This book was full of pleasant surprises for me. First, since Stephenie had said that YA books can’t be about married people, although characters may marry at the end, I thought that’s how it would happen in Breaking Dawn
and was upset that we’d never actually get to see Bella as a vampire and an adult, and her and Edward having a life together, as opposed to courting (not that courting wasn’t great, but after 3 novels of courting one wants to see the natural progression). So when I realized that the wedding would be early on in the book, I was very excited! (I had avoided all spoilers and was glad I had.) Everything that I thought we’d lost when Stephenie decided not to publish the original sequel on her website we got in this book – the honeymoon, Bella as a vampire and a member of the Cullen family, Bella and Edward as spouses and partners – and even things I never imagined had ever been part of the plan: Bella and Edward as parents. In short, because I expected Breaking Dawn
to end at the wedding, I regarded everything that followed it as an unexpected bonanza. I had hoped for a not-too-sketchy epilogue about Bella and Edward’s life together, and got a whole novel!
Another equally pleasant surprise was the change in Bella in this book. In the beginning of Breaking Dawn
she’s still the old Bella, freaking out over Edward’s extreme generosity which she can’t reciprocate, the attention she’s getting, what other people would think about her early marriage and a myriad other unimportant things. But then gradually her perspective begins to shift. Her reaction to the wedding ceremony is already way better than her reaction to Edward’s proposal in Eclipse
; during the honeymoon she didn’t worry if she were beautiful enough for him; and when she found out she was having a “fast-forward” pregnancy it didn’t occur to her to worry that this may solidify the rumors about the reasons for her early marriage
. However, the greatest transformation happened when she became a vampire and changed from an insecure, fragile girl in need of protection from her immortal friends to a confident woman and a full member of the Cullen family, with her own talents and responsibilities. In Breaking Dawn
Bella finally came into her own.
I was somewhat surprised when she seemed as sane as ever immediately after the transformation, but it’s true that she was the only one of the Cullens who knew what was coming and could mentally prepare herself. Besides, Carlisle was changed in London, a city teeming with people even then, and he had the presence of mind to leave it without attacking anyone. And when Rosalie got back at her attackers she had to get closer to them than Bella was to those hikers in the woods, and although we don’t know how much time had passed from her transformation, it doesn’t sound like a lot. So why not Bella?
I also found her “gift” very fitting: not only had she always been able to protect her mind from any manipulation or invasion, but she’d always been so protective of others, even of her parents, taking care of them at such a young age. When her real gift was revealed, it was one of those how-on-earth-couldn’t-I-see-it-coming moments for me. And while I was pleased to see her play a key role in the confrontation with the Volturi, it didn’t seem to me that she saved the situation single-handedly. Surely, Alice’s gift and quick thinking were equally necessary to save the day, as was Carlisle’s ability to inspire friendship, even in people who don’t share his philosophy and way of life. The werewolves and Zafrina’s gift were certainly important factors too. Even Garrett’s speech helped, making it clear to everybody what this conflict was all about and how it concerned everybody.
And this brings me to yet another thing I liked about Breaking Dawn
. After having read New Moon
I wondered about the role the Volturi played in the vampires’ society – were they a responsible government who maintained peace and looked after their own as best they could, or a tyrannical oligarchy enjoying their power and concerned primarily with maintaining it. Eclipse
answered that question, but it was obvious only to the readers and to the Cullens. In Breaking Dawn
finally the curtain had fallen and everybody saw the Volturi for what they are. I know it’s not the final resolution yet, but it’s a great
step forward. It was also in this book that the nature of the conflict became quite clear to me, as I understood that it was not really about the Cullens’ big and strong family or even their way of life, since this had been so for half a century and apparently hadn’t bothered the Volturi before, and not only about Edward’s and Alice’s powerful talents, but most of all about Carlisle’s leadership and influence among non-related and even non-vegetarian vampires. It wasn’t apparent to me till this book that he had such a wide and loyal following, but I guess the Volturi were more aware of his growing influence in their community. In Breaking Dawn
the situation became obvious: not only didn’t Carlisle have to force or bribe anybody to stand by him, he didn’t even have to ask for it – all he did was ask his friends and acquaintances to give testimony, but they chose to stay and fight at his side, because they
wanted to, and the crowd thus amassed rivaled the full Volturi’s gang (something they had apparently anticipated). So I’m afraid I have to disagree with what Edward said in Eclipse
– Carlisle has much more than the Volturi have, and they sure know it. He’s a natural leader: someone who doesn’t have to fight for leadership because people are naturally drawn to him. The funny thing is that he doesn’t even seem to want the position and seems quite content to leave the Volturi in charge as long as they let him be, but he can’t choose whom the people respond to more, and so the Volturi can’t leave him alone. And so the question arises: what’s next? Will Carlisle come to accept the position that’s naturally his (like Jacob has accepted his alpha status in Breaking Dawn
, almost driven to it by the circumstances) and reorganize vampires’ society along more democratic lines, or will they be doomed to shift from one tyrannical oligarchy to the next, or will the Volturi manage to crack down on the opposition and regain control? Edward and Bella’s story may have come to a satisfactory conclusion, but the ending pages of Breaking Dawn
where the Cullens and their departing guests talk about the inevitable rematch the Volturi will seek clearly begs for a sequel, and that made me as happy as anything else in Breaking Dawn
. Of course, I couldn’t anticipate then the subsequent events and Stephenie’s decision to move to other stories, although she did state such intentions in her interviews from the very beginning, and it’s understandable that after living in the same fictional world for a number of years a writer may wish for a change. Still, I think after she’s taken a break and explored the other worlds which she’d had to keep at bay while writing the Twilight books, its characters will call to her again, as authors’ best characters seem to wont to do. And for the time being Breaking Dawn
provides a satisfactory conclusion to the Bella-Edward story arc.
I also liked the realism in the depiction of the power struggle and those who seek power in this book. I guess governing even humans must be a tiresome and largely thankless job, and governing mostly individualistic and bloodthirsty vampires can be only more so. So it’s not surprising that the only other people eager for the job are the previous overlords defeated by the Volturi, whose only difference from them, by their own admission, was that they didn’t pretend to be anything other than what they were. It also looks like Aro did actually personally like Carlisle and he probably really regretted the “necessity” of killing him, but I bet he didn’t have to endure a lengthy inner struggle. Once friendship conflicts with one’s status in society, friendship’s gonna give – it’s not even an issue for a politician. So I can’t say I was surprised to learn that he’d murdered his sister before, although I don’t see how he could “truly love” her – it seems to me that he was attached to her, but to a point.
I’m also glad that Stephenie managed to combine realism with a happy ending. Nor did I find it unrealistically happy. Any woman would have a perfect marriage with Edward, and if people have plenty of money they’ll find a perfect house. Renesme does have the makings of a fairy-tale child - she’s irresistibly beautiful, incredibly smart even for her fast-forwarded development, and good-natured and calm – but she’s an interesting enough character to compensate for it. I think the only detail that struck me as too much was when Bella was reading Tennyson to her and she repeated it back to her appreciatively – I find it difficult to imagine any preschooler appreciating Tennyson. Nor did I have any problem with Jacob imprinting on her. In fact, as soon as I knew that it’s going to be a girl, I knew this would happen. Perhaps, I’ve read too many 19th century novels, but I also don’t see how else Jacob could move on in the space of Breaking Dawn
. It couldn’t be with anyone he already knew because Stephenie said that imprinting happens the first time a werewolf meets this person (after he’d already become a werewolf), and Jacob must have met everyone he knows plenty of times since his first transformation. And there wasn’t enough time for a credible relationship to build up with a brand new character. How realistic would it have been if he went to the park specially with the aim of finding the love of his life there and met her? I was so relieved when nothing came out from that meeting with the car enthusiast. (Besides, what kind of an idiot asks for a ride a guy she’s seeing for the first time in her life and knows absolutely nothing about?) Most importantly, though, he was so wrapped up with Bella that a sudden turn of his affections to a totally different person would not only have seemed to have come out of nowhere but would also have invalidated his professed undying love for Bella. Imagine if she’d chosen him
, and then he forsook her, just as Sam did Leah, the second he caught the first glimpse of his Emily. So I think having him imprint on Bella’s daughter was probably the only neat way to wrap up the love triangle in Breaking Dawn
. And, yes, when Edward called Jacob his “son” I was briefly surprised because, of course, I picture them both as teenagers and because they’d been romantic rivals till a few months ago, but after a moment it began to make sense. After all, whatever he looks like, Edward has lived for a century and someone like Jacob probably does look like a kid to him. (And Jacob himself acknowledges this when he says in Eclipse
that Edward has a far better sense of how to win a girl than he does: “He knows exactly what he’s doing. He doesn’t make any mistakes.” That’s because he has a 100 years of life experience, including some 80 years of mind-reading.) Most importantly, Edward must have realized at that moment that there was nobody outside of his family with whom he could entrust his daughter other than Jacob, and that Jacob would make as good a job of it as anyone could, for he would dedicate his life to her, and that it’s all that matters. So I really liked how the romantic situation was resolved, clearly and realistically.
On the other hand, Jacob’s behavior in Breaking Dawn
before his imprinting didn’t make much sense to me. First, he showed up at the wedding, to make Bella happy, and was incensed that she planned to spend her honeymoon as a human. Then he spent a month agonizing whether Edward would be able to change her successfully or would end up killing her. And then, when he thought she’d returned a vampire, he went to kill Edward.
Like him, though, I certainly didn’t feel that Bella got everything in the end without having to pay for it. I think her horrendous pregnancy was a high price in itself, even without the fact that she was risking her life and likely Edward’s life and/or sanity. In fact, if there’s something I really didn’t like about Breaking Dawn
it was the description of Bella’s pregnancy, which, although plausible in this situation, I found quite disturbing. And then to top it all off was the childbirth via C-section without anesthesia. If the violent pregnancy was at least justified by the circumstances, the extra-emergency childbirth felt (to me) like an add-on, a one more see-how-much-Bella-is-willing-to-endure-for-her-baby’s-sake kind of scene. And if this weren’t enough of a price, there was the confrontation with the Volturi which Bella didn’t expect to survive, and indeed if Alice hadn’t found Nahuel and his aunt in time and they had not agreed to come, if the werewolves hadn’t joined the Cullens en mass, if fewer vampires answered Carlisle’s plea to testify on their behalf, if Bella had not learned to expand her shield beyond herself in time…. I really felt like everything was hanging on a straw for them. And, yes, I expected a battle which the Cullens would win, but in which some of their allies would die and some of them would be much hurt, but would recover later (since Stephenie had kindly promised us a happy ending), and I was hugely relieved when it didn’t happen, not only because nobody had to die or be dismembered, but because I generally find violence repulsive. So the peaceful resolution was yet another pleasant surprise for me.
For the most part, I’ve greatly enjoyed this book. If I had to pick my favorite scene from Breaking Dawn
it would be Bella’s jump from the window. Besides being a beautiful illustration of how vampires’ senses work and how they can achieve their fantastic feats, it was also a truly magical moment for Bella and a turning point for her, for together with her human fears and her extra-human clumsiness she also shed her inner insecurities. Personally, I love the Breaking Dawn
cover, but I think a butterfly emerging from a cocoon would make a good one too. But I also loved it when Bella told J. Jenks, somewhat puzzled, that she’d always found Jasper’s presence soothing. She may have turned from an insecure girl into a self-assured woman, but in things that matter she’s still the old Bella, unable to realize that someone capable of putting people at ease at will may also do the opposite when it suits him. And my second most favorite scene is when Bella and Edward see their cottage for the first time, both for its description and for Bella’s thoughts at the sight of it: “Edward had always thought that he belonged to the world of horror stories. Of course, I’d known he was dead wrong. It was obvious that he belonged here
. In a fairy tale. And now I was in the story with him.” It kind of sums up everything: his journey, her journey, and their future together.