Bella and Edward apply to colleges and eagerly await their high school graduation while basking in the contentment of their reunion, but Bella finds herself troubled by the loss of her friendship with Jacob Black. Because of the unpredictability of young werewolves, Edward fears for Bella's safety and wants her nowhere near Jacob. Of course there is also the added complication of vampires and werewolves being natural enemies. Finally, determined not to abandon the friend who had seen her through the worst time of her life, Bella sneaks away from her vampire protectors to visit Jacob. When Edward finds out what Bella has done, he is not pleased, but neither is he unreasonable. They work out an arrangement for Bella to see Jacob more often, but it may not be for the best, as feeling begin to surface that are confusing and painful to both of them and to Edward. As the three teens work to make sense out their complex relationship, news reaches Forks of a serial killing spree in Seattle which the Cullens believe to be the work of a newborn vampire. When the murders increase, it becomes clear that not just one young vampire is involved, but a small army of them. But who is creating them and why? When Bella realizes that whoever is responsible for the newborn vampires is out to get her, Edward and his family will stop at nothing to protect her from the danger. But when Alice's visions show that they are outnumbered more than two to one, where can they turn for help?
Once again, Stephenie Meyer has created another entertaining and engrossing volume in the Twilight Saga. I had heard that this was the "love triangle" portion of the story arc, and even though this is usually not something I care for in romances, it somehow just all came together and worked for me in this one. During the early parts of the book, I found myself feeling a little disappointed that the actual romance between Edward and Bella seemed to be fairly low-key, instead of the intense experience it had been in Twilight or even the reunion portion of New Moon. I came to realize by the last fourth of the book that this was all part of the genius of Ms. Meyer's writing, and all played into the love triangle aspect of the story. I've adored Edward since the beginning of the series, but I have always liked Jacob too and gained a new appreciation for him in New Moon. After reading Eclipse, I discovered how much I truly cared for both characters, but Edward was still "the one" for me. Still, Edward and Jacob are two very different characters with very different personalities, so I can see how some fans may be bothered by the direction that the story took. I just very naturally followed Bella's line of thinking and what appeared to be the natural course of the story, so it never bugged me in that way. I will admit though, that especially toward the end this became a very emotion-laden plot which understandably caused a lot of pain and heartache for all three characters involved. While Eclipse still has plenty of tense scenes including a wonderful suspense subplot, it does take on a decidedly lighter and less angst-ridden tone than it's two predecessors. There were many moments where I found myself smiling or even laughing at some character's teasing or other antics. Overall, I think that Eclipse had more of an equal balance among all of it's elements, and was an excellent set-up for the finale.
It was wonderful having Edward, Bella, and Jacob all together on the canvas throughout the entire book. Edward, as always, is still the perfect gentleman. He is kind, sensitive, forgiving and understanding, and while he constantly reminds Bella that he is not the perfect creature she thinks him to be, his self-control and selflessness are near-perfect things of rare beauty. Bella has been a character whose actions and choices I don't always agree with, but somehow I am still able to understand her. For instance, I am a hopeless romantic, so the prospect of marriage to someone like Edward would not be a difficult choice for me to make. Bella, however, fights not only the idea of a beautiful wedding, but also the marriage itself as though it were the most distasteful thing in the world. Again, I think this is part of the genius behind the storytelling, as the author allows me to live my own perspective vicariously through other characters. Bella also seems to always be thinking of everyone else before herself, so I was pleased to see her grow enough by the end to realize that it's OK to do something because it was right for her instead of just right for her loved ones. I did find myself wishing throughout much of the book though that Bella would ease up on the self-flagellation. She constantly seems to think that every bad thing that happens is somehow her fault and that she is a bad person because of it, when that clearly isn't the case. I think out of all three of these characters, Jacob changed the most, not just physically but emotionally as well. He is still the best friend who seems to know Bella better than she knows herself, but he is also now a young man in love, who is not above manipulating to get what he wants. Sometimes he flat-out acts like a jerk and is never really the noble hero that Edward is, but again, I somehow managed to understand him even though I didn't always agree with his actions. I found the dynamics of these three character's interactions to be utterly fascinating to read.
As with the two previous books in the series, the secondary character palette was extensive and diverse. A great deal of character and plot development takes place surrounding certain supporting players. Readers get to learn about Rosalie's heartbreaking backstory, how she became a vampire, and why she doesn't want to be one and thinks Bella shouldn't be one either. We also get to learn of Jasper's background as he takes up a leadership role in the climactic battle to keep Bella alive. In addition, readers will discover the distinct differences between the Northern vampires and the Southern vampires of which Jasper used to be one. Alice shows her sweet but shamelessly manipulative side as she continues to be Bella's best female friend, and one of my favorite characters. Even after three books, I still find myself completely enthralled by her and Jasper's special psychic and empathic abilities respectively. Some surprising new werewolves are added to the pack, and the riveting legends of the werewolf origins are related at a Quileute council meeting. (I have been thoroughly enjoying the Native American element of these stories.) Eclipse also sees the return of Victoria, the dangerous female vampire from Twilight, as well as the menacing and powerful Volturi from New Moon. Basically, almost all of the characters from the first two stories can be found in Eclipse, vampire, werewolf, and human alike, with the addition of a few new players and the deepening of a few characters who were barely seen before.
I felt that the mature content of Eclipse increased a fair bit over its predecessors. Even though there are still no actual sex scenes, there is a good deal more passion and sexual tension present, as well as the added complication of the love triangle. There are several discussions involving the topic of sex, but as with the first two books, they are all couched in subtle terms. There is also a brief mention of a new character being the illegitimate half-brother of an existing character whose father apparently had an extra-marital affair. Eclipse also sees a rise in the violence level. Due to the books being written in first-person perspective, Bella never personally saw any of the violent episodes in the past books, but in Eclipse, she bears witness first-hand to the destruction of vampires which is not a pretty sight. There are also some brutal events related through storytelling, including a gang rape and revenge for that act, but the character relating the events stops before any graphic details are revealed. In addition, there is continued racial tensions between the vampires and werewolves, including derogatory name-calling, but they are at least able to be reasonably civil. In my opinion, none of these things are worse than a PG-13 movie, so whether they would bother a reader would probably depend solely on the individual's sensitivity and imagination level. I also feel that there is a very good balance of positive messages for young people, such as self-sacrifice, self-control in all areas of life, abstinence from sex until marriage, respect for others, and simply trying to be the best person you possibly can be despite your circumstances. I have felt since beginning the series that there is a very strong morality tale embedded with all the other elements in these books. Keeping all this in mind, I would have to say that Eclipse along with it's companions are still fully appropriate for the teenagers for which they were originally intended, while still containing enough depth and nuance to stimulate some very thought-provoking discussion starters for both parents and educators.
In conclusion, I have to say that Stephenie Meyer is a huge asset to the writing community, and neither her talents nor the Twilight series have, in my opinion, been over-hyped by those who have favorably reviewed these books before me. Any author who can take characters that are very different from myself and make me like them anyway, or can address subject matter that would typically be uncomfortable enough to make me not want to read any book I knew contained it but make me like it anyway, has a true gift for the written word. In addition, any author who can write what was intended to be a novel for teenagers and have this adult and many others begging for more definitely has talent, because in my experience, it takes a very special knack for any writer to create a work that can be enjoyed by young and old alike. Eclipse has officially earned a place on my keeper shelf right next to Twilight and New Moon. I am very glad that I didn't discover the Twilight series until the final book was about to be released, otherwise the wait would have been excruciating. I am very anxious to read the final installment, Breaking Dawn, to find out how this romantic saga ends, although I have a feeling that I will have a difficult time letting these beloved characters go once I do. As with many other fans, I am eagerly awaiting the release of the Twilight movie in theaters later this month, so if it is done well, perhaps the films will become the vehicle for my newfound obsession.;-)
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