Stephanie Meyer – Breaking Dawn – Book review

Book cover of Stephanie Meyer's Breaking Dawn

Breaking Dawn is the fourth novel in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight ‘saga’, a series of books that have – in my opinion – sullied the good name of vampire literature. Earlier this year, I read the preceding three books in quick succession and found Bella Swan to be utterly devoid of charm or indeed anything that might possibly attract the affections of a vampire and a werewolf. No, I’m not a fan.

But once I begin a story, I have to finish it, so I picked up Breaking Dawn. The final chapter, etc. I’d been spoilered in advance when I stumbled upon an article about the book, but I thought the reviewer was being ludicrous. Bella gets pregnant, gets knocked up by Edward Cullen on their honeymoon and has a half-breed baby that threatens the Cullens’ way of life. “Pull the other one, dude.” I thought.

As I tucked into the book, the air around me was peppered with swearwords and outrage. I can’t believe Meyer had the audacity to pull this off! I’d also just read New Moan, a spoof novel based on the first couple of Twilight books, and nothing in that book was as ridiculous as what I was reading.

The negatives

There’s so much to hate here. Meyer teases us that Bella might not make it to vampirehood – first by stalling on the transformation (Bella on honeymoon decides she wants a little longer as a human), and then by suggesting that she might not survive the pregnancy. GET IT OVER WITH ALREADY. Three books of teasing was enough.

Let’s move it along – Reneesme? Are you serious? If the name itself wasn’t cheap and unimaginative enough, Bella’s reasons for choosing it were. Worst character name in the history of literature, ever. And the abbreviated version wasn’t much better.

Bella is no better than before. Disgustingly self-absorbed as always – right to the bitter end. She is only ever concerned with herself, her perfect plank of a husband and their awesome hybrid child. The Cullens rate higher that her own father, whose reaction to his daughters’ death is always an afterthought with her. But you can’t deny, vampire Bella is far more interesting than human Bella any day of the week. Finally, all that navel gazing about how clumsy she was turned out to be a build-up to the graceful, beautiful vamp she would become!

Oh yes, Bella gets transformed into a vampire and suffers none of the normal side-effects – like becoming an irrational feral blood drinking fiend. That’s a bit of a disappointment. And Edward seems to have forgotten all his angst about being a soulless monster, a demonic thing, blah blah blah. I seem to remember that being a big part of the story, but by Breaking Dawn that stance had evaporated.

Funny stuff: After pushing the laws of vampires back by centuries – walking in daylight, glimmering like glittery fools, having babies – Meyer playfully gives Edward a line about how they don’t adhere to vampire canon. And possibly blasting out the celibacy of the first few books, she has Bella and Edward destroying a bed on their first attempt at lovemaking. Awesome! Shame Edward had to be a whiny little bitch about it afterward.

Where it gets good

Well, like I say, Bella getting knocked up by Edward is just fantastic. Unforeseen considering there hadn’t been a sniff of sex in the first few books. Creating a freaky hybrid vampire that had the potential to kill her mother in childbirth was a brave move, and Meyer deserves credit for taking the situation to the extreme, breaking bones and having Bella on the brink of death.

I was always more of a fan of Jacob than Edward, even when Jacob was acting like an impetuous ass. There’s a reason I liken Edward to a plank. But in Breaking Dawn, Edward seems to develop more of a personality. His relationship with Jacob morphs and changes and takes on a degree of mutual respect. Jacob also seems to mature as he splits off into his own pack of one, then is joined by dissenters from Sam’s pack. He seems to take on a more rounded attitude to the vampires, starting with Carlisle and spreading to Alice and the others.

There’s an almost massacre between Cullens’ posse and the Volturi. Naturally, the Volturi want to eradicate the abomination (aka Reneesme), but Carlisle gathers an assembly of witnesses. The introduction of such a wide array of vampires with a variety of supernatural abilities really opens up the vampiric world (and possibilities for new novels with new characters says cynical me). My biggest nit-pick here is that the stand-off in the forest amounts to nothing. Yes, the Volturi, fearsome ancient vampires that they are, are defeated by logic and shrewd manouvering. And Bella’s magic shield.

Certainly, it’s perhaps the first Twilight book I’ve read where I’ve cared about the stakes. Funny how Dead Bella Swan is more interesting than Live Bella Swan. A final showdown with the Volturi might have put the arrogant Italians out of the picture forever – and it might have made the build-up to the showdown worthwhile.

Hmm. If this review sounds like a mixed bag, Breaking Dawn is still my favourite book of the entire series. I know I’ve listed a lot of flaws, but at the very least it’s interesting, it delves into vampire and werewolf lore more than the previous books instead of limping along on the tedious romance element. If you’ve read the other books, I recommend picking up Breaking Dawn. Not a quick read at 750 pages, but I devoured this one double-quick time which is a sign of being obsessed by the story.

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