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'Twilight': A snap judgment on 'Breaking Dawn'

August 4, 2008 |  3:49 pm

Bd (This is spoiler-heavy. Consider yourself warned.)

It’s virtually impossible not to draw parallels between "Breaking Dawn," the concluding installment in the “Twilight” series, and the final “Harry Potter” book. Both involve revolve around mythic worlds and young, ill-prepared protagonists headed toward a supernatural showdown between good and evil. 

The problem is Stephenie Meyer is no J.K. Rowling. We who’ve enjoyed the work of both authors have known this since we picked up “Twilight.” (I like Edward too, but there’s only so many times I can read how “beautiful,” “perfect” and “dazzling” he is.) But with these final chapters, in which both authors really swung for the epic, Meyer’s bunted.

Things looked promising at first. The pace is swift and the curve balls surprising and frequent: Bella and Edward finally get busy, we get inside Jacob’s head, Bella joins the Cullens in immortality, Jacob finds his mate.

But all the while, a larger story arc is missing. The love triangle is, sadly, summarily dealt with, and once the romance is over we’re left only with Edward and Bella’s child Renesmee -- even the name, well, it’s no Hermione is it -- and all the conflicts she so quickly and disappointingly resolves. Edward versus Jacob? Over and done with. Vampires versus werewolves? One big happy family. Bella being a ravenous newborn? She’s not going to eat her kid!

So what to when you’ve written yourself into a corner? Meyer is forced to more or less start over and she spends the second half of “Breaking Dawn” going for outright thriller. The second half of the book singularly involves the mystery of Renesmee and shielding her from the threat of the Volturi, an enemy initially so full of literary potential. Bella, Jacob, Edward and the rest of the “Twilight” characters become little more than Renesmee’s anxious protectors. 

Bogged down in the new, too convenient mythology -- Bella’s new power is the only one that will matter -- the book winds up faltering under its own weighty aspirations. Bella’s covert operation, the additions to the Cullen camp, the unique powers of the new vampires are explained so thoroughly yet serve so little dramatic effect that “Breaking Dawn” could easily have trimmed off 200 pages and reached the same anticlimactic ending. What’s worse, the new guys are there merely to populate the side of good for a battle that -- the big spoiler -- never happens. That's right. No blood shed. No deaths of loved ones to kill readers in the gripping way Rowling did in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

At least when you get to page 735 -- where you’ll find the resolution neatly tied up -- it’s more a confirmation of what you saw coming rather than simply a letdown. And as for the final scene, Meyer writes this one like she's already imagined it on the big screen, with the swelling of sappy love song and a fade to black.

We would have much preferred the whole thing to end in book three, "Eclipse," with yes, some happiness for Bella, but also some angst, some heartbreak, and a dark, ominous future looming.

-- Denise Martin

Related:

'Twilight' video: Jacob and Edward fans sound off

'Twilight': Scenes from the 'Breaking Dawn' release party

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