Book Review of Nightfall (Vampire Diaries: The Return, Bk 1)

Nightfall (Vampire Diaries: The Return, Bk 1)
nantuckerin avatar reviewed on + 158 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3

I was a little uncertain upon picking up Nightfall, the first book in L.J. Smith's continuation of her wildly popular Vampire Diaries series aptly called The Vampire Diaries: The Return. I had enjoyed the first three volumes of the original series, but book four left me completely cold and, in my opinion, jumped the shark in tremendous fashion.

However, I'm a sucker for a bad boy in black, and had heard that this new series cast its focus on Damon Salvatore rather than his too-good-to-be-interesting brother Stefan. So, I gave it a try.

In the interest of full disclosure, I thought the first quarter of the book was just horrible. I almost put it down. But then the book took a pleasantly surprising turn. The result is a book that is probably better than all of the previous Vampire Diaries novels that came before it, and much scarier than anything else I've read by Smith.

Nightfall picks up about one week after the conclusion of Vampire Diaries book 4. Elena is a spirit newly returned to Earth after sacrificing herself to save Damon and Stefan. She's not a vampire, and not a human, either. What she is is a being charged with white magic, childlike, innocent and full of blood irresistably intoxicating and powerful to any vampire. Stefan and Elena have been reunited, and plan to make a new life together away from Fell's Church.

However, the rest of the Scooby gang is back, too, and the book quickly reverts back to the structure established in the fourth novel. Like that book, the action and plot drama in Nightfall reminded me quite a bit of an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- the "gang" all working together to solve a mystery threatening the town, with the help of a witch, a couple of vampires and a heroine recently back from the dead.

I will say, though, I thought Smith's "big bad" in this novel was unique and interesting, and Nightfall is full of some genuinely scary imagery and ideas. I loved the evolution of Damon throughout the novel, too. As a character, his journey of falling in love with Elena is so much more believable and genuine than the relationship between Stefan and Elena. Elena is a more interesting character, too -- she's come a long way from the self-centered and stuck-up girl we met in the first book. Smith also tries to further develop Bonnie, Elena's Celtic witch friend, but she continues to annoy me. She's one of those scream-and-faint girls that continue to pop up in horror novels. I keep waiting for her to have a defining moment that makes me like her -- maybe in the next book, Shadow Souls.

Overall, if you enjoyed Vampire Diaries, you should take a chance on this new series. It's a meaty 600+ pages, but is NOT an omnibus edition of several shorter books, just one long text. The book does leave readers with something of a cliffhanger ending, however, which I'm looking forward to sorting out when Shadow Souls comes out next month.