It wasn’t that long ago that L.J. Smith, the original author of The Vampire Diaries novels was “let go” by Alloy Entertainment, losing all rights to the characters she’d developed and the ability to finish the series the way she’d envisioned it from the beginning. Then, along came Kindle Worlds providing Smith a place to finish her version of The Vampire Diaries the way she wanted and with complete control over the content (which she didn’t have when employed by Alloy and company).
While it seems, well, strange that an author would write fan fiction for her own work, that is exactly what Smith has done and with great success. Her first two books in the Evensong series are the highest ranking Kindle Worlds/TVD books right now. I finally had a chance to sit down and read through Smith’s vision of the series and how she would have had it continue.
Evensong: Paradise Lost is the first book in the series, picking up shortly after The Return: Midnight, Smith’s last book published for Harper Teen. Midnight ended with the death of Damon Salvatore and a reset of all the terrible things that had happened in Fell’s Church, the home of Elena Gilbert and company. The main characters, Elena, Stefan, Bonnie, Meredith, and Matt made the decision to attend Dalcrest College, despite scholarships to bigger and better known colleges, in order to keep an eye on their beloved town of Fell’s Church.
As Paradise Lost begins the crew is well into their first semester at Dalcrest and surprise! Damon is alive and well and his wonderful, Damon-y self. The readers are expected to accept his presence with very little explanation of his resurrection which isn’t truly explored until the second installment. Smith makes an interesting choice as she continues the series, which I found improbable and disappointing. At the heart of this is Stefan, who is rash in his actions following a moment of passion that ends tragically. His guilt, which surpasses anything we’ve ever seen from the oft-tormented Stefan of the TV series, leads him to make a decision that denies anyone else a choice in how things progress, ripping from them the essence of what makes them who they are.
The writing style is familiar as Smith continues writing her modern-day characters as if they’ve transported from a more innocent, naïve time. The dialogue is formal, Elena constantly refers to Stefan as her “eternal beloved”, certainly a phrase meant for times long past. While discussing whether Stefan is ogling her or not after she attempted to dress as a boy to sneak into his dorm she suggests that perhaps she should have bound up her “bosom” before putting on her boyish attire.
The truth is, I’ve enjoyed the TVD novels more since Aubrey Clark took over. Smith isn’t an awful writer. Paradise Lost was very easy to read. The story, while it doesn’t progress very far, does read smoothly once you get past the antiquated writing style. There are very few editing mistakes, though I would have expected someone with Smith’s past success to have a professional review her manuscript before publishing. Happily, the fantasy characteristics we saw in The Return series (star balls, dark dimensions, malachs, and kitsune) are absent (though the pesky ley lines are still around). Smith, while letting us know upfront that this series is based on the books and not the show, slips in references from the TV show anyway, changing the “old ones” into the “originals” and making Bonnie a witch, when up to now she was a psychic.
Bottom line: if you’re a L.J. Smith fan you’ll enjoy this book as it brings the books back to a literary formula that we saw in the series before her firing. Others might find it worth their $2 just to say they read fan fiction written by the author of the original work.
**For those of you who don’t know, I maintain a second review blog dedicated solely to The Vampire Diaries and Amazon’s Kindle Worlds program. For those of you not familiar with the program, click on over to www.kindleworldsvampirediaries.com to get caught up.**