Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Book Review: Eclipse

            When we last left the world of the Twilight saga, things were looking rather bad for 18-year-old Bella Swan and her vampire lover, Edward Cullen.  Not only was the nomad vampire, Victoria, bent on getting revenge on Edward for the death of her mate, James, by killing Bella in return, but the Volturi, the ruling class of vampires, have also decreed that Bella must either die or become a vampire herself on account of her knowing too much about the vampire world.  To top it off, the delicate treaty-bound peace between the Cullens and the Quileute werewolf pack is hanging by a fraying thread, and a war between the two families is seemingly imminent.
             As Eclipse, the third novel in the Twilight saga, begins, Edward and Bella have almost picked up where they left off before Edward’s failed attempt at protecting Bella by leaving in New Moon, but with one difference.  Prior to Edward leaving Forks, Bella hadn’t developed her friendship with the Quileute werewolf, Jacob Black, and now that Edward has returned, Bella now finds herself in the difficult situation of sharing a connection with vampires and werewolves, two species whom nature decreed to be eternal enemies. 
Edward, likewise, has great difficulty in allowing Bella to visit Jacob, due in part to his protectiveness of Bella and his fear of the Quileute werewolves’ allegedly volatile nature, as well as his insecurity with the fact that Jacob also harbors romantic feelings for Bella.  For a while, he tries to prevent Bella from seeing Jacob, by either disabling her car or having his sister, Alice, hold Bella ‘hostage’ while he is away hunting.  However, after Bella manages to slip away to La Push not once, but twice, Edward becomes willing to compromise, and allows Bella to visit Jacob occasionally, on the condition that she carries a cell phone with her at all times, so she’ll be able to call him if anything happens.
Meanwhile, the city of Seattle is being plagued by an extensive series of violent, unsolved murders.  While the newspapers and police blame the murders on gang activity and eventually a serial killer, the Cullens are able to discern enough to conclude the truth, and recognize that the murders are really being caused by newborn vampires.  As the human deaths escalate, indicating a staggering increase in the number of newborns in Seattle, Jasper realizes that someone is actually trying to create an army of newborn vampires.  While there are various speculations as to who is creating the newborn army, no one is able to agree on a culprit. While this is going on, the Cullens are faced with a second mystery when an unknown vampire sneaks into Bella’s room while she is over at the Cullen’s home and steals some of her clothes.  It is Bella who eventually manages to link the two situations together, realizing that the vampire in her room had stolen her clothes to bring her scent to the newborn army, meaning she is their target.
Now, with the knowledge that the newborn army was created to target Bella, the Cullens know they must fight the newborn army to protect Bella and the entire town of Forks.  But since they are unable to call upon their allies from other vampire families and covens, and with the Volturi taking their own sweet time in stepping in and stopping the newborn army from running wild, they are faced with the inevitable and terrible conclusion that, due to the newborns outnumbering them, some members of the Cullen family would not survive the battle.  However, just when Alice receives a vision of the newborn army moving in to lay siege to Forks, Jacob and the rest of the Quileute werewolves step up, stating their willingness to set aside their natural feud and join forces with the Cullens to take out the newborn army together.
As the formerly-feuding families start working on their game plan, Edward, thanks to Alice’s visions and Bella’s tendency to talk in her sleep, realizes that Bella is planning to purposely place herself in harm’s way in the hopes that doing so would help the Cullens and the Quileute wolves fight the newborn army.  After a brief argument about the matter, Edward realizes that the only way Bella would willingly stay away from the battle is if Edward sits out of the fight to remain with her.  He agrees to this and promptly starts making arrangements.  It is decided that Edward and Bella will stay at a makeshift campsite up in the mountains, miles away from the designated battle site.  To ensure that none of the newborns would catch Bella’s scent trail and follow her, one of the Quileute wolves would accompany her in order to mask Bella’s scent.  (It’s stated more than once that vampires find the scent of the Quileute wolves repulsive, and vice versa.)
 On the day before the battle against the newborns, Alice arranges an alibi for Bella, by giving Charlie the false story that Bella will be having a slumber party with Alice while the rest of the Cullens go on one of their periodic camping trips.  In truth, Alice and most of the Cullens will be out hunting, to ensure they’re all at full-strength for the battle.  Edward, on the other hand, since he would be sitting out to remain with Bella during the battle, did not need to hunt.   Meaning that Alice has ensured that they will have the whole house to themselves that night.
By this point in the story, the events that have been occurring have forced Bella to truly think about what becoming a vampire would mean for her, and completely grasp what she would be giving up by entering into immortality.  While she’s no longer jumping blindly into her decision, she still wishes to become a vampire to remain at Edward’s side forever.  However, there is one human experience she is reluctant to sacrifice before giving up her human life, and she decides that this night alone with Edward would be the perfect time to undertake it.  While she and Edward are settling into their night alone, she attempts to iron out the details of the compromise he’d presented to her back in New Moon, when he said he’d turn her into a vampire if she married him first.  Bella tells Edward that she’ll agree to his terms on one condition: if he agrees to make love to her while she’s still human.  Edward initially balks at the idea, fearing that he would seriously hurt or even mortally injure Bella because of his vampire strength.  Bella soon gets him to agree that they’ll at least try, but Edward insists on waiting until after they’re married before consummating their relationship, on account of his turn-of-the-century moral code.
The next day, Edward and Bella make their way to their designated camp site, with Jacob stepping up as the Quileute wolf charged with masking Bella’s scent-trail.  After a whole mess of love triangle shenanigans that would take too long to explain happens, Jacob leaves to participate in the battle with the newborns, with Edward using his mind-reading ability to keep tabs on what’s happening.  However, in the middle of the battle, Edward realizes that Victoria has came across his own scent-trail and followed it, knowing that he would be where Bella was.  Thankfully, after a vicious battle, Edward comes out on top and defeats Victoria for good.
The final moments of the book are basically used to wrap things up.  Bella visits La Push for the final time to visit Jacob, who was injured while protecting a fellow pack member who got a bit too confident and foolhardy while trying to take down a stray newborn alone.  During her visit, she attempts to part ways with him on good terms, still wishing to stick with her original decision in joining the Cullen family.  The following day, she gives Alice the job of wedding coordinator, allowing her to oversee the plans for Edward and Bella’s upcoming wedding.  In the final pages, Bella is left trying to muster up enough courage to announce her marriage plans to Charlie.
Eclipse racks up some major points in my book for some long-awaited character development.  It is in this book that we are finally told the full back stories of Rosalie and Jasper.  Prior to this book, Rosalie was just this annoyingly vain character who spent almost all of her time either glaring at Bella or pretending she didn’t exist, and Jasper was the enigmatic vampire who seemingly stayed with the Cullens only because of his devotion to his beloved Alice.  Finally, readers are able to understand the reasons behind Rosalie’s bitterness and are even able to sympathize with her, and we also discover that Jasper is a battle-worn veteran who has never known peace and happiness before finding Alice and joining the Cullen family.
In addition, Eclipse was the book in which I gained a new appreciation for the relationship between Alice and Jasper.  The scene that made me a follower of this pairing occurred right after Alice has her vision of the newborn army arriving in Forks.  In the scene in question, Jacob demands to be let into the loop, and pretty much gets in her face about it.  Then, out of the blue, Jasper is right there, ready to defend Alice.  I have no idea why I enjoyed that scene so much, but the fact that Jasper appears out of nowhere to protect his mate just stuck with me.  To me, this spoke volumes of their relationship, and indicated that Jasper is always very aware of where Alice is, especially considering he can appear so suddenly the instant she is being accosted by a werewolf.  (Then again, it also might have been Jasper’s ability to feel the emotions of the people around him that alerted him to the confrontation, but even so…)  In any event, from that point on, my eyes were immediately drawn to every singe one of Alice and Jasper’s interactions, and they have became my absolute favorite secondary relationship in the Twilight saga.
            This book also gains honorable mention for introducing the concept of imprinting.  In the society of the Quileute werewolf pack, imprinting is a strange phenomenon that occurs to some of the wolves.  When a Quileute wolf first meets the object of their imprinting, that individual immediately becomes the focal point of their entire world.  In the scene when Jacob tries to explain this phenomenon to Bella, he alludes it to gravity no longer being what holds the Quileute wolf to the ground, but rather the object of their imprinting, and from that point on, nothing matters more to the Quileute wolf then the safety and happiness of the one they imprinted on. The Quileute wolf will willingly and gladly do whatever it takes to ensure that safety and happiness.  This phenomenon can result in the formation of an unbreakable romantic bond that is not too dissimilar to the bond between vampires and their mates (such as is the case with Sam and his fiancée, Emily) or becoming a completely devoted nanny/older sibling to a child (such as the Quileute wolf, Quill and two-year-old Claire.)  This concept of imprinting proves to be extremely vital as the Twilight saga progresses, but I’ll cover that in my next review.
Eclipse also provides a proper introduction of my favorite character outside of the Cullen clan in the saga, Seth Clearwater.  In this book, Seth has officially joined the Quileute werewolf pack, becoming one of the youngest wolves in the pack.  (I say one of the youngest because there are two other wolves, Collin and Brady, who are implied to be rather young themselves.  But since Collin and Brady are only mentioned in passing occasionally and they never actually do anything at all, they are simply nothing more than placeholder characters, and there is very little I can say about them.)  Anyway, I personally find Seth to be a very likable character, despite the fact that he only appears in human form one time in this book, when Bella accompanies Jacob to a Quileute bonfire party where she and the entire Quileute wolf pack are told various tribal legends based on the Quileute wolf packs of the past, starting with how the ancient Quileutes first gained the ability to become wolves and continuing up to the wolf pack’s first encounter with the Cullens back in the mid-1930s.  However, Seth ends up playing a very important role in the book’s climax, and even though he spends the duration of said climax in his wolf form, you still are able to appreciate his personality as a human. And in the final book in the Twilight saga, Breaking Dawn, I can’t see how anyone wouldn’t be able to like Seth even more.  Obviously, I’ll discuss that in more detail when I review Breaking Dawn.
In addition to Seth, Eclipse also sheds a bit more light on his older sister, Leah, who, it turns out, also ended up joining the wolf pack.  This is apparently a big thing in La Push’s secret society, because prior to Leah joining the pack, it was firmly believed that only males could become wolves.  Leah’s claim to fame isn’t just being the only known female wolf in existence, however.  It turns out that some time before the Twilight saga began, she was romantically involved with the Quileute werewolf pack’s Alpha, Sam, but that all changed when Sam underwent the above-mentioned phenomenon of imprinting, with Leah’s cousin, Emily, being the object of Sam’s imprinting.  Thus, not only does Leah have to deal with being the only female wolf in a long line of solely male wolves, she also has to spend every day with her former boyfriend, who was forced to break her heart.  Understandably, Leah is left feeling rather bitter about the hand life has dealt her, and her frustrations often lead her to being purposely spiteful towards the other wolves in the pack, but it’s not until Breaking Dawn that we begin to truly understand her.
However, I didn’t completely enjoy this book.  For starters, the whole vampire/werewolf prejudice got old really fast, especially when it combined with the Edward/Bella/Jacob love triangle.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand that vampires and werewolves are born enemies, and that the love triangle had to be resolved after the conclusion of New Moon, but even so, that love triangle was the main focus of the first half of the book.  Never mind the innocent people dying in Seattle.  Never mind that Victoria’s still on the prowl, we have to focus on the whole vampire vs. werewolf/Edward vs. Jacob angle.  In the Drew Barrymore movie, Ever After, there was this one particular line: ‘What bothers you more, Stepmother?  That I am common or that I am competition?’  This line pretty much sums up the whole relationship between Edward and Jacob in Eclipse, only in this case, the line should be: ‘What bothers you more?  That I am your natural enemy or that I am competition?’  Personally, I think it’s a bit of both.  With Edward, he’s mostly worried about Bella seeing Jacob when she tries to go to La Push, using Jacob’s status as a werewolf as his excuse in preventing her from going, and yet, he never brings up the fact that La Push is home to an entire werewolf pack.  Instead, he simply is trying to keep her from seeing one particular werewolf.  Thus, his main issue here is most likely that Bella wants to see Jacob, who is evidently in love with Bella, too.  At the same time, he’s not exactly going out of his way to keep her away from people like Mike (who actually still tried to ask Bella out again while Edward was away ‘camping.’  Wow, that boy is persistent.)  As for Jacob, he sure goes out of his way to use every vampire-slur imaginable to talk trash about Edward.  Meanwhile, you don’t see anyone else in the wolf pack being so openly hostile to any of the Cullen clan   Thus, I’m pretty sure Jacob’s main malfunction about Bella being with Edward stems from the fact that he’s essentially a vampire bigot at this point in the saga.
Basically, I blame this book for that Team Edward/Team Jacob stuff that’s going on.  I really don’t know who started up that stupid team thing, but good grief, it’s really annoying.  It would be one thing if Bella wasn’t dating either one of them and was still single, but she is in an established relationship with Edward, and it’s pretty much implied again and again that vampires have only one predestined mate. (Refer to my New Moon review for my discussion on vampires and their predestined mates.)  So what gave anyone the idea that Bella, who was permanently bound to Edward though the unbreakable vampire/mate tie, would possibly be able to leave him for Jacob?  I simply cannot fathom it.  Thankfully, we had plenty of sweet, romantic scenes thrown in to help alleviate the pain brought about from the vampire vs. werewolf fueled love triangle, not to mention my rage brought about from the accursed team thing.  For example, the infamous ‘leg hitching scene’ after Bella returns from her second ‘unauthorized’ trip to La Push in chapter 8. 
Moving on, there was one point in Eclipse where I got so upset, I very nearly threw the book against the wall.  And from what I’ve read from other people’s reactions to the book on online message boards and discussion threads, I see I’m not the only one who got angry at this part.  For that reason, if you’ve already read the book, I’m quite sure you already know what part I’m talking about.  If not, allow me to refresh your memory.  At one point in the book, Jacob decides it would be a brilliant idea to declare his love for Bella, and then, without giving her a chance to refuse him, he forcibly kisses her.  While Jacob’s annoyingly unyielding confidence that he was in the right during this scene is rather irritating, I can almost overlook it, considering that he’s still a hormonally-challenged teenage boy, mentally speaking. (Even though that’s not really a valid excuse.  Key tip to any male/dominant female who might be reading this: ‘No’ means ‘no.’)  Actually, the thing that annoyed me the most about this part was how Bella’s father, Charlie, reacted when he heard about it.  What does he do when he finds out Jacob forcibly kissed his daughter without her permission?  He practically pats Jacob on the back!


           Really, Charlie?  Really?  This is your daughter, Chief Swan.  Your only child!  Yeah, I get that you don’t approve of Edward, and would like it more if Bella chose Jacob instead, but honestly!  If someone kisses your daughter without her consent, you are required, as a father, to side with your daughter and throw the kisser out of the house, and possibly threaten him with your gun, just for good measure.  Seriously, when I read this part, it felt as if Charlie would have cracked open the champagne if Jacob had sexually assaulted Bella.  By siding with Jacob, and practically scolding Bella when she continues to voice her fury with Jacob for the forced kiss, Charlie has not only violated all the time-honored unwritten laws of fatherhood, but he officially made me loose all respect for him.  Prior to this incident, I merely saw him as the dopey dad, and the worst criticism I had for him was ‘turn off the TV, put down the stupid fishing pole, and bond with your daughter while you still can.  But after this?  I’m sorry, Charlie, but I no longer have any sympathy for you, and there’s nothing you can ever do to get that sympathy back.  (I had to get that rant off my chest, and boy, does it feel good.)
            Before I end this review of Eclipse, I think I should say a few words about the Volturi.  In my New Moon review, I mentioned how the two books that followed it would shine a much harsher light on the Volturi as their true nature is slowly revealed, and Eclipse starts doing just that towards the end of the book.  As mentioned earlier, the Volturi seemed to be taking their time in dealing with the newborn army in Seattle.  At one point in Eclipse, it is theorized that perhaps the reason the Italian vampires hadn’t dealt with the problem right away is because they were possibly hoping that the newborn army would end up reducing the size of the Cullen family.  In the end, even though it is not stated straight out, it is implied that Edward, due to his mind-reading gift, has discovered that this theory was spot-on.  And while I’m not going to go into it too much just yet, that fact will be important in the final book in the Twilight saga, Breaking Dawn, which I intend to review quite soon.

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