Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Breaking Dawn

by Stephenie Meyer


There comes a point at the end of every saga when the author has to decide to bow to the inevitable and give her readers an ending, or else string it out into one of those never-ending series that never seems to get to the point. We've already had three books of Bella Swan's romantic indecision, social nervousness and chronic guilt by the time we get to Breaking Dawn. It's time to get it over with and fang her up.

It feels like Stephenie Meyer can't bear to let her characters go as she drags Bella through the scarcely-endurable ordeal of her own posh wedding. Our heroine is completely passive as she puts up with flowers, cake, polite wedding guests, and a really nice dress. Basically she's getting everything handed to her on a plate and she still finds reasons to gripe about it. Not always the most sympathetic of main characters, Bella is at her most whiny and least likeable just before her wedding.

The honeymoon is another case of a dream setting which the participants can't bring themselves to enjoy. Bella is still human, but she's married so giving in to temptation is on the menu. But don't expect any blow-by-blow accounts: in all 700 pages of this novel there's no explicit sex, no matter how much is going on off the page.

So Bella and Edward are looking forward to an eternity of immortal wedded bliss, but just before they can settle into it something unexpected happens. Which is to say something they didn't expect, but which any fool could have guessed: having been thwarted in the last three books, Bella finds yet another excuse to lay down her life in the name of love.

Fortunately the middle of the book switches viewpoints to the infinitely livelier and more refreshing Jacob Black. Jacob's disposition is the polar opposite of Bella's, and it's hard to understand what he ever saw in the highly-strung and overly serious born martyr. But he still loves her, and he'll do what he can to protect her in the face of wolf pack politics, her own craziness, and anything else that comes her way. He does this even though he's lost her to Edward and a future of vampirism, even if it's the self-denying "vegetarian" kind. Jacob's voice is a welcome contrast to Bella's, and he's often funny. However it irritated me that the two leading men in this story act too much like chivalrous ideals: they never seem to have second thoughts about Bella, and never consider picking someone a bit less high-maintenance. That, more than the supernatural glamour of long lives and superpowers, is the pure fantasy I had most trouble believing in. I think it's very rare for men to think that way outside of women's imaginations. It didn't ring true for me, which is why Edward and Jacob seem less than human and more like robots sometimes.

The pacing is quite uneven. There's almost a third of the book to go when the story hits a lull and it looks like Bella will get everything she wants and things will turn out peachy. She's still a drama queen though, and not the kind of character I would have singled out as most deserving of eternal life, so this bit is a touch sickly-sweet. So there's a slackening of tension in this part of the book. Then, just when we start to suspect the author has lost the plot, a vast crisis blows up and both vampires and werewolves have to rally their forces for a heroic last stand. It means the ending has plenty of excitement. However it's a long time coming, and not all of the pages that lead up to this finale are as riveting as the ending.

In particular, Bella's stubborn determination to sacrifice herself and Edward and Jacob's heroic purity were starting to wear thin, so by the end I was starting to feel indifferent about whether they won or lost. Breaking Dawn comes close to being a corking story, but it misses its mark because so many of its main characters, from the saintly Cullens to the intense Quileute pack, are too predictably honourable to seem real.

14th December 2011

Book Details

Year: 2008

Categories: Books


If you like this, try:

Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part Two cover    

Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part Two by Bill Condon
Bella and Edward fight for their family against ancient vampires who will destroy those they declare to be abominations.

Twilight cover    

Twilight by Catherine Hardwicke
Bella Swan is worried about being the new girl in school. But making friends turns out to be the least of her problems when she falls for a vampire.

Eclipse cover    

Eclipse by David Slade
Vampires come to Seattle and the Cullens must work with their natural enemies to counter the threat.

3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Stephenie Meyer