Expectations weren't as high this time. It was like we were getting a surprise piece of chocolate with our dinner bill, not a complimentary dish of crème brulée. Still, "Twilight" fans haven't had any new books to look forward to in almost two years, so we were excited and hopeful about "The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner." And I, at least, was not disappointed by the little novella. Pleasantly surprised, even.
As much as I was addicted to the "Twilight" saga, I wasn't oblivious to its flaws. Stephenie Meyer could spend dozens of pages describing Bella doing her homework and making dinner, when we'd really rather skip to the vampire-werewolf drama going on outside. And as much as we've been drawn in by the heart-wrenching scenes between human and cold one, even those could get overwrought and repetitive. But here, in this 178-page little tale, Meyer has no time to get too gooey or bogged down in details. We're dropped right into the bloody action.
Bree Tanner, a runaway who's not sure if she reached her 16th birthday before Riley promised her a hamburger and turned her into a bloodthirsty killing machine instead, is probably one of the most tragic characters Meyer has ever created. Even as a super-strong vampire, she's constantly in danger of being ripped apart and destroyed by the other newborns, whose complete savagery seems to be encouraged by the coven's leaders.
Since we already know she dies at the end, we should be able to brace ourselves and not get too attached to the doomed girl. But as we get to know her, we can't help hoping that maybe "Eclipse" got it wrong. At the beginning of the story, she's offered a tiny glimmer of hope, a way out of the nonstop thirst and fear of her new life when a slightly older vampire Diego takes her under his wing. He's not just an animal like the former gang members and junkies they're forced to live with. And their mutual discovery that instead of burning to a crisp in the sun, they glitter like disco balls, is a touching moment that rivals the Bella-Edward meadow scene. It's seriously torturous to watch Bree become enlightened, and even empowered, while also knowing that she's days away from the end of this short second life.
Aside from an interesting character study, the story is also meant to give us a glimpse at the other side of the battle in "Eclipse." SPOILERS AHEAD: The newborns have been lied to by Riley, manipulated into being dependent on him and scared to death to disobey any orders that have come down from "her" — because of the Cullens' special powers, Victoria knows better than to let her army so much as think her name. They live like a band of directionless, homeless youth; which they are. And actually, the Cullens aren't the only ones with special powers. Among the newborns is Freaky Fred, whose ability to repel everyone to the point that he's invisible allows him to protect Bree and ultimately to escape the coven. How much would you love a little spin-off of Fred's adventures in Vancouver now?
Three interesting revelations: 1) Victoria is aware of Alice's ability to see the future, so it's on purpose that she doesn't make up her mind how to attack until the last minute. And, 2) Jane and her entourage actually visit Victoria and give her five days to enact her battle plan before the Volturi would destroy the newborn army. 3) As a surrendered Bree is being interrogated by Jane following the fight, she manages to figure out that Edward reads minds and conveys to him that the Volturi weren't entirely on the Cullens' side.
The battle scene itself is brief and confusing — we got more brutal detail from the newborns' hunts. But if the point of this novella is to give a new perspective to a story we already know, I think "Bree Tanner" succeeded nicely. And I can't wait to see how it comes into play when "Eclipse" makes it to the big screen in a few weeks.
What did you think of "The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner"? Share your thoughts and reviews here.