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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Guest Review- The Vampire Diaries–The Struggle (#2) by L.J. Smith

This is the terrifying story of two vampire brothers and the beautiful girl torn between them: Damon: determined to make Elena his queen of darkness, he'd kill his own brother to possess her.Stefan: desperate for the power to destroy Damon, he succumbs to his thirst for human blood.Elena: irresistibly drawn to both brothers, her choice will decide their fate.

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My Review:

Few books give me as much pleasure when reading as The Struggle by L.J. Smith. The rules for these vampires are laid out and (with one exception) it is so classic that I am in awe. Even though we have only met two vampires so far, they are such polar opposites it is like comparing Nosferatu (1922) to Bunnicula (1979). Stefan, the weaker vegetarian vampire with a conscience, who owns Elena Gilbert's heart, versus Damon, the rogue and devastatingly handsome, yet brutal vampire who wants to take her in the night and tie himself to her for an eternity.

I have got to give Smith credit. The woman knows how to start a book! The Struggle, a continuation of The Awakening, begins with a showdown in the cemetery between our wonderful protagonist and her now known personal enemy/possible love interest, Damon. If you remember the end of The Awakening, Stefan Salvatore, vampire boyfriend of Elena Gilbert has mysteriously gone missing after a meeting with his brother, Damon. The Struggle literally picks up right where it left off.

I absolutely love the interactions between Elena and Damon. He is the type of character who makes you think of the wording you would use in every situation because he will find a loophole. Essentially the conversation between them leads to a dead end in finding Stefan, but does lead to an interesting wish. Damon would like to turn Elena into a vampire. (Duh Duh Dun...)

The weather in Fell's Church has shifted and it is now unseasonably cold in early November. Elena stumbles through snow, refusing to give up. Elena, being a force to be reckoned with, will not give up her search; even after Damon confesses he murdered Stefan. The driving need to find Stefan builds anticipation, and there is a sense of wonderment. A beautiful scene of snow falling while our heroine is giving up, almost leaving herself for dead in the snow, is a stark contrast to the fiery and strong nature of the character you have come to know.

Luckily for Elena, her friends Bonnie, Matt, and Meredith have come looking for her. They find her partially frozen and save her from herself. Elena knows Damon is the murderer in town and her intuition also tells her that he has more secrets and might be the one that leads her to Stefan.

They make it to Elena's home and her Aunt Judith (her guardian since her parent’s death) is extremely worried. Stefan has been pegged as the murderer and even though Elena knows he’s not guilty, she is compelled to keep Stefan's vampirism a secret to protect him. Feeling alone and desperate to find her love, she lashes out at everyone and tries to hide away in her room - unsuccessfully, of course. Bonnie and Meredith invite themselves over to keep an eye on her and stop her from her attempts to go back out into the blistering cold to find Stefan.

Eventually her friends, finally acting as friends, listen to her vague attempt of an explanation as to why they should trust her when she says she knows Stefan is not a murderer and she knows who is. They believe her (being reminded of the blood oath they took when they agreed to help her get Stefan), do some of Bonnie's Druid magic, and leave in the night to find him. Luckily, Bonnie's magical ability helped her into Stefan's mind, not only almost releasing his secret, but also alerting them to the fact he is in a dark, stony place, and covered in water.

After being unsuccessful in their first attempt in finding Stefan’s true location, they enlist Matt to help who recommends looking in wells - you know, those things that are partially underground where you get water? Matt's idea is brilliant, and they find Stefan nearly dead. They bring him to the boarding house after he refuses to go to a hospital. Meredith, with her unbelievably perceptive eye, picks up on the strangeness. She never says anything, but I have a good feeling it is coming soon. Elena orders her friends to get Bonnie's sister, Mary (a nurse), and then gives Stefan blood to help revive him.

This whole situation leads to some tense moments between Stefan and Elena. She wants him to feed from her, but his holier-than-thou nature stops him for fear of her safety. Elena forces herself on him like a blood slut and Stefan is helpless to protest. By the time Mary arrives, everything is fine and Stefan is no longer on the brink of death.

The Struggle isn’t all about Stefan, though. Most of the book is surrounded by the blooming relationship between Damon and Elena. A much bigger part in this book, Damon weasels his way into every aspect of Elena's life. He gets invited to a party at their new history teacher, Alaric, is throwing at his rented home. He causes a scene with Stefan and then becomes the life of the party, even getting so bold as to flirt and kiss with Bonnie. He gets an invite to dinner, thus getting him an invite into Elena's home. He becomes a menace to Elena with his feelings of how she would make the perfect “Queen of Darkness” to rule by his side. Damon also uses his vampire powers to get into her dreams so he can manipulate her to give herself to him so they can exchange blood.

Unfortunately, Elena keeps every meeting she has with Damon (with the exception to the one at Alaric's) a secret from Stefan. Lies begin piling up on her. She can't tell her friends about Stefan's secret, she won't tell Stefan about Damon, and to add to all that chaos, pieces of her diary (stolen in The Awakening) have surfaced everywhere she goes. She hadn't written about Stefan’s secret in her diary, but she did place Stefan at the locations of all the previous attacks, giving enough information to put some truth behind the accusations.

Everything boils over during the Founder's Day celebration. I won't go into many details, but the last 30 pages of the book had me hanging on to every word. In the end, a main character dies and the story is pulled in such an unexpected direction, I was reading with my mouth agape. There was never a slow moment in The Struggle. It was a page turner and the perfect puzzle piece to allow you to get to the bigger picture.

The moments between Stefan and Elena were heartbreaking and real. The secrets she was keeping ate at her and if you have ever kept something from someone it is easy to sympathize with her position. Elena, Stefan, Bonnie, Meredith, and Matt are at a point in the series where nothing feels right anymore. There is much more going on than these characters had anticipated that the final pages push you to delve deeper into their world.

In conclusion, the vampires have me under their compulsion, and I am at their mercy to give The Struggle five kisses. There is not one problem with the progress of the story arc, and if I had a complaint, it would be that The Struggle is too short and I can't get through this review fast enough to begin on The Fury (the next book in the series).


1. Action and Suspense!

2. Realistic situations in a supernatural world

3. Sexy interactions that leave you begging for more! (“She could not move or look away. And this time she knew that it was no Power that he was using, but simply the wildfire attraction between them. It was useless to deny it; her body responded to his. She could feel his breath on her lips.”)


1. It is not a book that can stand alone. You have to read The Awakening first.

2. Have The Fury handy because there is another cliffhanger!



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