faces her imminent transformation with horror and revulsion. Bella struggles to maintain her friendship with Jacob, despite his prejudice against vampires. This is complicated by the fact that Jacob is in love with Bella, and puts up a strong fight to win her heart.
The conflict between Edward and Jacob over Bella's affections plays out against a backdrop of increased danger. An apparent team of serial killers is ravaging nearby Seattle, and suspicion of the killers' true nature comes to light very quickly. Soon Bella, with everyone she loves, is fighting for survival.
The complaints that I've seen around this book center mainly on the fact that Bella goes through a lot of angst over Edward vs. Jacob and over her upcoming transformation. But I agree with Jackie on this one. Jackie said:
"Wouldn't you hate it just as much if Bella were unquestioning? What kind of girl would enter into possible UNDEAD ETERNITY without at least SOME KIND of serious analyzing?"
Hello! It's a big decision. She'll have to leave her parents and other friends. She'll never have ordinary human experiences like childbirth (or sickness, or death, for that matter, though she might pay taxes). She worries that she'll feel differently about Edward after the change, or, more importantly, that he'll feel differently about her. She knows that new vampires have a very difficult time controlling their lust for blood, and she wonders if she'll hurt people. It's reasonable to spend some time thinking it through, and I for one, am happy to be able to share in that thought process.
In depicting the conflict between Edward and Jacob, Meyer draws overt parallels with Wuthering Heights. Bella is hopelessly in love with Edward, the way that Cathy is about Heathcliff, and whether he's good for her or not doesn't really matter. (Although, in Wuthering Heights, Cathy does marry Edgar Linton, instead of Heathcliff.) I will admit that I preferred the Elizabeth/Darcy vibe of the first book to this Cathy/Heathcliff vibe (because I always loathed Wuthering Heights). But I'm a sucker for a well-constructed love triangle, too. Especially when the triangle isn't the middle person's fault, as in this case. Edward left Bella. Jacob healed her, and stitched himself into her heart in the process. It's a great source of natural conflict.
I did in this book occasionally find Bella's flinging of herself at Edward's feet to be annoying. At one point, when Edward seems insecure, she thinks (page 427): "It was mind-boggling, but, somehow, he still seemed unsure of his hold on me." It's like she's been hypnotized or something. But mostly I'm prepared to accept true love, and let it go at that.
I still think that there's something unusual about Bella, the cause for which will be revealed in future books. There's the whole thing where Edward can't read her mind, even though he can read everyone else's. There's her clumsiness, and the fact that she's a magnet for danger. There's even her pale complexion. I think that Meyer still has something up her sleeve about Bella.
I also still think that Stephenie Meyer is a wonderful writer, one who lightens high drama with flashes of humor. Here are a couple of my favorite passages from Eclipse:
"Posters crowded together on the cafeteria walls, and the trashcan wore a colorful skirt of spilled-over fliers" (Chapter 2)
"I tried to imagine telling my parents that I was getting married this summer. Telling Angela and Ben and Mike. I couldn't. I couldn't think of the words to say. It would be easier to tell them I was becoming a vampire. And I was sure that at least my mother -- were I to tell her every detail of the truth -- would be more strenuously opposed to me getting married than to me becoming a vampire." (Chapter 14, note that this is in the context of Edward wanting to marry, and doesn't reflect a decision on Bella's part)
"... You know, Jacob, if it weren't for the fact that we're natural enemies and that you're trying to steal away the reason for my existence, I might actually like you." (Chapter 22, said by Edward)
All in all, I find myself as eagerly awaiting Book 4 as I awaited Books 2 and 3. I am curious about how Meyer will handle the inherent conflicts around Bella becoming a vampire, but I suspect, based on past experience, that she has something clever up her sleeve. And I wonder which pair of literary lovers will provide structure for Book 4...
Publisher: Little, Brown
Publication Date: August 7, 2007
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: bookshelves of doom (short and not so sweet), interactivereader, My Random Acts of Reading, YALSA, Becky's Book Reviews, Everyday Reading, So Many Books, So Little Time, Random Thoughts, Book BInge, booknerd, avidbookreader, and lots more...
Author Interviews: squeetus blog (Shannon Hale)
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