Book Review: The Vampire Diaries: Nightfall by L.J. Smith

7007788Title: The Return: Nightfall
Author: L.J. Smith
Genre: Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Young Adult, Vampires
Publication Date: 2009
Publisher: HarperCollins
Rating: 3 stars

Elena Gilbert is alive—again.

When Elena sacrificed herself to save the two vampire brothers who love her—the handsome, brooding Stefan and the sleek and dangerous Damon—she was consigned to a fate beyond death. Until a powerful supernatural force pulled her back.

Now Elena is not just human. She has powers and gifts that were bestowed on her in the afterlife. What’s more, her blood pulses with an overwhelming and unique force that makes her irresistible to any vampire.

Stefan wants to find a way to keep Elena safe so that they can make a life together. Damon, however, is driven by an insatiable desire for power, and wants Elena to rule as his princess. When Stefan is lured away from Fell’s Church, Damon seizes his chance to convince her that he is the brother she is meant to be with…

But a darkness is infiltrating the town, and Damon, always the hunter, is now the hunted; he becomes the prey of a malevolent creature that can possess him at will, and who desires not just Elena’s blood but her death.

I was really dissapointed by this novel. Since the ten year hiatus between the original The Vampire Diaries series, and the newly released Return Trilogy, I had anticipated that the author’s writing would have improved, or at least would be more up to date with this new millennium. Unfortunately, her writing style, topics and the behavior of her characters, are still stuck in the 1990s, and I have little hope that she will make up for it in Shadow Souls. Oh well, lets get on to the review.

Nightfall starts exactly where The Reunion left off, although the freshly returned and de-spirited (look at me, I’m making up words, L.J. Smith style!) Elena has made a launch back in time, and now has the physical abbilities of a toddler. She doesn’t speak, and only communicates in thought-words. For those of you who think that’s cute, think again. An eighteen year old acting like a baby is never fun. An eighteen year old who died, became a vampire, and then died again, acting like a baby is enough to cause me a great deal of distress. After several failed attempts of yours faithfully to rip Elena’s throat out – the only problem being she’s not an actual person, but rather a fictional character – I gave up and wailed in self-pity every time she did the tap, tap, tap noise under her chin. While Stefan is being the figurative Saint again, and not touching her in any way that would be inappropriate – because you know, she has the mental abilities of a three-year-old – Elena wants nothing more than for Stefan to hold her, kiss her, and do all those things adult do. What follows next is too horribl to describe in words.

Since Elena is now somewhat of an angel, or a pathetic excuse for an angel in my humble opinion, she meets people by kissing them. Full on the mouth. And because she’s a beacon of innocence, people let her do just that, even when the one being kissed is none other than her ex-boyfriend Matt, or her ex-best-friend Caroline. The latter, being the only sane person who ever appeared in The Vampire Diaries novels, is of course repulsed by this, and reminds Elena of her past as the town’s slut. For some reason beyond my comprehension, everyone runs to Elena’s defense, and they eventually kick Caroline out of the house. For what? For telling the truth? This Elena hype is starting to go terribly wrong, people. Some common sense would do the population of Fell’s Church some good.

It’s clear right away that something is going on with Caroline, but instead of focusing on what exactly is wrong with her, everyone and their pet chihuahua turns their attention to Elena because she is…well, Elena. Everyone except Damon who, for some reason I can’t really grasp, doesn’t get to join in any of the Elena-related fun, for the millionth time now. It’s enough to drive anyone crazy. Meanwhile, the town is being harrassed by two fox-spirits or Kitsune, who like to call themselves Shinichi and Mitsao. Japanse folklore legends? Check. Elena the Holy Saint? Check. Stefan The Delusional Veggie Vamp? Check. Matt The Pitiful Ex-Boyfriend? Check. Bonnie and Meredith The Wanna Bee’s? Check. Let the fun begin.

The Kitsune are having their fun possessing Damon and making them do whatever they want him to do, without his knowledge of course. Plus, they have a wicked and uncomprehensible sense of humor. Oh, and guess what? One of them, Shinichi to be exact, is interested in Elena. Wait? No kidding. The Queen Bee has another brainless follower, this time in a creature powerful enough to destroy the entire city. And once again, she didn’t have to do anything to get this sort of attention. Because you know, she’s beautiful and looks angelic. Who cares that she slept around with half of the town, or that she hasn’t got a single functional braincell? She’s pweeetttyyy.

While I was wondering what kind of message L.J. Smith is sending to her young and influential readers once again, I lost track of the fact that there is no actual plot in this novel. Sure, the Kitsune are suddenly taking over trees and entire forests, Damon saves Bonnie in a heroic attempt of doing the right thing and then he makes Elena and Matt do stuff that practically belongs in a vintage porn movie while being possessed by the Kitsune, but still…Where is the actual plot? It seems like everyone is doing all sorts of random things, sometimes even while being in each other’s way, but nothing ever adds up to anything. It’s like all the pieces are thrown all over the place, and the readers are left to reconnect them back together and form a, hopefully logical, story. The plot seemed a bit far-stretched and worn-out, like the author ran out of inspiration ages ago (which would be understandable, considering she kind of went over the edge with the ‘let your main character die and revive them again’ episodes) and this was something she came up with because she had to. The love between the characters, and with that I mean Stefan and Elena in specific, seemed forced, not natural and so five-centuries ago. If he said ‘my little lovely love’ one more time, I really was going to kill him, even if that meant torching the book.

So, what makes up for this plot-lacking novel featuring delusional characters with little personality and a love that is so boring I couldn’t see a single spark? Damon. Once again, he’s single-handedly holding up this entire novel. Even when he’s possessed by a malach and forced to do all sorts of sacrilegious things, he’s still the most interesting, enjoyable and strangely human character we see. Compared to Elena and the other Power Rangers, who are somewhat like wax dolls in my opinion, Damon is a sparkling fire that cannot be exstinguished by their dullness. And, putting the strange storyline and the somewhat awkward writing style aside, this novel isn’t all that bad. I had fun reading it, even if it was the sort of mindless fun you get from watching The Simpsons or some other comedy show on television. And you know, I can bash about the lack of plot, or the unbelievable House of Wax characters all day long, but in the end, I finished this novel in a single reading session, I didn’t get bored and I actually felt for the poor wax dolls as they were dragged half across town by the evil Kitsune. So maybe you shouldn’t mind my opinion, and just read it for yourself. It can’t be all that bad if they made a successful TV Series based on it.

Comments

  1. Out of all the books I love this one the most, for some odd reason I love the cover!!

  2. Well, I have to admit that I found it different from the other books. I enjoyed it as much, not only because Elena was back, but also because Damon had an important role in the whole action. Like you said he’s the most interesting and I think he makes the entire series worth reading.

  3. Eliza Rogers says:

    Best book out of the series imho!!

    @GothMisfitjazz
    The cover is indeed truely stunning!

  4. Hm, I haven’t read the new books yet. The way you describe Elana’s mental state sounds pretty irritating. More Damon sounds good though.

  5. I actually enjoyed this book, I found some improvements in it, but sometimes it was down right annoying. Maybe Elena’s return as a spirit in a toddler was supposed to be cute, but for me it was just annoying. But I must congratulate LJ Smith for the originality – who would have thought to brink back a main character as an angelic brainless child that still wanted to make out with the vampires?LOL

    Oh, and you put it very well here:
    Japanse folklore legends? Check. Elena the Holy Saint? Check. Stefan The Delusional Veggie Vamp? Check. Matt The Pitiful Ex-Boyfriend? Check. Bonnie and Meredith The Wanna Bee’s? Check. :)) Thanks God for Damon!:))

    But as I said, overall, it was an enjoyable read. Maybe I would have liked it more back in the 90’s though.

  6. I do prefer Nightfall over the original TVD books, probably because it’s a lot more modern, and the stories are generally longer. I like the TV Series a lot more than the books though, mainly because some of the characters are better developed in the TV series, their relationships are more believable and realistic, and it’s a lot more intense.

    Anyway, great review, very well thought through, and with an interesting point of view.

  7. your last sentence is… funky I guess xD ’cause the TV show (IMHO) isn’t based on these books. only the names are tooken out of them, and the fact that Stefan and Damon are brothers. I mean, in the books the Katherine-Elena resemblance doesn’t get any part -.-” I think they used it so much better in the series (: but nice review^^ (oh, and at the “my little lovely love” parts I felt the same :D)

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