Vampire Diaries: The Fury / The Reunion

Vampire Diaries 3 + 4

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier novels in the series. You can read my review of these novels [here].

Over the last few months, I’ve reviewed quite a few paranormal romances. We’ve seen girls being seduced by fae, voodoo ghosts and the devil himself. I think it’s probably a good time to take another look at the mother of all vampire romances – Vampire Diaries.

The original Vampire Diaries series consisted of four novels: The Awakening (1991), The Struggle (1991), The Fury (1991) and The Reunion (1992 – published as Dark Reunion in America). The series regained popularity in the late 00s, following the success of both Twilight and the Vampire Diaries TV series and three further trilogies hit the shelves – The Return Trilogy (2009-11), The Hunters Trilogy (2011-12) and The Salvation Trilogy (2013-14). For the purpose of today’s review, I’ll be looking at The Fury and The Reunion only.

Following on directly from the events of The Struggle, Elena Gilbert has awoken in the woods to discover that she is now a vampire. Stumbling through the trees in a daze, she soon discovers Stefan and Damon in the middle of a duel to the death. Interrupting their fight, Elena finds herself confused. Although she has some dim memories of her promise to Stefan, she now finds herself drawn to the freedom and darkness that Damon represents. She agrees to stay with both of the brothers until she decides which she wants to spend eternity with.

Yet they will have little time to get use to this situation. An ancient evil still stalks Fell’s Church, one with the power to send animals into vicious frenzies. Realising that it was this entity and not Damon that ended her life, Elena bands her friends together to find out what it is and how they can stop it. But the being is far more powerful than they could ever have imagined and not all of the party will make it out of the final battle in one piece…

Just so you are aware, there are going to be major SPOILERS in this review. I don’t feel that bad about this because these books are a good fourteen years old now and I’m really just reviewing them now so that I can get to the more recent instalments in the future. You have been warned – please don’t read on if you’re planning on reading these two novels and want the ending to come as a surprise.

I think I should probably begin this review with a word of honesty. I hated these books. They didn’t make me as angry as some of the novels that I’ve reviewed on this blog but I also really struggled to get through this collection. My copy was only 410 pages long and pretty easy to read but I just found it so dull that my attention started to wander as soon as I picked it up to review. A book like this really should only have taken me a few days to read but I’ve had it on the go for the better part of a week. That’s how underwhelmed I was.

There is a real problem with the prose in this series. The dialogue is so flowery, over the top and purple, that it goes beyond melodrama and touches upon the absurd. The story loves to tell you exactly what its characters are thinking and feeling at every moment but rarely takes the time to show this in their actions. The cast, particularly the vampires, love to have these lengthy dramatic monologues about how much it sucks to be with them. There is violence (quite a lot of it at times) but it largely occurs off page. Characters will either stumble across the scene of a gruesome murder or the novel will simply cut away as the violence occurs and cut back for the aftermath. This written style made me feel really disconnected from the events as I never felt the suffering of the cast.

While The Fury did have a few aspects that made me interested, in particular the very creepy scene where a man is almost ripped to pieces by his pet dog during Elena’s funeral, it just seemed to have an issue maintaining tension. Although the story vaguely tries to make you suspicious of some of the human characters (Alaric, Robert and Mrs Flowers in particular), it does not really waste any time making them actually feel like true contenders. With the exception of Alaric who was at least slightly suspicious, the rest of them seemed to have been plucked from the air and existed only as minor distractions while the story spent more time focusing on the love triangle.

Yes, of course there’s a love triangle this time around. The one thing that I commended The Awakening for was that it did not contain this irritating plot device. While Stefan and Elena’s relationship with each other was a little abrupt, at least Elena could see from the start that he was a far better choice than Damon, the murderous bad boy. Now that she’s a vampire, all of a sudden she’s developed angst. It’s pretty weak and exists purely to add a bit more melodrama to the plot. It’s pretty obvious that she’ll end up with Stefan. He’s our Edward Cullen – tortured and remorseful. Why even bulk out the page count by pretending that Damon’s even a contender?

The largest issue I had with both of the novels were the endings. Let’s start with The Fury. The climax began when the villain was finally revealed, and turned out be a character that the reader would never had guessed. Firstly, because the character had only really been briefly mentioned previously and secondly because it contradicted some of the things that we’ve learned about Smith’s vampires over the previous books. In the final sting of the story, Elena defeats the baddie but loses her life in the processes. For realsies this time – dead forever with no chance of raising again. This is pretty bold move and would have been a good point to end the series for good. Sure, it would have been bleak but it would have at least been memorable.

Of course, this immediately renders The Reunion pretty obsolete. It’s just an unnecessary book, bringing the gang back together to fight an even more ancient evil. Yeah, it’s about as weak as it sounds. After much messing around, they finally face off with the villain and in another shock twist, most of the characters are left with mortal injuries. Of course, this is the point where Elena’s ghost appears, commanding an army of Civil War spirits to destroy the bad guy. She then heals everyone’s injuries and promptly returns from the dead. I could not make this up. There isn’t even an attempt at explaining any of this; it just happens over the last few pages of the novel. I can’t even begin deconstructing this twist. Saying it’s weak is really an understatement. It’s probably the worst ending of any story that I’ve reviewed so far.

In terms of characterisation, the novels are also very weak. The only character that receives any kind of development is Elena and, to be fair, that development is pretty good. She’s really grown as a character over the course of the series. The stuck-up Ice Queen who cried when boys ignored her is now a distant memory and she’s instead good and kind and prepared to sacrifice herself in order to protect her friends. Of course, she does develop deus ex machina ghost powers in The Reunion but hopefully they’re gone again now she’s alive again.

None of the other characters do anywhere near as well. All of Elena’s human friends seem emotionally stunted. They’re supposed to be seventeen or eighteen years old but behave like thirteen year olds – holding sleepovers and having difficulty talking to the boys they like. It was almost as though the author had no idea how teenagers talk or act. At the age of seventeen, a person could have already left the nest. In the UK, you’re old enough to drive, get a job and get married. I appreciate that the legal ages are different in America but eighteen year olds are still way beyond the age of purely Platonic relationships and giggling about boys.

The vampire characters are also fairly standard. We still have Stefan the tortured poet and Damon the bad-boy. That’s really all there is to their characters. They never change, never develop. Even their attitudes towards each other largely remain the same. Although they stop trying to murder each other, this is really only because Elena tells them to. They’re still antagonistic towards each other and spend most of their time whining at each other because Damon kills humans (Stefan) and Stefan won’t kill humans (Damon). It’s repetitive and never really adds anything to the story.

Wow, should probably wrap this up. As you might be able to tell, I really can’t see what the appeal is with the Vampire Diaries series. I feel nothing towards the characters and the story was pretty weak, filled with ridiculous “twists” and flowery prose.

Though it did contain a scene where a girl was attacked by a possessed kitten so at least there’s that…

Vampire Diaries Volume 2: The Fury and The Reunion can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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