The Story: [from GoodReads]
As Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings and a malicious vampire continues her quest for revenge, Bella once again finds herself surrounded by danger. In the midst of it all, she is forced to choose between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob – knowing that her decision has the potential to ignite the ageless struggle between vampire and werewolf. With her graduation quickly approaching, Bella has one more decision to make: life or death. But which is which?
My Take: As I reach the halfway point in reviewing the Twilight saga, I come to the toughest nut to crack in the YA paranormal/romance quartet. I say Eclipse is tough because while I felt this novel actually had some semblance of a plot (unlike its predecessors), I found it to be sorely lacking and was downright troublesome at times.
Once more, I think the setting is well-established and described. Once more, Jacob is a better-developed character than Edward and some of the secondary characters (who for me tend to be more interesting) get a chance to shine. But I have fewer good things to say about Eclipse though I can’t say I abjectly hated it.
As always, I’ll dish about the good stuff first. As stated above, some of the secondary characters, who I always viewed as far more interesting than the principal players, are given their backstories here, namely Jasper and Rosalie. Both of their stories are heartbreaking but Rosalie’s is particularly so. To the secondary characters’ credit, they don’t seem to be tropes and are unique individuals. At times, I found myself wishing the series had been about them rather than an insipid “romance,” which is what this novel is reduced to.
Another good point in its favor is that Eclipse possesses the closest thing to a plot thus far as it (for a time) hinges on a string of murders in Seattle and the surrounding areas that point to vampire activity, chiefly from one character introduced in Twilight who is creating and leading an army of newborn vampires. This presents some much-needed tension and adds a sense of mystery to the story in terms of discovering who is doing the killing and why.
That being said, it was the ‘why’ that threw me. Without revealing spoilers, we learn that these killings are committed to pave the way for a character to exact revenge upon Bella. But why go through all the trouble in amassing a body count and “followers” just to hunt down one Human teenage girl? That seemed a bit excessive to me, not to mention that the person in question doesn’t really need an army (unless it’s under the assumption that Bella will be protected, hence there has to be some means of breaking through her defenses). But still, while the killer’s motive made sense, the killer’s measures didn’t, at least not to me.
In truth, those are the only redeeming facets for me as Eclipse, despite its length, is a fluffy read with nothing to savor or encourage you to keep reading. I struggled to get through this book for that very reason as it just seems to go on and on with the chief focus being the Bella-Edward-Jacob “love” drama, which goes from being eye-rollingly contrived to highly questionable.
While Twilight and New Moon dabbled in some dubious relationship dynamics, Eclipse dives right in. For starters, both Jacob and Edward have serious issues that caused me to dislike them. (No worries – I’ll get to Bella in a minute as she’s not an innocent party here.) While early on, Edward simply seemed overly-protective of Bella, in this novel he is outright manipulative. He tells her how her future is going to be (such as what colleges to fake applying to), that she shouldn’t be friends with Jacob, etc.
This type of controlling nature would be a red flag in the real world yet here it’s played off as…I don’t know, cute? But I didn’t find it to be cute; in fact, it was kind of disturbing. But not any more so than Jacob’s actions here. I liked Jacob as a character in New Moon albeit I felt he could have done or said more to counter Bella for treating him as just a fill-in friend in Edward’s absence. But here, Jacob tries to move Bella’s hand in who to choose, even to the point of physically forcing a kiss on her.
In my mind, while Edward is more calculated in how he tries to control Bella, Jacob is more open about it. But his biggest tactic in trying to force Bella’s hand here is when he agrees to fight the newborn vampire army, not to protect Bella but to get himself killed...
so that (I suppose) either (a). Bella will feel sorry for him, tell him not to do that, and run into his arms, or (b). because a life without Bella Swan is a life not worth living (I guess).
In either case, we have a serious problem (or at least I did) because Choice A. is a manipulation tactic, not a show of genuine, sacrificial love, and Choice B. is just plain nuts. I suppose if Bella’s theme song is “Oops! I Did it Again” by Britney Spears (see my New Moon review), Jacob’s would be “Grenade” by Bruno Mars because he’s willing to get himself hurt/killed for a women who treats him like dirt.
This ruined Jacob’s character for me here, and while I still think he makes for a more interesting figure than Edward, that doesn’t mean an interesting character is also a smart one. Granted, neither male figure in this novel crosses the line into abusive tactics but their behavior is irksome at best and troublesome at worst, at least for me.
But I’ve not forgotten Bella in all of this. If Bella was annoying in the previous two novels, she is down-right despicable here. She, too, is a manipulator who plays with both Edward’s and Jacob’s feelings and even at one point pits them against each other. This strikes me as a very immature move but also one that’s a tad narcissistic. Does she really believe she is so special and valuable that men would die to be with her?
Whatever her reason, it didn’t paint Bella in a good light for me and I liked her even less in this novel (if that was possible).
Also, Bella’s life is entirely wrapped up in her two love interests. Once more, there is absolutely nothing wrong with desiring to be or actually being in love. But true love has boundaries and exercises respect. It isn’t manipulative, flighty, or self-serving. Likewise, a person in love shouldn’t wrap his or her world around another person; as I’ve heard it said, the love of your life should be a part of your life’s adventure, not be your life’s adventure. As an adult reader, I’m annoyed by this more than anything, but to a younger reader this could be a poor message to send that the love of your life should be your whole life and that love is ultimately self-seeking.
Language – Essentially none with just a smattering of PG-level words.
Violence – There is violence behind the scenes early on as far as the murders are concerned, but any actual on-page deaths occur near the end of the novel (about the last 20% or so). In these scenes, Bella’s protective forces and her would-be hunter’s army converge. Probably the most violent portions are the depictions of the various ways vampires can be killed, one of which is by decapitation (as one vampire’s head is actually pulled off). Granted, all of this is described without visceral details but it’s gruesome nevertheless.
Sexual Content – While there are no sex scenes, Bella tries her best to get Edward to sleep with her (to his credit, he refuses and it’s a shame she doesn’t value her virginity as much as he does). Sandwiched between these moments of cheesy seduction, kissing, and flirting, is a heart-rendering chapter when Rosalie recounts a time when she was gang-raped. Again, this scene avoids graphic details but it’s not hard to deduce what happened to her. Once more, based on the content and the themes at work here (intentional or not), I wouldn’t recommend this book to the under-15 crowd at all.
Overall, Eclipse has its merits but it ultimately became the dullest, fluffiest book of an already (sometimes) dull, fluffy series. For readers who have read the first two books, this will probably be next in line for perusal. But for casual fans of the urban fantasy/paranormal genre, this novel focuses too much on teenage drama and questionable character dynamics that might repel anyone who is not already a seasoned series fan.