Eternal Eden by Nicole Williams
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Before I start, I have to say that unfortunately, this is going to be a rather negative review. It is my opinion, and I acknowledge that not everyone will agree with or appreciate my comments.
While reading Eternal Eden (EE) I had a hard time deciding whether it is meant to be taken seriously, or whether it’s intended to be a spoof-comedy re-write of Twilight. Looking at the text as a spoof comedy, this is hilarious. Trying to read it seriously (well, as seriously as books in this genre can be taken), as a legitimate YA paranormal romance is very hard indeed.
I won’t bother listing all the issues I had with the plot itself because that would take too long, but I will say it’s just a bad, ill-thought out re-write of Twilight and leave it there – so you know the story. Just replace vampires with ‘Immortals’. I don’t even like Twilight.
The characters as a whole are mainly unbelievable, and lacking any realistic traits of human nature. The things they say and do in reaction to events as they occur are just ridiculous. A perfect example is Bryn’s response when she is led to believe that William has left her. She decides to wade into the ocean fully clothed and attempt suicide – though in her mind it isn’t a suicide attempt – or so the narration says (but it is) … apparently, Bryn takes a stroll in the icy cold ocean because she believes this will make her feel closer to William (?), seeing as he’s abandoned her and all.. but she almost dies whilst doing so. It didn’t occur to her that hypothermia and drowning were likely to happen. And we readers are supposed to see this as normal behaviour. This is profound and moving. No. This is dumb.
To me, it came off as if the author was trying to romanticise suicide arising out of heart-ache. It’s not romantic and should not be promoted as a rational response to a guy leaving you.
None of the characters have much personality, except for maybe the villain – but he’s your usual cardboard cut-out cartoon villain, so no significant or particularly interesting character development there. The characterisation of Bryn and William as the two main people of interest in the book is bizarre. I thought the protagonist/heroine and her love interest are supposed to be likeable?
Bryn is chronically self-deprecating (to the point where it’s not endearing but just plain irritating). She is whiny, weak minded, weak bodied (she is constantly fainting, collapsing, trembling, palpitating – all of that 19th-century lady in a corset stuff), limp, lame and boring. She is obsessed and consumed by this inexplicable, came-out-of-nowhere love for this creep of a male lead who seems more like a daddy figure to her than her lover for all time. Bryn has no common sense and no semblance of rationality in her thinking.
William is a stalker. His fixation with Bryn is weird, to put it bluntly. He spends a lot of the time burning with an ardent desire to take her virginity, and this often clouds his judgement when making tricky life and death decisions about Bryn’s and his safety. He also tries to pressure Bryn on a number of occasions to sleep with him (knowing due to their circumstances it would result in a death sentence for them both), and yet the author presents this subtle ‘rapey’ nature of William’s as if it’s supposed to be romantic and swoon-worthy. It’s not.
The main source of the comedy for me in EE was the language. It is apparent that similes, metaphors and vocabulary are not properly understood here, and are therefore not well executed.
For example, there are 51 instances of the words ‘scream’, ‘screamed’ or ‘screaming’ in the book. I searched it on my kindle and that word was really used that many times in EE. The word is mostly employed in the metaphorical rather than literal sense, and each and every time, the metaphor fails completely. When describing how a peek of William’s skin is making her wild with desire, Bryn narrates, ‘When I lifted my eyes from the exposed skin that screamed its presence at me…’ – what? Really? The skin is screaming at you?
While reading EE I had to stop and wonder why everyone and everything is always ‘screaming’ due to the number of times it appears in the narration.
Another problem is the use of the word ‘speculation’. I am not sure the author knows what this word means. I will quote some lines from the text to demonstrate this:
‘He laughed after reviewing the speculation wrinkling my face.’
‘My face tightened with speculation when he offered me his hand to pull me from the water…’
‘Patrick lifted his eyebrows in speculation.’
‘Patrick throwing around profanities and speculations.’
‘I looked at him speculatively.’
‘I was questioning – more like speculating, given the tumultuous weeks we’d spent dodging disaster after disaster – that this cruel, merciless world we’d been born into, and would now reside forever, had decided to tempt us with the purest of loves to only have us fighting for it every day forward.’
Now unless the author is referring to the stock market or fishing prospects, I cannot for the life of me imagine what she means by ‘speculation’ in these lines. Furthermore, how many times do you need to use the same word (incorrectly) to describe the same thing in a book?
The last quotation also leads me to comment on the exaggerated melodrama the author employs in the narration. This book is packed full of it. Having to trudge through so many pages full of this incessant, moaning, monologue became very tiresome, and for this reason, I found myself skipping quite a lot of the book. The following is a perfect example:
‘I also wasn’t doubting something good created this man beside me, and by some incomprehensible miracle, I’d been made to one day be his. There was no denying this, but what if once created and set on our merry ways, that something good washed its hands of us and we were now fated to the whims and fancies of a world that dealt unfair hands to those that experienced a measure of happiness that didn’t naturally occur within this spherical mass rotating in the galaxy?’
Who cares? When you’ve read fifty pages of this kind of bleating, seriously, who really cares? And that last quoted paragraph is all just because they can’t sleep together by the way.
Then there are the nonsensical sentences, like this:
‘I tapped my foot, and while I’d thought it such an unusual response of impatience when I’d seen it performed by someone else, I could understand the relief people found in it.’
Can’t you just say she impatiently tapped her foot? The book was stuffed full of inane lines like this and I wondered how much shorter it would be if all the nonsense like this was edited out. And then there’s:
‘My body rose and fell in unison with his and his heart burst against my back with such force it shook my body.’
That was actually just a description of Bryn and William spooning. Yes.
I would not ordinarily be so scathing in a review. I would usually try to be constructive and highlight some positive points the author can build on. (I suppose the constructive element to my criticism would be to note all the negative things I have pointed out and just not do them in the next book?) I appreciate the author has taken the time and made an effort to sit down and write something. That takes courage. However, you are opening yourself up for some serious criticism if you’re basically going to re-write an extremely popular book series (the Twilight saga) with an equally, if not more popular movie franchise attached and well-established fan base – and then do it badly.
Here are some other quotes from EE (I may comment here and there):
‘Paul’s eyebrows peaked; mine followed suit…’
Someone does something with their eyebrows 46 times in this book. FORTY-SIX TIMES.
‘His eyebrows hardened on William.’
How does one harden their eyebrows? Is that a power?
‘…moving her eyebrows up and down like a jackhammer.
‘He twitched his eyebrows up and down in furious bouts…’
All of these people and their hyperactive eyebrows need botox.
‘…her cupid-shaped lips announced…’
Surely, she means Cupid bow shaped? If they were shaped like Cupid himself I’d recommend cosmetic surgery.
‘…he leapt from my balcony to the next one down, a good one hundred feet away.’
A balcony would not be one hundred feet below the one immediately above it. What buildings are built with one hundred feet between floors?
‘I let his words enter me and simmer with their implications.’
*Sigh* I just don’t know.
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