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Books 61-62: The Vampire Diaries Books 3-5

Book 61: The Vampire Diaries (Vol2: The Fury and The Reunion) .
Author: L.J. Smith, 1991/92.
Genre: Paranormal Romance. Vampires. YA
Other Details: Paperback. 410 pages. Unabridged Audio, read by Rebecca Mozo. Book 3: 6 hours, 3 mins, Book 4: 7 hours, 2 mins.

My audio books in the car for April and May have been more of The Vampire Diaries, though as before I combined listening with reading from the paperbacks. I can't say too much about the plot of either of these books without massive spoilers for earlier ones in the series, so I'll be vague. The Fury in many ways brings the original trilogy to a natural conclusion with Elena, her school friends and the feuding vampire brothers, Stefan and Damon, finally confronting the evil that has been threatening Fell's Church.

According to her blog it was pressure from readers that caused her to write The Dark Reunion (just called The Reunion in my edition) the following year. While I can understand how enthusiastic readers might want more, I'm not sure it was a wise decision as certain plot elements felt rather weak. I did welcome the greater role played by Bonnie and Meredith in this outing as a new evil decides to inflict its attention on Fell's Church. I also appreciated Damon and Matt paying more attention to Bonnie though it was pretty obvious that Elena Gilbert, teen queen of the Robert Lee High, wasn't about to tolerate another female character getting that kind of attention!

Still I enjoyed both of these in their own terms. I remained pleased that L. J. Smith has received the acknowledgement that she had been writing YA vampire angsty romance long before Stephenie Meyer and others were on the scene.

Book 62: The Vampire Diaries: The Return - Nightfall.
Author: L.J. Smith, 2009.
Genre: Paranormal Romance. Vampires. YA
Other Details: Paperback. 471. Unabridged Audio, read by Rebecca Mozo. Length: 14 hours, 7 mins.

However, then there is The Return, a new trilogy featuring these same characters that was first announced in 1998 though took until 2009 for the first part, Nightfall, to appear in print.

Oh Lisa Jane! - where do I begin? First off, again it is hard to say much about the plot apart from the paraphrasing from the back cover of my edition which advises that when Stefan is lured away from Fell's Church it gives Damon the chance to work on convincing Elena that he's the vampire brother for her. Plus, yet again something evil has decided to make Fell's Church its playground. The poor town just doesn't seem to get a break.

In many ways this book is just a mess. Smith seems to have forgotten that only a short period of time has gone by since the end of Dark Reunion. It is still the summer holidays in 1992 - or is it? Has some timey-wimey element entered the picture or did Smith and/or her publishers figure that no modern teen could relate to a world without all the latest technology? Aside from a number of anachronisms involving technology, the time issue is most blatant when Elena says to a temporally-challenged Damon: "Damon ... It's the twenty-first century now." Umm, no, it's not. It amazes me that they thought readers wouldn't notice.

The earlier books had a fairly crisp writing style but Smith seems to have taken lessons from Ms. Meyer in terms of padding out the story with overblown descriptions. While Meyer has Bella Swann telling us over and over about the beauty of Edward Cullen, Smith waxes lyrical about the lovely Elena. Hence the book is considerably longer than the earlier ones in the series. This tendency is very notable in action sequences, where the level of description makes it seem like the action is taking place in slow motion, dissipating pretty much all of the tension.

Then there is Elena herself. In the first book she had the makings of being an insufferable diva, who expected the universe to revolve around her. Still her experiences in the first trilogy seemed to mature her. Here she returns with a range of special powers that not only propel her into Mary-Sue territory but seem more fitting to a character from Sailor Moon. Indeed, that Smith appears to have become enamoured of animé and J-horror is evident throughout the book, including her bringing a pair of Japanese fox demons into the Virginia woods as the new Big Bad. They sulk a lot and in the audio version are voiced in cutsie-voices that proved more annoying than sinister.

Added to the new powers and the repetitive descriptions of her beauty, the responses of other characters swing the novel into total Elena-centricness. It seems that aside from Stefan and Damon, poor old Matt cannot move on and in one scene of extreme angstation decides that without Elena in his life, there is no colour in the world. Bonnie and Meredith also get very emotional over the idea of Elena moving away with Stefan and again this gives the impression that Elena is the sole focus of their existences. I wanted to give them both a really good talking to. Even the new evil in town is obsessed with possessing Elena.

Early on in the book Caroline Forbes, a former member of Elena's circle at school, does have a rant about Elena and how annoying it is that everyone dances attendance on her. I really felt sympathy for her situation and could appreciate that she didn't want to define herself as worshipper at the shrine of Queen Elena. However, she paid dearly for these feelings as they were a sure indication that she going over to the dark side.

There also is a rather strange attitude towards sexuality which includes some scenes that are fairly disturbing when a number of pre-teen girls in town start acting in a highly sexualised manner. There is also a scene that could have been taken right out of The Evil Dead. Rather than dark and edgy, this aspect just felt creepy and exploitative. Then there are parts which are laughable in their coyness, such as Damon deciding to make a Matt/Elena porno to torment Stefan and the height of this decadence was forcing Elena and Matt to kiss!!! /end of rant.

I could go on and on about the bonkers plot and weird characterisations in this book but I think I've made my point. Despite all this, I didn't throw the book across the room or rip the CD from my car player. I attribute this to having grown quite fond of the characters via the early books and the TV series and I want to know how the story plays out. I also appreciated the way in which Smith used the woods around Fell's Church in such a chilling way and the greater role for Damon.
Tags: paranormal, vampires, witchcraft, young adult
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