Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined

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 | Breaking Dawn | The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined was written by Stephenie Meyer and first published in 2015. It is a special edition of Twilight that was published for the 10th Anniversary of the original book, retelling the story while flipping the genders of a majority of the cast. While the novel stands alone, you would probably appreciate it more if you are already familiar with the main series – Twilight (2005), New Moon (2006), Eclipse (2007), Breaking Dawn (2008) and The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner (2009).

As Beaufort Swan’s mother sets off travelling with her new husband, he has no choice but to move to Forks to stay with his father. At first, Beau isn’t too impressed with this change of scenery. Forks is wet and gloomy, and everyone else at school has know each other their whole lives. Even though Beau proves to be very popular with the girls, he soon finds that he is not interested in any of them. But that is before he notices Edythe Cullen.

Edythe is beautiful, mysterious and clearly wants to have nothing to do with him. Unfortunately, Beau is unable to get Edythe out of his mind. However, when Edythe saves Beau from being crushed by a car, he begins to realise that there is something different about her. As Beau grows closer to Edythe, he soon learns the truth. There is a reason why Edythe cannot stand to be close to him, and why she is mysteriously absent from school whenever they have a particularly sunny day.

As Beau and Edythe come to realise that their feelings for each other are more than just friendship, a new danger descends on Forks. When Beau becomes the target of a dangerous woman, Edythe and her family draw together to protect him. But will their combined strength be enough to defend Beau from such a powerful – and determined – foe…

Life and Death is a super-hard novel to review, but I did feel obliged to give this book a try to prepare myself for when Twilight’s direct prequel, Midnight Sun, is released next month. The biggest problem with this book is that it just felt utterly pointless. In her forward to the novel, Meyer explains that her inspiration was to prove that Bella Swan was not just a damsel in distress, but I still don’t really think that there is a reason for this novel to have been published beyond making money.

Despite some criticisms of Life and Death that claim the contrary, this novel is more than a straight name-swap. While a lot of the most famous quotations remain unaltered, comparing this book to the original quickly reveals that Life and Death is the more refined piece. It is clear that Meyer has taken the opportunity to revisit her earlier work, allowing her the chance to edit certain passages and introduce key concepts such as the Volturi a lot earlier. However, despite this, my biggest issue with Life and Death is that it is not different enough.

On a basic level, I do agree with Meyer that a gender swap should not change Bella and Edward’s story. There is no true reason why Twilight needs to be the tale of a human girl and a vampire boy. Either way, Bella/Beau is a fragile human amongst a family of superheroes. Yet, despite this, I would have expected such a fundamental change to have altered the trajectory of the story more. While there are small differences in the way that Edythe and Beau interact with each other, their dialogue and personalities remain entirely unchanged. Some small situations have been adapted to better suit a male protagonist, such as the assault in Port Angeles, but the story here is basically the same as the original.

Due to this, Life and Death is not mould-breaking. I don’t consider it to be a reimagining at all, it’s more of a retelling of the original story. Due to this, it has all of the same issues that I noted when I reviewed Twilight back in the early days of this blog. It’s over-long and slow-burning. Edythe is still a possessive creep, and the human characters are portrayed as being vapid and uninteresting. As with the original, the novel is incredibly dialogue-heavy and there is no real excitement to be found until the last fifty pages or so. This is the point where Beau is targeted by a rival vampire (Joss, this time rather than James), and the novel suddenly becomes enthralling.

The only real point of interest in Life and Death is its ending. Without spoiling too much here, I will note that Meyer has completely changed the way in which this novel ends, creating a kind of Sliding Doors effect that drastically alters the pace of Beau and Edythe’s relationship. This led into a curious little epilogue that was entirely new material. It was the one thing about Life and Death that made me want to read more. Although Meyer has largely indicated that this novel is a one-shot, I would have been curious to see what would have come out of a sequel. The new climax is certainly game-changing.

The characters of Life and Death, however, were largely a disappointment. While it was interesting to see how the gender-flip changed some of the vampires’ backstories (Royal/Rosalie’s in particular), most of the changes made by this novel are pretty superficial. Beau and Edythe’s personalities remain largely unaltered, as do most of the supporting characters who seem to be different in name only.

The only real surprising exception to this was Charlie. Meyer decided to keep Charlie and Renee’s genders as they were because she felt that it was unrealistic for a man in the 1980s to gain custody of his child. I must admit that it surprises me that, in a story about vampires and werewolves, this was the thing that the author found to be unrealistic. Not only was it strange not to swap up this one detail, it would have been interesting to see if Beau reconnecting with his estranged mother would have given Life and Death a different feel.

Yet, for all my gripes about character, the thing that most interested me about the gender swap was how this altered the nature of the Volturi. While their new composition was not explained until very late in the tale, this was actually very interesting. It gave the Brides far more power than they had ever wielded in Twilight and it was a shame that they never get to appear in the novel in person. This would have been a great thing to explore in an alternate version of New Moon!

I think that covers everything. All in all, I wasn’t overly impressed by Life and Death. While Twilight fans might find it amusing, I personally felt that it was pointless if you have already read the original. Yet, I am glad that I picked this up for completeness sake. Now I feel ready to tackle Midnight Sun when it is released next month!

Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book from Amazon.co.uk

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