Stephenie Meyer’s Midnight Sun is finally available for general consumption after being put off for 12 years when early chapters from its original draft were leaked in 2008. Faithful followers of the Twilight Saga are undoubtedly wondering what this companion novel adds to the series that took the world by storm over a decade ago.
Before I get into that, I’d like to reassure you that I’m a full-fledged Twihard who came to the series at a young age after I saw my best friend reading New Moon, asked him what it was, and was told that I wasn’t in touch enough with my emotions to appreciate it. I read the entire series to spite him, caught a midnight screening of the first movie, and was distraught when Meyer originally shelved Midnight Sun.
I am committed to these books. So whatever problems I have with Midnight Sun come from a place of genuine love and appreciation for what Stephenie Meyer has done in the past and what she wants to do here.
A Lot of a Lot
The first thing you should know is that Midnight Sun is a lot.
Coming in at over 650 pages, this book is a tome—that’s great news for Twihards anxious for another helping of Edward Cullen and Bella Swan’s romance, which is exactly who this book is aimed at, but it probably won’t do much for the uninitiated.
If you’re not in the know, Midnight Sun is a companion piece to the original Twilight quartet—it retells the first book’s story from the vampire Edward’s point of view—which means that a lot of this book relies on you having an existing relationship with Edward and Bella so you can palate the more bizarre aspects of their relationship.
Its length aside, Midnight Sun’s premise means that it’s a lot of Edward. That may not sound like a bad thing to anyone who was in his camp back when Twilight dominated pop culture, but for someone who was staunchly Team Jacob, Edward isn’t always the most compelling protagonist.
He’s broody and tormented, constantly weighing his desire to be near Bella against his desire to exsanguinate her. While that tension is fine for a chapter or two, stringing it out across hundreds of pages when we already know how the story ends is… well, a lot.
There’s also a lot of Bella in this book, and the years have not been kind. Aside from the novelty of not being able to hear her thoughts—Edward’s vampiric superpower is that he can hear the thoughts of those around him—and the fact that her scent drives him into a blood frenzy, it’s hard to understand why Edward’s so obsessed with Bella.
While people have criticized Bella Swan for years for being a bland protagonist, she’s far less compelling from Edward’s perspective.
Some people identify with her because she’s introverted, and you can get away with that when the book’s from her perspective, but it doesn’t quite work out when you have to read about someone else obsessing over her.
Again, the book is meant for people who are already committed to the Twilight Saga, so this won’t be an issue for everyone, provided your connection to Bella is strong enough to withstand the onslaught of mundanity that is her personality in Midnight Sun.
Destination: The Meadow
Because of all those things, the book can be a slog. When it starts, the novelty of Midnight Sun’s change in narrator is enough to keep you invested. After a while, the thrill wears off, but the story still picks up steam anytime it’s more concerned with vampires than with Bella.
As Edward’s obsession with her becomes more central to the novel, however, things start to go off the rails.
Suffice it to say that the entire story eventually revolves around Edward accepting that he’s in love with Bella and desperately trying to convince his family and himself that he won’t kill her. This portion of the book culminates in Edward and Bella’s iconic meadow date—where she sees him “sparkle” for the first time—which acts as the ultimate test of Edward’s love and self-restraint.
This whole portion of the book is played like the outcome isn’t a foregone conclusion, and part of me wishes that Meyer had just gone off the rails and had Edward murder Bella and then spent the last 300 pages of the book dealing with the fallout from that.
Who doesn’t love an alternate ending?
I decided to step away from the book to write this review here because, 1.) it’s taking me awhile to get through it; 2.) I’m a slave to the content machine that is Geek Guy Buys; and 3.) it just feels, narratively, like a good moment to take a breath, regroup, and then continue to whatever climax awaits.
Internal Monologue with the Vampire
Now, all my complaints aside, you may want to know what Edward’s like as the protagonist of his own novel. He has a substantial amount of agency, being a 100+-year-old apex predator, but how does he use it?
Well, mostly, he uses it to sneak into Bella’s bedroom at night to watch her sleep. Once his love for her begins to bloom he can’t help but spend every waking moment contemplating her demise—he remarks upon her fragility and the way she attracts danger maybe 50,000 times—and can’t bear the thought of being away from her.
So, yes, readers spend many nights in Bella’s room with Edward, unbeknownst to her, watching as she sleeps.
Is it problematic? Sure, but if you’re reading Midnight Sun, you’re so committed to this franchise that I can’t imagine problems like this deterring you.
Like I said earlier, when the novel is less focused on Bella, it’s enjoyable. Edward’s vampire-centric memories provide entertainment value, as do his interactions with his family, and I get a little thrill anytime the narrative takes a turn in those directions.
In a lot of ways it makes me wish that Meyer had written a prequel to the Twilight books focused on Edward’s years in the wilderness when he was hunting murderers to get his fill of blood, or some other vampire-heavy period in his life before he fell madly in love.
Midnight Sun doesn’t quite hold its own as an entry in the Twilight Saga, but it’s still comforting to spend hundreds of pages with characters you used to love, even if they’re not quite how you remember them. The Bella portion of the story can—and does—drag, which amounts to about 75% of the book, but the other 25% of what Meyer has put together here is fun, especially if you’re already invested in the world she’s built.
While I still have 300 pages to go, I’m going to make a preliminary judgment call on this book. Whatever problems I have with it—and obviously I have problems—I think that if you’re a fan of the Twilight series there’s enough here for you to sink your teeth into that it’s Worth A Shot, with the caveat that Your Mileage May Vary.
So, yeah, pick up a copy, crack it open, and decide for yourself if the magic’s still there. Edward and Bella await.
You can purchase Midnight Sun here.
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