Series: Twilight #5
Published by Atom
Published on 3 August 2020
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Source: My home library
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When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella's side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward's version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.
This unforgettable tale as told through Edward's eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward's past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?
Yes, I’m going to review this!
15 years after Twilight was released, Meyer finally released her much-awaited retelling of book 1 from Edward’s point of view.
And although it was a mammoth tome, topping in at over 750 pages, I did enjoy it.
I think this book’s strength comes from having already read the previous books in the series. When you know what’s going to happen, it’s really enjoyable watching all the little references Meyer dropped in there, like Jake’s crush, all the information about the Volturi, Alice’s complete impatience to befriend and love Bella.
Improves Retcons His Family
I also think this book would make a decent stand-alone, which Twilight actually does not. In Twilight, the Cullens are a huge family with superfluous characters who have little bearing on the plot. Rosalie and Esme could have been combined. Jasper and Emmett could have been combined. It makes little sense why there are so many characters with so little to do. But from Edward’s point of view, Esme has an actual starring role as a genuine, loving mother who only wants him to be happy. Rose’s bitter attitude towards her immortality is what keeps grounding Edward and stopping him from turning Bella. And Jasper, who has a very small role in the first book, is recast in Edward’s POV as a god of war with a very interesting backstory, and an incredibly powerful empath who actually makes a difference to the plot. Stuff that Bella could not know.
Of course, the characters were not as fleshed out in Twilight, but Meyer then had another 3 books to solidify their characters and backstories, so it’s nice to see her
putting all of that work into retconning Midnight Sun (and that’s part of why it’s over 750 pages!). Bella even has a planned future that is never references in the other books – she wants to become an English teacher because it’s too hard to break into the publishing industry as an editor(!). I genuinely believe you could read this book without having read the other Twilight books, however I also think it’s fun to read it afterwards.
Was Bella Abused?
Another thing that was very strange, and caused me to start a wild theory about Phil, Renee’s husband and Bella’s stepdad, was that early in the novel, Carlisle kept referring to all this physical trauma Bella was supposed to have overcome. She had multiple healed contusions he saw on X-ray, and joked that Renee must have dropped her a baby (page 75). Bella also mentioned:
“I’ve always been very good at repressing unpleasant things.” – page 210
I’m taking this to mean that Bella was actually physically abused. Maybe by Renee’s ex-boyfriends. And then, when Renee remarries, Bella doesn’t want to stick around in case Phil abuses her too – or maybe he already had.
Also, Bella literally doesn’t eat anything for a long time. Edward notices. It’s disturbing to think that young girls who might read this and might want to be like Bella also might stop eating because they think it makes them more appealing as a romantic interest.
Is Bella Really A Teenager?
Speaking of romantic interest: yes, it’s completely creepy how patriarchal and obsessed Edward is. He seems amused that Bella acts like a teenager – except he also recognises that she’s very mature, and that’s because while he is secretly a one hundred and four year old man in a sparkly teenager’s body, Bella is also a middle-aged (likely Morman) woman cleverly disguised as a teenager: it’s revealed her favourite sweets are licorice, her favourite books are classics, she’s quietly domesticated, modest, self-sacrificing, and above all, obedient.
Is It An Improved Romance?
What I didn’t enjoy was the sheer volume of discussion, dissection, and reflection. I know this is a romance novel, but there was just so much talking and thinking about the talking. Scenes literally (metaphorically) went on forever, and although they were building a deep connection between the two lovers (and therefore a stronger connection than in Twilight), they were just so damn long.
On the plus side, Meyer seems to have learned a lot since Twilight, since I absolutely did not feel like this was instalove – despite Alice’s visions and promises of Edward and Bella being together. I felt like the romance moved very pleasantly and easily from an interest, to an obsession, through to a mutual respect, admiration, and love. Although Edward made it clear that Bella was only into him because he’s a vampire and everything about him is designed to attract prey – Bella, and a lot of other women who threw themselves at him.
I also feel like Meyer learned from the backlash of Breaking Dawn, which was setting up to a huge showdown with the Volturi that never happened (and cleverly, DID happen in the film version), by giving us a really (and sometimes too) detailed account of the coven racing to protect Bella from James.
Overall, if you enjoyed the Twilight series – and I’m not one of those people who pretends to hate on Twilight, even though I recognise its problematic issues – you might actually enjoy this! It’s nice to revisit something I do have fond memories of: Twilight was the book that got me back into reading after burning out from a Literature, degree, so I’ll always have that.