The Vampire Diaries: The Fury & The Reunion by L.J. Smith
This is the second bind-up for THE VAMPIRE DIARIES. The Fury and The Reunion were originally published as two separate books; in fact, The Reunion was published some time after The Fury, which effectively closes the trilogy begun with The Awakening and The Struggle). In The Fury Elena, alongside her friends Bonnie and Meredith, struggles to control her nature and discover the source of the evil Power that is haunting Fell’s Church. She knows that the only way it can be defeated is if the two vampire brothers Stefan and Damon can put alongside their lifelong enmity and work together. In The Reunion Fell’s Church is once again being terrorised by an ancient evil. Damon and Stefan are summoned by Bonnie, Meredith and Matt to face down a powerful villain, who is determined to have Elena for his own.
I enjoyed Volume 1 of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES well enough, my biggest complaint being that the heroine Elena was very hard to take to. I had little sympathy for her plight, feeling that she brought a great deal of her troubles on herself. In The Fury and The Reunion, Elena is a far more well-rounded character — someone I delighted in spending time with. Her remorse for her previous actions is genuine and made me warm to her greatly, especially a very sweet and necessary scene with Matt:
“OK, so you’re here. You’re alive,” he said roughly. “So what do you want?”
Elena was dumbfounded.
“Come on, there must be something. What is it?”
New tears welled up, but Elena gulped them back. “I guess I deserve that. I know I do. But for once, Matt, I want absolutely nothing. I came to apologise, to say that I’m sorry for using you — not just that one night, but always…”
In fact, all of the characters are stronger and more developed in these two novels, particularly Damon, who changed from more of a pantomime villain who did evil because he is evil to a man who is conflicted over his relationship with Stefan and seems to want to do the right thing.
L.J. Smith evokes chilling situations with her flowing and very readable prose. We learn along with the characters the nature of the threat, and fear of the unknown creates plenty of spine-tingling moments.
In these two novels, my only complaint was that at times Smith employed deus ex machina to solve her characters’ problems or ensure that they understood what was going on. It smacked as slightly lazy, but could be forgiven when the actual story was so gripping.
Elena and Stefan remain an extremely likable couple in the world of YA vampire fiction. I think anyone who has tried and enjoyed Twilight will gain a great measure of satisfaction from the writing of L.J. Smith and her version of the vampire with the tortured soul. Readable.
The second reprint of L.J. Smith‘s THE VAMPIRE DIARIES contains the last two instalments in the quartet: The Fury and Dark Reunion. In a strange way, The Fury wraps up what feels like a self-contained trilogy, whilst Dark Reunion is a slightly uncomfortable coda to the events of the past three books that eventually ends on an exceptionally strange note.
To recap: Elena Gilbert is the most popular girl in Fell’s Church, until she becomes embroiled in a relationship with the mysterious Stefan Salvatore. Discovering that he’s a vampire who has been hunted throughout the centuries by his brother Damon, Elena commits herself to him entirely, much to the consternation of her best friends Meredith and Bonnie. Throw in the usual high school dramas (vindictive ex-friends, anxious parents, murdered teachers) against a backdrop of mounting supernatural evil and you’ve got the blueprint for any L.J. Smith novel.
It’s interesting to watch Smith grow as a writer: though THE VAMPIRES DIARIES is perhaps her most famous work (due to the CW show of the same name) it’s hardly her best, and you can see how she hones her craft in later books, even as she sticks to a straightforward formula (spirited teenage girl, supernatural evil, mysterious love interest, spunky friends, inevitable love triangle). As a long-time fan who has been reading her since adolescence, returning to her work is like visiting an old friend.
That said, there’s plenty in these stories that have dated — not just the lack of cell-phones and email in the nineties, but the sheer amount of red flags that Elena and Stefan’s relationship throws up. She ends up pushing away her friends and family, neglecting her schoolwork, making her life revolve around her new boyfriend, getting engaged before ending high school — these days it all reads more as a textbook case of a bad relationship than a grand romance.
But if you can put all that aside, Smith is also good in her depiction of female friendships and a less-than-perfect protagonist. Elena is no angel, and it’s refreshing to read about a teenage girl who isn’t a reactive shrinking violet either.
Another thing I’ve always liked is the atmosphere of Fell’s Church. There’s something about the way it’s described that really brings it to life: the community, the history, the landmarks such as the churchyard and the boarding house and the old bridges — you can understand why Elena and the other characters would feel so protective of it.
The Fury wraps up the storylines of the previous two books nicely (albeit tragically) with a reasonably clever twist and a surprising conclusion. However, Dark Reunion is a departure from expectations, feeling more like an unnecessary coda to the proceedings with a truly bizarre ending. Bonnie takes over from Elena as the main character, teaming up with Stefan in order to track down a brand new evil in Fell’s Church, in a story that is only tangentially connected to the first three books.
It’s a little strange, and a couple of plot-threads (such as the mysterious antics of Mrs Flowers) are dropped without explanation, but on the whole THE VAMPIRES DIARIES is one of the best examples of nineties’ “teen creeps” out there, and an early forerunner to the supernatural-romance subgenre. I always enjoy returning to Smith’s work, even if some of the content has to be enjoyed through a nostalgia-filter rather than at face-value.