by LJ Smith, fantasy (2010)
Harper, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-06-201959-2
Oh my, The Vampire Diaries is turning out to be such an unexpected joyride. As the third book in the series, The Fury was first published in 1991. I'm reading the 2010 "revised" edition, which is reissued to coincide with the popularity of the TV series that is loosely based on these books, but don't ask me what has been revised in this book. I have no idea.
It can be difficult to do so, but the key to enjoying this series is to dissociate it from the TV series. If you can do this and have an appreciation for lurid teen melodrama done well, this series may just entertain. As it is, The Fury is simultaneously the strongest and the weakest entry into the series so far. I can explain, but first, let me warn you that I will be dipping into some spoilers. At this stage, it is hard to give a synopsis of the story so far without revealing some key developments of the previous book.
So, Elena is now a vampire. Oh come, don't act shocked, like you never saw that coming. Look at the title of this series, and then tell me what you are expecting from the series. As she attempts to get used to her new life, Damon and Stefan are still bristling with hatred and tension for each other - the kind that must have inspired many teenage girls to write naughty stories that revolve naked brotherly wrestling that DH Lawrence would surely approve. But ah, love, slap, tickle, and everything else may have to wait, as it finally becomes evident to them that Damon has been a red herring so far. He's not solely responsible for some of the nastier things that happened in the previous two books as well as this one - someone, or something, more evil than Damon, is on the loose...
By this point, it's pretty evident that the focus on this series is horror mixed with romance instead of pure sparkling true love. Heaven knows, Elena is still a self-absorbed and selfish bitch at first, and it's hilarious here how the author drops all subtlety and has various secondary characters as well as Damon and Stefan mock Elena for this. Mind you, Elena is not "wrong" and she's not made to pay for her sins - she's what she is, and I like that. She mellows considerably and even apologizes to the ones she had taken for granted in the past, but such scenes are presented as an evolution of her character instead of an exercise in humiliation or punishment. It's refreshing to have a heroine who is not a simpering ingenue with false pretensions to humility, especially one who is unrepentantly so and is loved for it, heh. I like Elena. She's a bit weaker here, but then again, she's just been turned into a vampire. A girl is allowed to be confused and teary now and then under such circumstance, no?
Damon is still Damon - sigh - and I just love how the author revels in that naughty lad's amoral indifference to the plight of the people around him. This only makes his willingness to come when Elena beckons even more delicious. Elena's ability to have such a bad mad homicidal monster under her thumb - isn't this what adolescent female fantasies are made of?
Stefan gets a personality upgrade here: he starts being a bit homicidal too, and there are moments when he doesn't even seem to like Elena, unlike Damon who visibly dotes on her despite his protests. He's still a whiny turd, though, and he increasingly treats Elena like a trophy to seize from his hated brother. That pansy turdball even acts like a hysterical crybaby in the end, blaming himself and constantly apologizing even more than before, and of course he's going to get the girl. The most obnoxious turdball always does in such stories, after all.
Despite Stefan's best efforts to sink this story to his level, The Fury is a glorious and near-perfect concoction of frothy and unadulterated teen angst in all its profane glory. As I've mentioned in my reviews of previous books in this series, LJ Smith is excellent in building up suspense and tension in these stories, and in The Fury, almost everything not associated with Stefan goes so well without much misstep. Emotions swirl, and there are lots of angst and hot air blowing in the most melodramatic manner. There is great build-up of suspense...
... Which brings me to why this book is as weak as it is great: the identity of the villain. Now, that is a predictable anticlimax of a revelation, and it's also an annoying one because it gives the author an excuse to start backpedaling on Damon's character and turn him into a woobie instead of the magnificent bastard that he is. I'll find out how things are in the next book, but for now, this is the first book in the series where I am not too excited over the last few chapters.
Still, there's no denying that The Fury is so much fun when it is on the roll. Stefan isn't worthy to kiss my rear end and the denouement is unfortunate, but everything else about this story - and the series so far - is capital entertainment.
This book at Amazon.com
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