Edward and Bella's grand romance resumes only to be interrupted by an unexpected event. Once again, Bella find her life in danger, but this time the threat comes from someone she loves, and to vanquish it would mean destroying a part of herself. Both Edward and Jacob will stop at nothing to protect the woman they both love, but even if Bella can survive this ordeal, all may be lost. Alice's visions have shown a bleak and frightening picture of forthcoming events, which may mean nothing short of fighting a war that could bring death to them all in order to save the future of both the vampire and werewolf races.
In my opinion, Breaking Dawn was a wonderful finale to an already great book series. I laughed out loud at the humor, I cried for Edward's and Jacob's pain, I felt joy and sadness, contentment and fear, as this book took me on a roller-coaster ride of emotions. Breaking Dawn answered all of the burning questions that had been left from the previous books: Would Edward and Bella finally marry and have their happily-ever-after ending? Would Bella be turned into a vampire? Would Jacob find a happy ending even though he couldn't seem to let Bella go? Would the Volturi, who covet Edward's and Alice's powers find a reason to come after them? The answers to all these questions and more I hadn't even thought of came together to create a romantic, tense and action-packed final volume in the Twilight Saga. I was very pleased with the tight plotting, and I'm happy to say that I found no holes of any kind. Every loose thread that I thought needed to be addressed found a resolution before the end of the book. Admittedly, there were several events that I correctly predicted would happen, but it did not detract from my enjoyment of the story in the least. There was enough variety in the details to keep me on my toes, and there was one particular event involving Jacob which completely but pleasantly caught me by surprise. In addition, the author effectively kept me guessing between two potential scenarios for the climactic ending. While a part of me was itching for the one possibility to occur, I realized that it probably would not lead to a truly happy ending, so the way that it did wrap up was very satisfying to me. I also don't think I could have asked for a better final scene between Edward and Bella. It was something I had been wishing for all along.
Breaking Dawn had an interesting twist, in that it is written in three different sections. "Book One" is all about the romance, "Book Two," at times, harbors enough pain and angst to rival New Moon, and "Book Three" takes a brief breather to allow everyone, including the reader, to experience some joy and happiness, before turning into a taut suspense thriller. "Books One & Three" are written from Bella's point of view just like all the other books in the series, but "Book Two" is written from Jacob's perspective like the epilogue of Eclipse. Not only was this a necessary device to propel the plot along, but I also found it to be quite appealing to get inside another lead character's head. Jacob certainly has a different way of looking at things, and it gives the reader a chance to get to know him a little better. Also, the titles of Jacob's chapters stand out in stark contrast to those in Bella's voice. Sometimes they were on the serious side, but the vast majority of them had me laughing out loud. In the end, it almost felt like three separate stories were being told.
Just as with Eclipse, the three main characters, Edward, Bella and Jacob are once again on the canvas together engaging in some very fascinating relationship dynamics. Edward continues to be the same caring, gentle soul that he's been throughout the series, and the one I tend to relate to the most. He did, however, make a couple of surprising decisions, which at the time made his perfection start to tarnish for me just a little, but ultimately I understood that they were born out of utter desperation. Up to this point, Ms. Meyer has done a wonderful job with making Edward's thoughts and feelings known through dialog and other means, but there were a few moments in this book where I really craved more insights. Even though I still felt that I understood him, at times, I found myself wishing to be a mind-reader myself. Bella is the character who I felt changed the most. Many times in the previous volumes, I had a little difficulty relating to her, but in this book, I found myself understanding her in a much deeper way. She matured very quickly and her choices in Breaking Dawn made a lot more sense to me than they had before. She also eased up a bit on the self-blame. On the downside though, I think her level of pessimism reached new highs, and she still has a very hard time seeing herself as the special person that Edward and everyone else sees. The trio is rounded out by Jacob, who in many ways is merely a normal, jealous teenager, of course with the caveat of his supernatural ability. After his sometimes inappropriate behavior in Eclipse, I was able to find a new respect for, and understanding of, his character in Breaking Dawn. He really came through as a friend to the end. I truly enjoyed reading all three characters and seeing how their lives and destinies are intertwined.
The secondary character palette in Breaking Dawn is teeming with new characters, including a wonderful addition to the Cullen family who has some very special abilities. All of the characters from the previous books are present with some new insights being added to a few of them, particularly Seth and Leah. Rosalie also plays a bigger role in this book. Even though she has never been a big fan of Bella in the past, she really steps up to the plate to defend Bella in her own brusque but rather heartwarming way, while her biting banter with Jacob was absolutely hilarious. Readers also get to meet some characters like the Denali coven who were mentioned before, but never actually played an active role. The Volturi return with some new members in their ranks, and a host of Carlisle's vampire friends surface, some of whom possess amazing powers. In fact, there are so many, that a brief index is provided at the end of the book to keep them all straight. All in all, Breaking Dawn was a very richly populated story with many widely varying personages.
I really felt that the maturity level of the series increased quite a bit in Breaking Dawn, with the characters finding themselves in much more "grown-up" situations. There are some love scenes in the book, and while they all end in cut scenes and nothing is played out explicitly, the before and after dialog implies very clearly what was happening in between, just in a very tastefully sensuous way. As with the previous books, there are only a handful of mild profanities, but there is the addition of a few lightly crude sexual innuendos. I also felt there was a significant increase in the blood and gore, although I didn't think anything was particularly gratuitous or out of context for the circumstances. In my opinion, the book is still suitable for older teens, but I would caution parental guidance of younger readers for whom some material may be disturbing and/or inappropriate.
Update: Upon re-reading the books a decade later, I thought I should update my final paragraph by saying that although I'm sure pirate sites (which I refuse to use for legal and ethical reasons) probably have it, the Midnight Sun excerpt no longer appears to be available anywhere in any official capacity. Also, while I might have been left wishing for more stories about the Cullens, this far into the future, it seems highly unlikely that I'll get my wish. Also, The Twilight Saga: The Official Guide is now available, as is Life and Death, a gender-swap reimagining of Twilight that was released for its tenth anniversary. This may end up being the only Twilight-related book that I don't read. After reading a few reviews, I can't say that I'm terribly excited about it, and I would have much preferred something original -- like some of those stories I was talking about or a completion of Midnight Sun -- to celebrate the anniversary. Also, I have watched the movies several times and enjoyed them immensely.
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