WHAT THE HEART WANTS
By Alicia Dean
Summary: This title is Book 1: Golden girl Elena’s dark side takes over and Stefan and Damon struggle to keep her from the destruction that will surely come from loving to her ravenous heart’s content. Now the former prom queen knows what so many girl ghouls before her came to understand: Life sure can suck when you’re a teenage vampire. One more complication that makes nightlife in Mystic Falls an intoxicating brew of heartache and longing: on one hand, Damon is quite happy that vampire Elena is no longer suffering from her brother Jeremy’s cruel death. On the other hand, he’s crushed to discover that, when he turned off her humanity, the act seems to have killed whatever feelings Elena had for him.
But is Jeremy really dead? Not if Elena’s best friend, the obsessive, scheming Bonnie has her way. Fans of The Vampire Diaries books and People’s Choice-winning television series will be thrilled to discover there is way more life (and love) after death in Mystic Falls. Follow the series with Book 2 (Divine Enemy).
Main Characters: Ensemble cast
What the Heart Wants by bestselling author Alicia Dean is a delightful retelling of season four of The Vampire Diaries post 4×15, Stand by Me. Fans will remember this milestone episode, where Elena accepted Jeremy’s death, turned off her humanity, and burned the Gilbert house to the ground with her brother’s body inside. Dean made the commitment following Stand by Me not to watch another episode until she’d completed this story. As a huge TVD fan, that’s big deal, especially as the season was rushing towards its climax. But, to write her story, Dean takes the plunge and it truly pays off. What the Heart Wants could have just as easily been the path season four took and I would’ve enjoyed it immensely.
Alicia Dean is a self-proclaimed, obsessed Vampire Diaries’ fan and that was clear throughout this novella. She treated her characters with the care one would expect from an author who didn’t create them, but is highly invested in them nonetheless. She knows these characters and captures their voices so clearly that at times they jump right off the page.
What struck me right away about this short story is Dean’s use of the entire cast of characters. She clearly wanted this to be a true Vampire Diaries story, rather than a ‘shipper’ story we see so often in fan fiction. It’s not an easy job to pin down so many characters and their distinctive voices, but Dean nails it almost every time.
What the Heart Wants, like the original version of season four, is a race for the cure. Unlike the more convoluted TV version, Dean keeps her story in Mystic Falls where the heart of the show lies. Without giving too much away, Katherine, like her TV counterpart, has the cure and everyone else wants it. In typical Katherine fashion, she depends on herself to make her plan work rather than depending on another to play an integral part (Elijah, anyone?).
Often this story felt as though it jumped right off my TV screen. Damon and Stefan work together to keep Klaus from shoving the cure down Elena’s throat. The brothers are at their best when they put aside their differences and it shows in this story. Dean has a wonderful grasp on Damon, who is outwardly snippy and sarcastic as we’re accustomed to, but she captures the pain he hides from everyone else when Elena turns away from him following the loss of her humanity. Stefan, who has moved on with Rebekah, (which are some of the most enjoyable scenes of the book, so if you’re a Stebekah fan, this should definitely be on your ‘to read’ list), is more sure of himself than I’ve ever seen, if a bit out of character. Regardless, I like Dean’s Stefan, who is forceful and not afraid to do what needs to be done.
Speaking of Rebekah, Dean writes her perfectly, portraying her both parts vulnerable and not-to-be-messed with Original Vampire. Speaking of Originals, Klaus is at the heart of the cure race as Katherine has him targeted to ease the bounty he has on her. Dean is a ‘Klaroline’ fan, which warmed my Klaroline heart and their scenes together will make any fan of the couple happy. (From what I understand, these two are even better together in the sequel, squee!!).
Shipping moment over.
So, yes, this is a wonderfully written story featuring an ensemble cast, yet the author never forgets that Elena Gilbert is the heart and soul of the show. We first see Elena the morning after she turns off her humanity. While show!Elena was a royal bitch that made me want to fast forward through her scenes, Dean actually portrays her closer to what we’ve seen from other characters who have switched off their humanity. (think 1970s Damon or 1920s Stefan) She’s carefree, not feeling any pain, but doesn’t forget why she’s turned it off. She wakes up each morning with tears on her face having dreamt of Jeremy, but minutes later is draining a deputy of his life force while moaning in delight. This Elena actually returns to the girl we haven’t seen in a while: a young woman who doesn’t allow everyone else to make decisions for her and is capable of taking charge of her life even when faced with overwhelming adversity. I loved that she insisted on not being a pawn of the Salvatore brothers, regardless of whether her humanity switch was on or off.
What the Heart Wants is a must read for TVD fans. It’s fun and true to the show and a great book to have on hand during a long hiatus and summer breaks.
- Damon has Stefan clean up a bloody deputy after Elena almost drains him dry. Damon knows that Stefan, aka The Ripper, would be overcome with blood lust, finishing off the deputy Elena started on rather than do the job Damon gave him.
- At Jeremy’s memorial service, Stefan informs a confused Caroline that Damon had Elena turn off her emotions. Caroline would already know this as she was present when it happened.
- Katherine and Rebekah plot to dagger Klaus with one of the silver daggers he uses frequently to subdue his siblings. One, if either one of them daggered Klaus, they would die as only a human can wield the dagger. Two, while someone might dagger Klaus, the dagger doesn’t incapacitate him as it does his siblings due to his werewolf side.
- Multiple characters discuss compelling Katherine, and Klaus actually does. The discussions would never happen as its common knowledge that Katherine takes vervain every day to avoid this very thing. We see in season two that Klaus can’t even compel her while she’s on vervain.
- Last one, and quite honestly I’m not sure it’s a true “oops”. Klaus refers to Tyler as a wolf and Hayley mentions that Tyler broke the hybrid curse. Just for clarification, Tyler broke the sire bond and is still one of two hybrids (Klaus being the other).
All of these “oops” aside, this is really a great read. You all know that I’m abnormally picky when it comes to details. So, just as a New Year’s reminder, I’ll never fail to mention a missed detail. As authors we owe it to our readers to make sure that we’ve got the canon correct. I’m also happy to admit I’m wrong if it’s pointed out.
Favorite Part: Stefan and Rebekah looking down at the lights of Mystic Falls.
Least Favorite Part: Damon having his heart-broken by Elena.
Alicia Dean was kind enough to offer a quote about writing for the Kindle Worlds program and The Vampire Diaries. She has been very generous with her time and a very classy lady!
“Although I am not a writer of fan fiction, when Amazon offered me the opportunity to publish stories about one of my favorite shows ever, I jumped at the chance. It was thrilling to immerse myself in the world of Mystic Falls and to take the story of these beloved characters on a journey that was different from the direction the television show took. I love The Originals, but I miss Klaus being in Mystic Falls, so I kept him there. I wasn’t ready to let go of the Klaus/Caroline possibilities. ;-)”