Breaking Dawn

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels here:

Twilight | New Moon | Eclipse | The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

Breaking Dawn was written by Stephenie Meyer and first published in 2008. It is the fourth and final part of The Twilight Saga, focusing on Bella and Edward’s early life as a married couple. The novel follows on directly from where Twilight (2005), New Moon (2006) and Eclipse (2007) left off, so I would recommend reading them in sequence to fully appreciate them. The series also includes a couple of spin-off stories – The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner (2009), which told the tragic tale of a minor character from Eclipse, and Life & Death (2015), a gender-flipped retelling of Twilight. A prequel novel titled Midnight Sun is due for release later this year.

Bella Swan has almost got everything that she ever dreamed of. She has graduated from High School and is engaged to be wed to her soul mate, the vampire Edward Cullen. A date has also been set for her transformation, meaning that soon she will also leave her humanity behind and truly become a member of the Cullen family. Bella could not be happier, but that is until the honeymoon.

After Bella and Edward final risk becoming intimate, she is shocked to find herself pregnant. This is not something that anyone ever imagined could be possible, as no human had ever survived mating with a vampire before. Worse still, her pregnancy is progressing rapidly and Carlisle fears that it could cost her life. Still, Bella is determined to see it through and bear their child. She strongly believes that her beloved’s venom could save her from death in childbirth.

Yet, Bella and Edward’s biggest problems arise after their daughter is born. When another vampire catches sight of her and assumes that she is an Immortal Child – an illegal child vampire – she is quick to inform the Volturi of the Cullens’ crimes. Knowing that the penalty for creating an Immortal Child is death, the Cullens gather their friends from around the world to prove Bella’s innocence. But will that be enough to convince the ancient vampire royalty if they are determined to start a war against the Cullen clan?

If you’ve read my earlier Twilight reviews, you’ll probably recall that it’s not my favourite. It’s taken me a good long while to pluck up the motivation to read this final instalment, but I must admit that it is one of the better parts of this series. While I feel that some of my enjoyment of this book is pure amusement value (did you know, for example, that vampires have poisonous eyeballs that can dissolve contact lenses?), there is no denying that it is a much more engaging novel than New Moon or Eclipse, building on all that they have set up to create a dramatic send-off for the Cullens.

My biggest issue with Breaking Dawn is its sheer length. At exactly 700 pages, it is far longer than any other instalment to date. Sadly, this did really cause it to lag in places. There is only one chapter of the novel that contained a time-skip which jumped forward more than a couple of hours. Ever other chapter just gave a blow-by-blow account of everything that Bella (and, briefly, Jacob) was doing.

To be fair, there were parts of the novel that were very intense. The opening of the story, which featured Bella’s problematic pregnancy, was very exciting. Similarly the final 50 pages, in which the Cullens and their allies finally faced the Volturi, were also a brilliant exercise in tension. My problem was everything between these two points. The middle section of the novel was where I struggled. For about 300 pages, Bella does little more than sit around the Cullen house, alternating between passionately loving Edward and introducing Renesmee to new characters. This quickly became repetitive and felt a bit of a slog to get through.

Yet there were things that I actually really liked about Breaking Dawn. Jacob’s chapters, once he finally got past his constant vampire-bashing, displayed an insight into the werewolf pack dynamic that Meyer had never shown before. This provided a surprising amount of character growth for both him and Leah, strengthening their bond and giving a clear indication of how imprinting actually worked. The build up towards the Volturi’s arrival was also fascinating, as the novel did a great job of building their notoriety by showing the way that other vampires viewed them. Even Renesmee’s birth was morbidly fascinating, despite the fact that it contained more gore than I ever expected to find in a Twilight novel!

However, the ending of Breaking Dawn was almost sickening. This book doesn’t just have a happy ending. It has a universally happy ending. Everyone gets absolutely everything that they want and no one is left suffering. While I am certain that this will appeal to some readers, I just found it to be utterly nauseating. After so much build up to the final battle against the Volturi, and so much foreshadowing about how deadly the fight would become, it was just underwhelming for this event to pass without bloodshed. It was almost as bitterly disappointing as the unseen battle between werewolves and vampires at the end of Eclipse.

And then there were the characters. There are a lot of new vampires introduced in Breaking Dawn, but we are never really given the time to get to know them. As the many other vampire clans arrive within the last 200 pages of the novel, the individual characters don’t really get a lot of time to shine. While one or two are significant, most just fade into the background and barely allow their voices to be heard.

The only new character of note was Renesmee, and I also found her to be incredibly problematic. Although her body ages rapidly, appearing to be a child within three months, it’s the way her mind ages that gives me pause. Not only do all who see Renesmee fall instantly in love with her, but she proves to be more articulate and intelligent than most adults at only 3 months old. The only reason given for this is that vampire minds are superior to those of humans, which felt a bit weak. Added to this was the ethical grey area of Jacob’s imprinting. Renesmee, it seems, will not be allowed to choose her future mate and will be physically the same age as Jacob in under seven years. This just all felt incredibly creepy. While I am certain that other readers will see a positive side to this, it just made me deeply uncomfortable.

Bella is also still a problematic character, as I do feel as though she exists to suffer. The fact that Edward, Jacob and even Alice seem to be reluctant to allow her to make any decisions has always been frustrating, but this gets worse still over the first two-thirds of this novel. Even as the Volturi approach, Edward will not allow Bella to learn how to fight due to his ultra-protective nature, and the less said about his feelings towards Bella’s pregnancy the better. While Jacob is a bit more supportive, his behaviour concerning Charlie and possessiveness over Renesmee also quickly became tiresome.

Finally, I also found it a bit frustrating how the human characters were side-lined in this story. While Meyer has always portrayed these characters as being far less interesting than vampires, most of the humans – including Bella’s mother – disappear from the plot after the wedding and are never seen again. The only major character who hangs around is Charlie, who does get a couple of nice scenes with Bella, but even he bows out of the plot as soon as the Volturi enter proceedings.

So, all in all, Breaking Dawn was one of the more enjoyable Twilight books, but is still not an especially good novel in its own right. If you enjoyed the previous instalments, it’s definitely worth a read just to tie up the loose ends. Otherwise, I would strongly recommend giving this book a miss.

Breaking Dawn can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook & Audio Book from Amazon.co.uk

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined | Arkham Reviews

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