So Bad, I Read It For You: Stephenie Meyer’s Eclipse. We’ve arrived at book three of the Twilight Saga. If you’re not familiar, I recommend a catch-up of Twilight (Book One) and New Moon (Book Two). The following review contains all major plot points for everyone who wants to know what happens without reading the book. I’ve read it, so you don’t have to. (Book Three clocks in at 629 pages—they’re getting longer! Help me.)
Super Short Version
The Bella/Edward/Jacob love triangle gains steam through the first half as Edward tries to limit Bella’s contact with Jacob. Victoria, still intent on avenging her dead lover, creates an army of newborn vampires to distract the Cullens (Edward’s coven) while she goes for Bella. To defeat this army, the Cullens team up with the werewolves. Away from the main fight, Edward and Bella are attacked by Victoria. Edward kills her; the newborn army is defeated; and the Volturi arrive. The Volturi, the vampires’ ruling body, have two concerns: 1) the newborn army rampaging around Seattle, 2) human Bella knows too much. After killing the only surviving newborn, the Volturi are placated to hear there is a date set for Bella’s vampirification, and leave. Despite confessing her love to Jacob, Bella chooses Edward and accepts his engagement. Jacob, broken-hearted, runs off in wolf form to avoid the pain of being human.
Long Version, with textual support
We pick up where we left off.
I glared at him. No danger? I only had a sadistic vampire trying to avenge her mate’s death with my own, preferably through some slow and tortuous method. Who was worried about Victoria? And, oh yeah, the Volturi—the vampire royal family with their small army of vampire warriors—who insisted that my heart stop beating one way or another in the near future, because humans weren’t allowed to know they existed. (24)
Bella still wants to be a vampire and Edward is holding firm to his one condition for her transformation: marriage. For Bella, marriage remains a bridge too far.
With the blood still pounding in my head from Edward’s kiss, I couldn’t help but think of my mother’s most life-altering mistake. Silly and romantic, getting married fresh out of high school to a man she barely knew, then producing me a year later. She’d always promised me that she had no regrets, that I was the best gift her life had ever given her. And yet she’d drilled it into me over and over—smart people took marriage seriously. (45)
I keep waiting for the parallel—”smart people take losing their humanity seriously”—but it never comes. This is largely due to the fact that Bella doesn’t see vampires as fundamentally monstrous. She doesn’t understand how the Cullens’ full nature is hidden from her, and she was not witness to their traumatic transformations. She sees them as they are now: beautiful, strong, supernaturally gifted, and wealthy.
She’s still friends with Jacob, but Edward thwarts her plans to visit. At one point, Bella finds that her truck won’t start. Edward appears, twirling an engine part in his hands.
“[Alice] got nervous when your future rather abruptly disappeared five minutes ago. . . . Because she can’t see the wolves, you know,” he explained in the same low murmur. “Had you forgotten that? When you decide to mingle your fate with theirs, you disappear, too. . . . I’ll put your car back together in time for school, in case you’d like to drive yourself,” he assured me after a minute.
With my lips mashed together, I retrieved my keys and stiffly climbed out of the truck. (63)
We return to New Moon territory with Bella’s fixation on the age gap. She needs to be a vampire NOW. Edward stopped at 17, and she’s pushing 19. She’s been so quick to insist on vampirification to stop the aging process that Rosalie Cullen starts to worry Bella doesn’t understand the consequences.
“Don’t you see, Bella?” Her voice was suddenly more passionate than before, even while she’d told her unhappy story. “You already have everything. You have a whole life ahead of you—everything I want. And you’re going to just throw it away. Can’t you see that I’d trade everything I have to be you? You have the choice that I didn’t have, and you’re choosing wrong!” (166)
“You’re too young to know what you’ll want in ten years, fifteen years—and too young to give it all up without thinking it through. You don’t want to be rash about permanent things, Bella.” (167)
I love that this appeal comes from Rosalie. Until now, she has only been a source of insecurity for Bella as she’s the most unabashedly beautiful of the Cullens. Hearing that Rosalie is jealous of her gets through a little, but Bella is undeterred.
Edward is still creepy in his insistence that she not visit La Push, so Jacob arrives to steal her away. In La Push, Bella learns how werewolves find their soulmates. Because I know what happens in Book Four, I know where this is going and it’s super, super weird. Because this post is long already, I’ll save this until, no—I’m not going to make up excuses. I’m not getting into it now, because I don’t have the strength.
FINALLY (note the page number), the dim, background threat starts to come into focus. Lots of people are turning up dead and it’s officially a plot point. Cops suspect serial killers, but the Cullens suspect a newborn vampire. Newly transformed vampires are governed by their bloodlust and can’t control themselves. When things get too conspicuous, the Volturi act as a clean-up crew.
“This can’t be the work of just one newborn vampire. What’s going on? It’s as if they’ve never heard of the Volturi. Which is possible, I guess. No one has explained the rules to them… so who is creating them, then?” (229)
But there’s also a mystery closer to home because someone stole some of Bella’s clothes. The Cullens worry that she’s being tracked as the stolen items contain her scent. Neither of these things is enough to swerve the main focus of the book which remains fixed upon Bella’s insecurities. She worries a lot about the fact that Edward’s less than thrilled at the prospect of her upcoming transformation. (Edward speaks first.)
“For me to allow this—to let you become what I am just so that I’ll never have to lose you—is the most selfish act I can imagine. I want it more than anything, for myself. But for you, I want so much more. Giving in—it feels criminal. It’s the most selfish thing I’ll ever do, even if I live forever.
“If there were any way for me to become human for you—no matter what the price was, I would pay it.”
I sat very still, absorbing this.
Edward thought he was being selfish.
I felt the smile slowly spread across my face.
“So… it’s not that you’re afraid you won’t… like me as much when I’m different—when I’m not soft and warm, and I don’t smell the same? You really do want to keep me, no matter how I turn out?”
Maybe this is why the teen set crushes out on Edward: his endless affirmations. Bella is subject to a loop of insecurities and no matter how many times she spools them out, no matter how many repetitively sincere moments they share, Edward has to answer same old questions: Do you really love me? Do you really think I’m attractive? In real life, there is a cap to the number of times you can run to your partner for this. It’s important to buck yourself up and build confidence that isn’t directly linked to your partner’s assessment of your value.
If anyone has a cause for insecurity, it’s Edward. His partner, though willing to be a vampire, balks at the idea of marriage. No matter how or when Edward brings it up, it prompts the same reaction.
“I’m not that girl, Edward. The one who gets married right out of high school like some small-town hick who got knocked up by her boyfriend! Do you know what people would think? Do you realize what century this is? People don’t just get married at eighteen! Not smart people, not responsible, mature people!” (276)
The Internet tells us that Bella’s reaction is Meyer’s lack of endorsement in young marriage. She doesn’t want to encourage teens to marry the first person to catch their eye in high school. Her apparent endorsement of vampirification is probably because vampires aren’t really a thing. That’s fine, I get it, but man-oh-man does this make for some weird motivations. Bella doesn’t seem to evaluate marriage beyond not being that girl and she has to be a vampire NOW so she doesn’t spend decades looking like a cougar. She’s also missing the obvious: How will it look when she up and (mostly) vanishes with a boy she just met? Probably like she married him.
Meanwhile, Seattle remains the hunting ground of the newborn vampires. The Cullens need to step up. They turn to the other local coven, but it’s a no-go. They make a bad offer and the Cullens refuse it to fight alone. Bella wants to fight too, completely missing the point that, were they to transform her now, she would just be one more blood-crazed newborn. This doesn’t stop her from thinking about it though.
There was just something about him being the one to make the choice—to want to keep me enough that he wouldn’t just allow me to be changed, he would act to keep me. It was childish, but I liked the idea that his lips would be the last good thing I would feel. Even more embarrassingly, something I would never say aloud, I wanted his venom to poison my system. It would make me belong to him in a tangible, quantifiable way. (324)
But don’t forget Jacob!
“I’m in love with you, Bella.” Jacob said in a strong, sure voice. “Bella, I love you. And I want you to pick me instead of him. I know you don’t feel that way, but I need the truth out there so that you know your options. I wouldn’t want a miscommunication to stand in our way.” (327)
After the events of New Moon, this isn’t wholly out of left field. Jacob kisses her and ignores her protestations. Bella punches him, breaking her hand on his jaw.
Jacob and Edward have some weird man-to-man (vampire-to-wolf?) argument about who Bella should really be with and neither is dissuaded. The book takes a creepy turn when Bella learns that Emmett and Jasper Cullen have a bet on about how many humans she’ll murder during the early days of her bloodlust. It seems they lack faith in whatever supervision program will be in place.
I’d always known that I would be different. I hoped that I would be as strong as Edward said I would be. Strong and fast and, most of all, beautiful. Someone who could stand next to Edward and feel like she belonged there.
I’d been trying not to think too much about the other things that I would be. Wild. Bloodthirsty. Maybe I would not be able to stop myself from killing people. Strangers, people who had never harmed me.” (344)
It really skeeves me out when Bella describes vampirification as some bizarre requirement for Edward, as a fix for her insecurity. When she’s strong and beautiful, she will “belong” next to him. Yikes. Anyway, while dressing for graduation, Bella has an epiphany about the visitor who stole her clothing (Alice was never able to see who did it) and about who is creating the army of newborn vampires: they’re the same creature.
She suspects Victoria, but this is brushed aside in favor of a long scene at Alice’s fancy graduation party. Jacob shows up (at Bella’s invitation, and with two wolf brothers). He apologizes for the kiss. Alice interrupts to give Bella and the wolves intel about the newborn army; Jacob volunteers the wolves to fight alongside the Cullens.
Bella worries more and more about Edward fighting. She asks: if the newborns are such an easy foe, why can’t he hide out with her. His options: leave his family to fight without him or bring her to the battle. But before he can answer, she says:
“Okay, look, Edward,” I whispered. “Here’s the thing… I’ve already gone crazy once. I know what my limits are. And I can’t stand it if you leave me again.” (419)
She’s referring to the time he left in New Moon and she engaged in stupid, risky behaviors like cliff-diving. This phrasing also carries the subtle threat of renewing their Romeo & Juliet thing.
The battle isn’t set to happen for a while and there are a lot of pages between. (Sigh.) Bella is tired of Edward calling the shots and wants to try out sex while still human, but Edward won’t give it up until they’re hitched. He jokes that her desire will likely speed up the wedding thing and, when he shows her his mother’s ring a few minutes later, she accepts:
“Isabella Swan?” He looked up at me through his impossibly long lashes, his golden eyes soft but, somehow, still scorching. “I promise to love you forever—every single day of forever. Will you marry me?”
There were many things I wanted to say, some of them not nice at all, and others more disgustingly gooey and romantic than he probably dreamed I was capable of. Rather than embarrass myself with either, I whispered, “Yes.”
“Thank you,” he said simply. He took my left hand and kissed each of my fingertips before he kissed the ring that was now mine. (460)
Ok, back to the battle. With their trap for the newborns set, Jacob carries Bella to where Edward has set up camp in the mountains. (He picked babysitting her over fighting with his family.) Unfortunately, it’s bitter cold and Bella can’t warm herself on icy Edward, so shirtless, hot-blooded Jacob steps up and, with Edward’s permission, zips himself into Bella’s sleeping bag. The next morning, Edward talks to Bella about their engagement while Jacob is within earshot. Edward knew Jacob was listening, but Bella did not. She hears his anguished howl and crumbles, needing to comfort him before the battle.
Edward gives them privacy.
“I won’t let you claim all the blame here, Bella. Or all the glory either. I know how to redeem myself.”
“What are you talking about?” I demanded. The sudden, frenzied light in his eyes frightened me.
He glanced up at the sun and then smiled at me. “There’s a pretty serious fight brewing down there. I don’t think it will be that difficult to take myself out of the picture.” (523)
Oooookay, then. They compromise and it’s all very manipulative, especially when an old agreement comes to the surface: Edward said he wouldn’t bust up Jacob for kissing Bella, provided she asked him to. So, naturally:
“Will you kiss me, Jacob?”
His eyes widened in surprise, then narrowed suspiciously. “You’re bluffing.”
“Kiss me, Jacob. Kiss me, and then come back.”
The kiss and its analysis take four pages and THAT, kids, is how to blow a book out to 629 pages with minimal plot. At first, it’s rough and she’s not really playing along. Then he reminds her that she’ll need to do better to convince him to stay, so she kisses him for real and it’s awesome (more pages, yo).
Jacob was right. He’d been right all along. He was more than just my friend. That’s why it was so impossible to tell him goodbye—because I was in love with him. Too. I loved him, much more than I should, and yet, still nowhere near enough. I was in love with him, but it was not enough to change anything; it was only enough to hurt us both more. To hurt him worse than I ever had. (528)
Edward’s not upset. He saw the whole thing (he reads minds, remember). It doesn’t bother him, because he sees it from Jacob’s perspective, as a bit of gameplay to make up for Edward’s move with the engagement news.
Then Victoria appears. She let the newborns fall into the trap and followed Edward’s path (she knew he’d be with Bella) into the mountains. Victoria’s fight with Edward looks evenly matched to Bella, so she prepares to distract Victoria by cutting her own arm open. (Am starting to think that all the characters have themselves for their biggest threat.) Edward, seeing her about to injure herself, kicks it into high gear. Eventually, she tries to flee, but Edward gives chase:
Edward’s mouth brushed once across her neck, like a caress. The squealing clamor coming from Seth’s efforts covered ever other noise, so there was no discernible sound to make the image one of violence. He could have been kissing her.
And then the fiery tangle of hair was no longer connected to the rest of her body. The shivering orange waves fell to the ground, and bounced once before rolling toward the trees. (553)
Nice! And, if you’re like me, you’re wondering why there are still roughly 75 pages in this book with another after it. Victoria was the big bad of two books, even if rarely seen.
The Volturi show up and make a big deal of being impressed with the Cullens, who can’t suppress the feeling that maybe the Volturi hoped a few Cullens wouldn’t make it through. Not much is made of the fact that Bella is still human. What now? That’s the whole reason the Cullens interfered—to slow down the newborns before they could attract the Volturi, since they don’t want the Volturi around human Bella.
Jacob is wounded, but no one is super concerned. In fact, werewolves heal so quickly that some of his bones knit before they are properly set and need to be broken again. Kind of like what Bella is about to do with his heart. She visits him and thinks about having two soulmates, how Jacob would have been her happy life if the vampire wrench hadn’t been thrown in. She even tells Jacob that the worst part for her is that she can see a life with him, but that she chooses Edward. They talk about her upcoming wedding; she admits she’s not all that stoked. Then this happens:
I stretched my neck up to whisper in his ear, laying my cheek against his warm skin. “You know I love you.”
“I know,” he breathed, his arm tightening automatically around my waist. “You know how much I wish it was enough.”
“I’ll always be waiting in the wings, Bella. . . . You’ll always have that spare option if you want it.” (603)
Dude. And I complain that Bella’s self-esteem is low. ]
The last chapter features a very happy Alice being given semi-free reign to plan the wedding. Then there’s an epilogue from Jacob’s perspective. One of the other wolves is complaining that his moping is a real drain on the pack-mind; she tells him to give up Bella. Also, she mentions that Bella might die since the whole vampirification process is sketch. Jacob gets angry and runs off as a wolf, taking pleasure in shedding his human identity and woes.
And we’re through. One more to go!
(Because we all need a drink now.)