What can I say about Breaking Dawn? I can say that it’s the only book of the series I’d describe as a ‘page turner’, and I can say that I didn’t hate it. I can also say that it’s possibly the most screwed up story I’ve ever read…
Alright, so you’ve got the first section of the book, which is Bella and Edward’s rather boring wedding and honeymoon. (It’s on a private island the Cullens own, off the coast of Brazil. Remind me again why these people are hanging around in small town Washington?) They have sex, which is apparently so totally awesome that Bella starts reconsidering becoming a vampire so she can keep having mind-blowing mortal/vampire sex. But Edward basically says “No, we’ve been dragging this out for three books already, we’re not going to end the series with you deciding not to become a vampire.” Then she gets pregnant.
And then we get the second part of the book, which is actually really good. Just… well, not entirely in the way intended. For some reason, after three and a half books from Isabella’s point of view, we now get a chunk of the book from the werewolf Jacob’s perspective. In addition, we get a sudden shift of genre. While the series so far has been entirely rather bland romance, suddenly we’re in the middle of a horror novel. A pretty good horror novel at that.
There was some earlier foreshadowing in the first part, about how a bunch of vampires created immortal vampire children, and that ‘You had but to be near them to love them; it was an automatic thing.” The vampire leaders destroyed them, and anyone who had a role in creating such things. Now Bella’s pregnant with a vampire baby – one growing at an accelerated rate, and is sucking the life out of her. Nobody expects she’ll survive the pregnancy; Edward wants the fetus destroyed. Most of the other vampires agree. The werewolves, now they’ve learned of the thing, have drawn up plans to eliminate the baby, even if it means destroying the Cullens and Bella in the process.
Now, a fair number of reviews have noted the rather strong anti-abortion message of Bella refusing to terminate the pregnancy, even at the cost of her own life. The thing is – if that’s what Meyer was going for, why don’t we get this section of the book from Bella’s point of view? Instead, this whole chunk of story is from Jacob’s perspective, and he’s just as horrified as anyone else. And why wouldn’t he be?
Let’s look at what we know. We know that vampires can control minds, influence people’s emotions. We know that people ‘automatically’ loved the old vampire children; that their creators died alongside them rather than sacrifice them to the Volturi. As the story develops, we find that the creature in Bella’s womb already thirsts for human blood. And then it begins to communicate telepathically with the other vampires. It is, apparently, already sapient, already able to communicate its goals and desires. Would not the first goal of such a creature be survival?
In that light, the sudden switch away from Bella’s point of view comes across as far darker than intended. It feels as though Bella, as a character, has been lost – that she has come under the control of her monstrous child, that it is not entirely her choice to sacrifice herself for the creature growing within her.
And this isn’t just my crazy reinterpretation. The story seems to want to draw attention to the creepyness. We get Jacob discussing how screwed up the werewolf ‘imprinting’ is – literally saying that it takes away your free will. It’s not my interpretation – the story wants to put the idea into your head that some of the characters are no longer acting of their own volition! Then we get a discussion that the werewolf imprinting is designed to ensure that the strongest werewolves reproduce; that those that don’t imprint are ‘genetic dead-ends’. So now we get the idea of a natural survival instinct that overwhelms the will of those involved pointed out to us.
And to be fair, I like the way this part of the story is written. It’s damn atmospheric; there’s a real sense of impending doom as Bella grows weaker. There’s some truly insane bits in here – at one point, Edward convinces Jacob to try and talk Bella out of having this baby. Edward’s idea? That if she’s so intent on having kids, she can have them with Jacob. It’s a bizarre development, but it’s also one of the few emotionally powerful sections in the series; you can feel how desperate Edward is to find a solution that will save his wife.
And then we get the twist ending – of a sort. Jacob’s given up; he’s gone off into town to try and find a woman he’ll imprint on. It’s written in a way that, if I didn’t know better, I’d assume was attempting to evoke the idea of committing suicide. Anyway, he can’t find any woman to bond with, so he heads back to the Cullens. The baby thing is about to be born, and it’s tearing Bella’s body apart; it had already cracked her ribs and pelvis, now it breaks her spine. Jacob has to be called in to rip the baby of her chest with his teeth – seriously, this is some sort of stealth anti-teen pregnancy propaganda, right?
And then it looks into his eyes. And he is lost.
That’s right, he imprints on the half-vampire child. Quote: “Everything inside me came undone… all the lines that held me to my life were sliced apart in swift cuts… everything that made me who I was… my love for my father, my loyalty to my pack… my home, my name, myself – disconnected from me in that second – snip, snip snip.”
I’m not making this shit up. Just look at this demon-child, and your entire identity is destroyed, erased, replaced with a overwhelming desire to love it, to please it, to serve it. I don’t see how this is anything but a horror story. And – well, like I said, I rather enjoyed it. It’s well written, atmospheric – and it takes some skill to write a series where vampires and werewolves are rather mundane and dull, but the old cliché of ‘love at first sight’ is treated as being equivalent to assimilation into the Borg hive…
And then we get part three, and a return to bland romance. Nah, it’s not too bad. Bella survives because Edward turns her into a vampire just before the childbirth killed her. But the vampire elders have heard about the demon-child (Bella names it “Renesmee”. As names go, it’s no Nyarlathotep or Shub-Niggurath, but it’s up there…), and begin massing their forces to destroy it. The Cullens draw together an army of vampires of their own, hoping that if enough vampires witness that the child is no threat, they’ll be able to convince the elders to let it live – and if not, they’ll go down fighting. Bunch of stuff happens, the two armies meet and debate various things, and after some tense negotiations and a demonstration of Bella’s amazing new vampire Mary-Sue powers, the elder vampires are convinced to let the issue drop. It’s not as good as the second section, but there’s a lot of tension, some interesting new characters, and a decent enough resolution of the various plot threads.
Like I said, I didn’t hate the book. It’s insane, but entertaining.
- Bella’s baby being a nightmarish mind-controlling demonspawn isn’t really played up much in the last third of the book. Still, here’s a few fun quotes from part three about little Renesmee:
“He said her name… the way devout people talk about their gods.” – p. 396
“Charlie was just as helpless against her magic as the rest of us. Two seconds in his arms, and already she owned him.” – p. 515
“No-one keeps her out… No-one can doubt the truth of her thoughts.” – p. 664
- On awakening as a vampire, Bella “could see each colour of the rainbow… and an eighth colour I had no name for.” That’s pretty cool – I didn’t know vampires could see Octarine…