Book Review: Stephanie Meyer, “Eclipse” (2007)

For about a week last summer, I delved into and finished Stephenie Meyer’s vampire series, Twilight.  The four books are told from the perspective of eighteen year old Bella Swan and her boyfriend,Edward Cullen– a 107 year old vampire.

While I somewhat enjoyed the first book in the series, I found its sequel, New Moon, to be positively dreadful.  Still, I trudged on- having come this far, I was anxious to find out what happens with Edward and Bella in the end.

Eclipse picks up a few months after New Moon ended.  Bella successfully saved Edward from being killed at the hands of the vampire counsel, the Volturi, and now he and Bella are back from Italy, and happy as ever.  The main conflict in this story arises early, as we learn that there have been several unsolved murders around Seattle, Washington- just miles from Forks, where Bella and Edward reside.  Edward and the rest of the Cullen family (his “parents” and “siblings” are also vampires whom have formed a coven together and call themselves a family) believe that the murders are at the hands of a thirsty young vampire, unable to control his blood thirst.  Luckily, with Edward’s telepathic powers and his sister, Alice’s psychic ability, the Cullen family are able to investigate the murders and attempt to stop whomever or whatever is committing the crimes.

Meanwhile, Edward and Bella’s relationship deepens, but so do the complications of dating as human and vampire.  Bella so desperately wants to be a vampire, in order to live immortally with her one true love; however, Edward refuses to change her- seeing it as a moral conflict.  Most of the book is spent with the two of them compromising, and finally coming to a truce- Edward will change Bella into a vampire only if she marries him after they graduate from High School.

The other main plot line falls to one of New Moon’s main characters, Jacob Black.  In New Moon, it is revealed that Jacob, and all the other boys in his Native American tribe (the Quileutes) are actually werewolves.   When Edward returns to Forks and finds out about Jacob’s secret, it complicates things quite a bit- as vampires and werewolves are natural enemies.  However, Bella and Jacob were best friends, and as the book goes on, we discover that Bella misses Jacob more than she realized she would.  Bella must make the ultimate choice between the two men- her soul mate or her best friend.

As a whole, I found Eclipse to be one of the most enjoyable books in the series.  No, I still didn’t care for the character of Bella, though she was slightly less revolting this time around.  I was a bit annoyed by her flip-flopping between Edward and Jacob; the choice seemed easy to me- yes, Jacob was her best friend, but it seems as though if she really felt that Edward was her soul mate, she wouldn’t have any hesitations in marrying him, turning into a vampire, and spending the rest of her life with him.  Anyway, the plot does cause a lot of tension, and the reader is literally left wondering until the last few chapters just whom Bella will choose.

I was happy to see the character of Edward return to his charming and chivalrous self.  Though I did, at times, find him a bit overbearing and self-righteous (the whole, “Bella, I know what’s best for you- just do as I say and don’t argue” act got a bit old, but I suppose he does have a hundred or so years on her, and Bella does seem pretty incapable of making any sound decisions on her own anyway, thanks to Meyer’s weak characterization of her); he was much more enjoyable to read about in this novel than he was in the prior one.

Meanwhile, I found the character of Jacob Black, whom I did enjoy in New Moon, to be one of the most annoying ones in this novel- even surpassing Bella!  Suddenly, Jacob has become whiny and childish, and stubborn to a fault when it comes to seeing that Bella’s in love with Edward and not with him.  It’s understood that Jacob’s in love with Bella and his feelings are hurt when she continues to see Edward, but he certainly wouldn’t persuade me to choose him with his indulgent behavior.

Minor characters- particularly members of the Cullen family- also add depth and humor to the story.  Again, the highlights of the family are Alice and Emmett, who both add in some much needed pazazz to the story.

The story is also the most coherently told one in the saga; there are no strange inconsistencies in the storytelling or pace issues, as I found with the other two books.  The plot line is straight forward and consistent, and the conflicts are all engaging and well thought-out.   Meyer’s writing is still fairly weak and she seems to have shown no growth as a writer, though this novel was published three years after the first book’s initial release.  However, if you’ve gotten this far in the series, chances are you’re reading for the story, not for the writing.

The story also tackles the topic of pre-marital sex.  Meyer, who is Mormon, pretty much explains from the beginning of Edward and Bella’s relationship that the two of them cannot have sex while Bella is human, as she’s too “fragile”, and Edward wouldn’t be able to control his strength and may hurt or even kill her.  In the first book, they are barely even able to kiss, because of the fear that Edward will get carried away, or that Bella will accidently get pierced by his fangs.

As the series goes on, Bella and Edward, like any young couple, want more and more to take their relationship to the next physical level, however, Edward is always the one to resist.  I had a problem with how sex-driven Bella is portrayed- she literally begs Edward to have sex with her during Eclipse, though Edward sticks to his early 19th-Century, gentlemanly ways, and refuses.   I suppose it’s nice to see Meyer bring up some moral standards (even vampires have morals!) in the stories, even if flimsily handled.

Another theme in the story is that of sacrifice.  Despite the fact that Edward is truly Bella’s soul mate, being with him would mean losing her humanity and (in both Edward and Jacob’s belief), her soul, which is still a frightening risk to take.  If she chooses Jacob, she could stay a human and live among the werewolves, but that would, of course, mean never being with Edward again.  Bella has the ultimate choice between eternal life with Edward, or a normal life with Jacob, and that choice isn’t an easy one.

For the most part, Eclipse is a great entry in the Twilight Saga.  Finally, Stephenie Meyer has created a sturdy story, with an even, exciting plot.  The characters have finally developed completely into relatable, palpable people, whom you feel for as the story goes on.   Out of the series, I’d say Eclipse is probably the best , and my favorite of the four novels.

Rating: 200px-4_stars.svg

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