Book Review: The Vampire Diaries: Shadow Souls by L.J. Smith

7002360Title: The Return: Shadow Souls
Author: L.J. Smith
Genre: Young Adult, Vampires, Fantasy, Dark Fantasy
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: HarperCollins

Rating: 3,5 stars

On the run…

Elena Gilbert’s love, the vampire Stefan Salvatore, has been captured and imprisoned by demonic spirits who are wreaking havoc in Fell’s Church. While her friends Bonnie and Meredith explore the evil that has taken over their town, Elena goes in search of Stefan.

In order to find him, she entrusts her life to Stefan’s brother, Damon Salvatore, the handsome but deadly vampire who wants Elena, body and soul. Along with her childhood friend Matt, they set out for the slums of the Dark Dimension, where Stefan is being held captive. It is rumored to be a world where vampires and demons roam free, but humans must live enslaved to their supernatural masters…

Elena will stop at nothing to free Stefan. Yet with each passing day the tension between Elena and Damon grows, and she is faced with a terrible decision: Which brother does she really want?

Back in Fell’s Church, Bonnie and Meredith have made some dire discoveries. They hastily try to follow Elena and warn her—only to be caught up in Elena’s most dangerous adventure yet.

I’m feeling very confused over what I should rate this novel. On the hand, Shadow Souls is all about Damon and Elena, which makes me jump from happiness and be extraordinary pleased as their relationship evolves, on the other hand, this book reads like it was written by a very girly twelve-year-old fanfiction writer. But you know, writing style, plot and page-longth descriptions of dresses put aside, I did enjoy reading about Damon and Elena. And although the author beats Damon down until he’s just ‘a small little boy trapped in his own mind by none other than himself’ and Elena is clearly out of her mind with the ‘I love Stefan but you know, he’ll understand when I’m making out and sharing blood with his brother, right?’ crap. As far as humor goes, this novel is definately my top ten ever. I laughed from start to end. And I did enjoy myself more than I did when reading the previous novels in the series, plus Damon makes an interesting protagonist, even if he seems a bit out-of-character himself. So, that said, I decided on a 3,5. At least I didn’t feel like bashing Elena’s head in with an two-handed axe anymore, and although I still felt like staking Stefan over and over again, it could have been worse.

The story starts exactly where Nightfall left off, with Matt, Damon and Elena looking for poor little Stefan, who’s still tied in a cage, courtesy of the Kitsune. Because everyone thinks it’s terribly wrong to leave the Veggie Vamp (yes, that’s my pet name for Stefan) like that, they all go searching for him. Well not everyone, because at first Meredith and Bonnie stay behind. Good. For all I care, it was just Damon and Elena on a roadtrip, Veggie Vamp still tied safely to his prison house, and Mutt – excuse me, Matt – can do whatever he wants, as long as he’s not interfering with the Damon/Elena love scenes that are practically dripping from this novel. Matt, being the good little boy he is, does exactly that after he sees Elena and bad-boy-vampire Damon in a rather comprimising position. He returns to Fell’s Church, and all I could say was: good riddance: that menas more Damon/Elena love scenes coming my way. Unfortunately, Elena keeps reminiscing about the Veggie Vamp, and occasionally wonders if he could really forgive her for doing all those nasty, crazy and kissy things with his brother. But, confident as she is that Stefan really loves her, she is absolutely sure that he will. Because that’s what every normal boyfriend does when the girl who is supposedly the love of his life turns all snuggly with his brother.

Their roadtrip brings Damon and Elena to the Dark Dimension but – surprise, surprise – somehow Meredith and Bonnie manage to tag along. Once again, I had to surpress the emotion to grab a giant wooden stick and beat them all the way back to Fell’s Church. Add the fact that they always knock on the door at the wrong moments (especially Meredith…) and actually manage to say or do nothing significantly important or even remotely interesting, and you can understand why I was frustrated that they had to turn up as well. And all of that for Veggie Vamp.

Now, there’s a thing or two I ought to tell you about the Dark Dimension. First of all, humans are slaves there, meaning that Elena, Bonnie and Meredith have to be tied up to get in and pretend to be Damon’s slaves. If you thought this would lead to some witty comments from Damon, or sly remarks about their current position, think again. Unfortunately for us, Damon has lost a lot of his carefree humor and wit already. Secondly, somehow along the way Elena mistakingly thinks she’s still on Earth – where she can get away with absolutely everything – and does something that goes against all the rules of the Dark Dimension. Then there’s a fuss about that which lasts practically 100 pages, and is absolutely boring, uninteresting and unnecessary to the plot. Except that it introduces this woman – Lady Ulma – whose sole purpose in this novel, is to create dresses for the girls.

Trust me when I say that L.J. Smith actually spends about 20 pages describing how these dresses look like, what color they have, etc. Naturally, Elena’s dress is the simplest, but the most gorgeous one as well. I honestly felt like puking. For starters, I’m here for the action, the fights, the dialogue and character interaction. If you give me a wonderful description of something even remotely interesting, I will enjoy reading it. If you give me a 20-page-long description of what dress Elena and her sidekicks are going to were to some dance party, then I will feel the uncontrollable urge to grab the novel and pull those pages out. I’m sorry, but really? Maybe L.J. Smith has missed her career as a possible dress designer but I, along with at least 50% of her readers, couldn’t give a damn. If Elena wears a red dress, a blue one or a green one, she’s still going to look gorgeous. We know already. Get over it.

Then we get introduced to this new character, Sage. I think he’s a vampire, but I’m not sure since I completely missed when and how he even got introduced to the rest of our cast. I vaguely remember when Damon first spoke to him, but that just wasn’t interesting enough to actually register. But anyway, everyone say hello to Sage. He only shows up when everyone needs him the most, accompanied by a fox and a hawk – or two other pet animals, I don’t know, I don’t even know when they were first mentioned, where they come from or what their exact purpose is, and I was genuinely surprised to suddenly read about Sage and his pet animals. When the trouble is over, he dissapears again, only to reappear when he is needed. My mind was practically screaming Deus Ex Machina, except that somehow the other characters, in particularly Damon, would have managed just fine without Sage’s assistance, in my opinion. Maybe I’m just giving Damon too much credit. Oh well, you know, fangirlness and all.

Lets talk storyline and writing. The plot is practically non-existent. This book reads like the author had a faint idea of where she wanted to end up, then sat down and started writing, without stopping once in a while and wondering if the novel actually made sense. There are so many random events that seem useless, some even contradictory, and everything is all over the place. With everything, I literally mean everything. Some of the characters seem to have undergone complete personality changes: Bonnie being even more scared than I had thought possible, and uncapable of standing on her own two feet for even a mere five minutes – while I had great hopes for her after reading The Struggle, Meredith seeming as distant, unreachable and annoying as ever, and Matt turning into a noble hero who is doing just fine saving Fell’s church on his own. But that’s not where it gets really bad. What is really bad, is Damon and Elena. Sure, there’s tension and chemistry and love sparkles all over the place, but the Damon we see portrayed in this novel is so unlike the Damon we are used to, that I felt like I was being cheated. I wanted witty, snarky, interesting Damon back, who couldn’t care less about the fate of Bonnie, Meredith and the other tag-alongs. I wanted the fierce, powerful, headstrong Damon back. Instead, I got another lovesick puppy. Surely he plays the part a lot better than Stefan ever could, but that’s beside the point. Damon is turning more and more into his brother with every page you skip – and trust me when I say that’s a bad thing.

Not only were the characters all over the place, but so was the writing. It felt like somehow three different writers had each taken turns to write sentences or paragraphs, and now those snippets were all thrown together. Some of the scenes were simply ridiculous and made no sense whatsoever, and some of the descriptions were so bad they brought me closer to crying than to laughing. What this book really needed, in all honesty, was an editor. I don’t know who edited it, or how many people edited it, but it desperately screamed for a professional editor to browse through the pages, fill in the missing gaps, tell the author what could be improved, etc. I somehow had the feeling that everything, from the writing process to the actual editing, was rushed. You can’t rush things like writing, or the result will be less than satisfactory.

Even though Damon may not have been the Damon I grew to love and adore anymore, he was still the most interesting character by far. And Elena was a tad less spoiled, annoying and childish than she was in the other novels. Stefan was great where he was – out of the way, and although his speech was reduced to a minimum, only being able to say ‘Elena, I love you’ and things like ‘lovely little love’ (anyone else felt like they were slowly dieing when reading the last sentence?), it was a nice improvement from the other novels. Alright fine, let’s face it – I just don’t like Stefan. The other characters contributed little or nothing to the story, and the book could use with some more character interactions, editing and a 100 or so pages less. Putting that aside, I did enjoy reading the novel, and at least I didn’t feel like throwing it at my wall, or burning it anymore. Damon, even with his changed personality, makes a nice suitor, an interesting opponent in the game of love, and Elena is an all-too-willing victim. I loved how they were drawn to each other on all levels, physically and emotionally, in this novel, and how Damon finally got what he wanted. Or well, partly, but in any case, he did get plenty of hugs and kisses. Hopefully, in Midnight, Elena will realise the one she was meant to be with from the start, wasn’t Mr. Veggie Vamp, but the great, magnificent and utterly charming Damon Salvatore.

SPOILER: The ending. Can you say, oh my god? Does anyone else feel like lighting torches, joining a mob, and going after L.J. Smith? Did she really have to do that to the only interesting character she had left? She can do whatever the heck she wants to Stefan, Matt, Bonnie, Meredith and Caroline – even kill one, for all I care. That said, isn’t it odd that in about six novels, she hasn’t killed anyone yet? At least not anyone who didn’t return from the death (Go Elena….sarcasm, much.). But anyway, she can burn Fell’s Church to the ground for all I care, but stay the heck away from Damon. Not even that, she could torture Damon if she wanted, or hand him over to the Kitsune, or whatever. But making him human? Do you know how much that is torturing me? I mean: why? He was her last chance, and somehow I have the feeling she just threw it away.

I can sit here and go on and on about how bad Shadow Souls was, when truthfully, I did enjoy it more than the previous novels in the series. All that is courtesy of Damon though, and his undeniable chemistry with Elena. I may not be L.J. Smith’s number one fan, but I had fun reading this novel. Sometimes I laughed at the stupidity of hte characters, but that’s having fun too, I guess. But I tell you, when you want some mindless entertainment, or you want to spend some hours tucked behind a blanket reading something light and amusing, then Shadow Souls really is an excellent option. It’s like watching TV and suddenly stumbling upon an episode of Hannah Montana. Sure, it might not be your number one choice in the world, and it’s not the most-educated entertainment ever, but at the end, you’ll realise you’ve had fun and you actually enjoyed yourself. That is what Shadow Souls gives you.

Comments

  1. I love this one it seemed, that Elena and Damon are closer and there’s more romance between them in this one then any of the other books it makes you wonder who Elena is going to choose, I hated the ending though.

  2. I haven’t read it, but if Eleana and Damon are closer in this book, I think I’m gonna enjoy it most.

  3. I’ve felt confused by rating novels too … it’s why I no longer apply a star system to the books I write about on my blog. While I might hate a book where two people start making out in the first sentence, I know other readers, such as those who are into erotica, feel fine about skipping over the relationship part and go straight for the groping and slobbering.

    That being stated … I do quantify whatever opinion I write (when possible). For example, if I find a stated fact that’s historically or scientifically incorrect, I’ll definitely provide evidence to substantiate my disapproval.

    Even still – I figure my job as a reviewer is to help the right reader find the right book . It’s not to grade any particular author. (That’s how I feel right now, anyway.)

  4. NACOLE JEFFERSON says:

    After rading your review on Midnight I can’t help but being a little upset, almost every single person that writes a review on ” The Vampire Diaries” wants Damon to End of with Elena but when I rad reviews on the Twilight Saga people call Edward a Stalker and abuser to her free will, with that bing said Damon does the exact same thing to Elena he ABUSES her FREE WILL. Stefan through out the whole series was portrayed as cheesey and the good guy and hated because ultimatly Elena always choosed him. my question is has women of the world sinked to such lows that dating a BadBoy, abuser, and manipulater more benifical for your heart and soul.

    • Damon doesn’t abuse Elena’s free will, except in the instances when he’s obliged to due to an evil demon inhabiting his body. And in any case, that’s not the real Damon – that’s a demon inhabiting his body. The real Damon loves Elena, and he loves her far more than Stefan ever will. Stefan is willing to die for Elena. Damon is willing to sacrifice himself, and the entire world, for Elena’s sake. I don’t see how you Damon could be seen as an abuser of sorts, except then when he’s being possessed. He might be, in the beginning, but he redeems himself, he tries to make up for all the wrongs by actually doing right. Stefan on the other hand, has never even had to admit that he’s wrong. And he is. He is holding Elena back in everything, and his love for her is selfish and smothering. Sure, he might be sweet and cheesey, but his love for her isn’t real. He remains the same person throughout all the books, he doesn’t grow, he doesn’t become a better man. Damon however, is a better man. He made sacrifices, he made choices that were actually good for a change, and that makes him more worthy of Elena than Stefan could ever be.

      The reason why I believe that it would be more beneficial for Elena to start dating Damon, is because he brings out the best in her, and she brings out the best in him. With Stefan, she is just the doll getting dragged along, and being constantly protected. With Damon, she shines in her own spotlight.

      • Krysten;) says:

        I totally loved this book! But for FUCK’S sake. Why not make things better by ending Stefan’s life or something? So then Elena and Damon would get together and everything will be alright:D With Stefan being the one saved all the time, because he kept on being kidnapped and always seems to be a target by the bad guys and Elena seemed to be his savior, why not just put an end to his life because honestly, Elena is waay better off without him. She’s good with Damon. Period.

        So if I were Elena, I would’ve chosen the bad boii cuz hes damn way hotter than Stefan and he’s more there than Stefan was, In a way. But anyways, this is probably one of my favourites of the series cuz Damon finnally had Elena’s heart even for just a lil while:L

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