A New Arc with Nothing New | Review of ‘Nightfall’ (Vampire Diaries: The Return #1)

By Cynthia Ayala

Nightfall by L.J. Smith
Image Credit: Goodreads

Elena died once before, but now she’s back and with her power, she has attracted many dangerous enemies that are more powerful than anything they’ve ever faced. Stefan want’s to keep her safe, but with ancient powers getting their claws into newly reformed Damon, that’s easier said than done.

Published on February 10, 2009 by HarperCollins Publishers Nightfall is the first book in the second arc of L.J. Smith‘s bestselling young adult series the Vampire Diaries titled The Return.

Three steps forward, two steps back. The is the fifth book in the Vampire Diaries series, the first in the second arc, and the characters, by this point they have gone through so much to evolve…yet, here it seems all that character development was just washed down the drain. It seems like these characters haven’t changed one bit and comes off as Smith is trying to bring in new readers rather than actually keep fans hooked in the series. The same people who helped make the original Vampire Diaries a bestseller. And on both ends, this sort of characterization is not working.

Elena is basically miss perfect, can do no wrong, an actual angel sent back from heaven to live a happily ever after. Not only does that come off as cliché, it doesn’t give Elena a chance to connect with the reader, which is contrary to who she was in the beginning of the series, a character with flaws. Now she has one and it’s annoying. Then there is evil Caroline, naïve Bonnie, followed by know-it-all Meredith. That is exactly how one can define them, and it shouldn’t be easy to just put them in boxes because, once again, it puts up this barrier between the reader and the characters, making them just that: characters. Thankfully, they are more relatable than the main protagonist is, but they shouldn’t be. Elena should be the star of the show, but instead she’s this perfect unrealistic person.

The same goes for the male characters with the exception of Damon. Damon is such a flawed character, but he also has a good heart. He may have once been the villain, but he’s working hard on just trying to be more of an obnoxious jerk than the villain. He’s arrogant, but the fact that the reader can see that there is more to him than his arrogance makes him such a strong—believable—character. It’s unfortunate that he’s the only character that actually shines because he is the only character that highlights what appears to be Smith’s ability to create strong characterization.

The story itself is a solid story. Evil is awakening and it coming to Mystic Falls, drawn there by the powerful white magic that brought Elena back from the dead and now lives inside her. So Elena is in danger, once again, but here, the story is connecting to the past, to the time of the Salem Witch Trials, but on a grandeur scale. The way it’s written and how it evolves is tension driven and Smith knows just when to move fast and when to slow down. Admittedly, it’s easy to get lost in those fast past scenes because they are driven by character narration making it lose some of those scenes specifics. Many of those fast paced scenes that happen early on rely solely on character point of view, making the scenes just come off as ridiculous and comical and that is just such a shame. This book isn’t meant for laughs and those scenes, given the context, were not meant to be funny, but they appear so ridiculous that it can’t be helped, the scene just isn’t grounded well enough on a visual level to support the scene.

It’s an intense read, but it’s just not one that makes the reader invested in the characters. (★★1/2☆☆ | C)

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