The Vampire Diaries: The Fury, Part 15: Maybe SOMEONE’S idea of a story of redemption, but not mine
To repent for not writing this recap last night, I’m going to finish up the book–chapters 15 and 16. Not that 16 is long.
Did you hear that? I’m finally finishing this book! Only one more book to go! We’re at the finale! And what a finale it is. It actually has action, suspense, and not one but TWO deaths!
But it ultimately does not feel like it’s a story of redemption, which is what it’s sort of made out to be. Whether I have formed this opinion because it doesn’t, or because I read it over so long of a time that I’ve lost my perspective, I have no idea. But I do know that this book was originally supposed to end the story. And now I can’t help but think, pre-internet, how many people had to write you and say “I want more!” for you to do it? Ten? Fifteen? Wikipedia talks about “pressure from readers,” but the book was published the following year. Either she wrote fast–and those of us still waiting for the last Night World book are rolling our eyes at that–or she couldn’t bear her darling ~*Elena*~ to be dead and just kept writing.
Either way, blargh. I THINK the 4th book suffers for it, but I have no idea because we aren’t there. Yet. First, we have to get through
When last we left Our Heroine, her bf–oh, excuse me, her FIANCE, even though no one explains how the hell THAT was supposed to work in the long term–and his brother were both so dumb that it took them 400 years to realize they’d been faked out by their skanky, nutbar ~*Elena*~-lookalike ex Katherine, who is currently holding them hostage while setting wild dogs on the people of Fells Church, Virginia. I’d remembered about the dogs going wild, but not about their attack of the high school dance and ~*Elena*~’s family, which is strange because it’s really well done, quite suspenseful. But I get ahead of myself. Again.
Katherine has offered Damon a position as her #1 BF–after saying she always loved Stefan best, so way to sell that offer, K–and basically, she just wants someone–ANYONE–to pay as much attention to her as they are to ~*Elena*~. But since 1) that will never happen in this series and 2) she’s nutty as trail mix, even Damon’s usual sense of self-preservation won’t allow him to make that deal. He tells her, and I quote, to “[g]o to hell.”
Good for him.
Katherine, an old-school vampire, gets red-eyed and monstrous and lashes out with fangs and claws and Power. The Power knocks everyone out, although I’m sure part of that is because no one wants to deal with the whole woman-child thing anymore. I mean, that went out with Courtney Love.
Meanwhile, Meredith, Aunt Judith, Robert, and Margaret are trapped in the utility room of the Gilbert home. Margaret is waiting for ~*Elena*~ to save them, but Meredith tells her she’s there at ~*Elena*~’s behest, which upsets Robert and Judith. Mostly, this scene just lets us know that Robert adores Margaret as if she were his own. Aww.
Bonnie and Matt are at the dance, setting fires to keep the dogs at bay. Vickie, with her direct line to Katherine, flipped out with the Power burst, then she too passed out. Matt, as always, is obsessed with ~*Elena*~ and the fact they left her alone. Priorities, DoorMatt.
Back at the mausoleum, ~*Elena*~ wakes to find that Damon’s once again in really bad shape, and she uses her mental voice for the first time. This was an oddness for me because I was sure she’d used it before. I went back and, sure enough, she says something in response to Damon (“Good hunting,” something like that). But I don’t think this is a continuity error. Either we’re supposed to know she can’t yet use her voice (I didn’t feel like going any farther back to be sure) or else…um, I don’t know. I guess I missed something? Let me know what you think on this one.
Stefan’s awake, though, and they have a psychic conversation to alleviate his never-ending well of guilt, and of course discuss Damon’s not-betrayal.
I thought Damon was going to betray us, she said.
I did, too, said Stefan queerly.
Heh. *cough* Moving on.
Stefan mindsays that he no longer hates his brother, and Katherine comes back and discusses how great she is, because she realized that strong vampires can cross UNDER running water, although not above it. And ~*Elena*~ mentally smacks herself in the head because–guess what?–Damon crossed over water, and the Other Power never could!
Did YOU figure out the clues, reader?
Katherine’s trying to figure out the best way to kill everyone who dares not like her the very very best. She says that the sun is coming up, which is great because she’s got everyone’s rings. She herself has a necklace.
Now, we’re coming up the end now, and what is ~*Elena*~ if not the world’s worst planner? The book states that she has “an idea.” This idea, like all her cunning plans, is utterly dim. She’s going to–wait for it—get the ropes off her wrist and attack Katherine.
That’s “an idea”?
But no, after pages of leading up to it, we find out that ~*Elena*~ is waiting for Katherine to step near some light. Oh okay, now THAT’s more like a plan. Forget redemption; ~*Elena*~ finally thought of something that might work! Katherine’s still doing her monologuing while ~*Elena*~ gets herself free of the ropes and throws herself at Katherine. Getting them both into the light, the ringless ~*Elena*~ then reaches out through considerable pain to pull off Katherine’s necklace. Katherine does the usual vampire-bursting-into-flame thing and Stefan pulls ~*Elena*~ back into the shadows.
But is it too late?
Who knows, because we’re back at the Gilbert house, where the dogs have finally stopped trying to get to them. Still wary, they wait in the utility room.
At the school, Vickie Bennett screams as she feels Katherine die, and then suddenly stops. The dogs stop mid-attack–Matt has been bitten in the thigh. The snow ceases to fall, finally.
And now we’re back to find out what happened to ~*Elena*~. She’s a metaphorical angel (so far), filled with light and feeling like a bird. She sees Katherine’s dress, as it must’ve been so many years ago, and dismisses it as nowhere near as important as ogling her boyfiance one last time. It’s okay that she’s dying, you see, because he’s there with her. She tells him to pass on a message of love to her friends and family.
Damon does not want to believe the only girl who’s ever distracted him could be dying, but ~*Elena*~ knows best. It’s better to die a martyr than live as a “monster.” Plus, she had almost two full weeks of vampirism, so she could go visit everyone she loved and let them know that she was still selfish.
“She was not much afraid, but she was sorry. There were so many things she would miss, so many things she wished she had done.” This is the end of that paragraph, but I can make a guess at some of them:
-Actually take a step outside of the town limits for something besides a ~*fabulous European vacation*~
-Realize that there’s this thing called college
-Have sex, instead of sex metaphors
And of course, there’s a doorway. She’s got to go into it, but first, she has to reconcile the brothers with the power of treating them both like they’re her boyfriends. She makes Stefan, the one who’s more likely to do it, promise to take care of Damon–poor, misunderstood Damon. Poor, murdering, game-playing, Bonnie-smooching, sister-threatening Damon.
Then she hopes her parents will meet her on the other side of the door, and she dies. Again. Unlike Katherine, her death is beautiful and perfect. Of course.
Stefan is miserable, but what else is new? He and Damon get their rings, and ~*Elena*~’s, and Stefan helps his brother find a place where he can rest and heal.
And isn’t that what REALLY matters? Dying for love and making undead people reconcile against their wishes?
Last chapter: It’s a diary entry, by Bonnie. She talks about the Buffy syndrome of everyone trying to explain away all the supernatural events that have occurred. (In their defense, most townspeople only saw crazy dogs.) Some of the kids are on her side, though, like Sue and a reformed Vickie. Caroline gave a speech cribbed off of Sue’s eulogy. ~*Elena*~ didn’t even look dead, because that would be gross, and nothing gross can happen to ~*Elena*~. Everyone is saying she didn’t die of drowning, then later died of an embolism. Oh okay.
Bonnie talks about putting the diary in a public place–oh Bonnie, you sure aren’t thinking–so it can be seen by generations of non-~*Elena*~s to come, so they can all bask in ~*Elena*~’s glory. She then recaps what happens to everyone afterward: Robert + Judith = TLA, and Margaret makes three; Alaric + Meredith = TLA; Matt is still mooning over ~*Elena*~ but Bonnie’s decided to drool over him anyway, because he’s technically single. Also, Matt punched Tyler. Good for him.
Stefan finally was the one who DIDN’T punch Tyler because 1) some people still think he’s a murderer (oh) and 2) he’s gone. He told Bonnie that, OH DUH, young vampires don’t die like Katherine did, so he should’ve realized she’d faked her death (UGH), and anyway, Damon’s gone so Stefan has to fulfill his promise and tag behind him like a masochistic, self-loathing puppy.
Bonnie wraps up the book discussing her sadness over how unfair it was that someone so blonde was taken from us so soon. She concludes with this: “But I want people to know the truth about Elena. She wasn’t a saint. She wasn’t always sweet and good and honest and agreeable. But she was strong and loving and loyal to her friends, and in the end she did the most unselfish thing anybody could do.”
Do I really need, after all this time, to get into what I disagree with on that?
But I’d like to end with this concept of ~*Elena*~ as the reformed angel and why it doesn’t work. ~*Elena*~ is the heroine; she gets everything she wants. EVERYTHING. Her plans are utterly ridiculous yet they tend to succeed by sheer force of the author. Although Bonnie says flat-out that we’re meant to see ~*Elena*~ as being someone flawed, the text just doesn’t back that up. Smith adores this character, and it comes through on almost every page.
So how can there be redemption?
When it comes down to it, redemption takes making a choice, understanding how far you’ve come to get to that choice–or, at the very least, the audience needs to understand how far the character has come. These things don’t happen with ~*Elena*~. Her last choice, to destroy Katherine, comes at the cost of her own life, but there’s no real sense that she knows that’s even a possibility. She does the right thing, and it’s heroic, but it’s not a redemptive act. And yet she becomes, in essence (and I suppose literally later), an angel.
I feel like I could be finished with these books right now. Certainly the books, as they were originally written, were meant to end here. But I committed to the fourth book, and so that will start next week.
Until then, I’ll be reading other things, books in which heroines aren’t blonde by default and the characters whine and manipulate and bug me.
Ah, three to six days of freedom.