The first series had been sitting on my shelf for months, but I hadn’t brought myself to read it yet for some reason. I have been reading about vampires since waaaaaay before they were cool, but somehow these passed me by before the new printing. I slapped myself for that years ago, but I still hadn’t gotten around to reading it–probably afraid of disappointment. The TV series had begun while I was in grad school; therefore I hadn’t been able to start from the beginning, and I can’t watch things that I can’t start from the beginning.
And then, there was Netflix.
Contrary to my Nerdfighter vow to always read the book first, I made it through three or four episodes before starting the books.
L. J. Smith wrote the first Vampire Diaries series (starting with The Awakening) in the early 1990s. In The Awakening, Elena Gilbert is a bold Queen Bee who is determined to acquire the new guy: the dark, mysterious, gloriously foreign Stefan Salvatore. With her friends Bonnie and Meredith, Elena is trying to carry on her life after her parents’ death. But there have been a number of animal attacks in town, and Stefan won’t give Elena the time of day–not to mention Bonnie is claiming witchy heritage from her gran in Glasgow, her ex-boyfriend Matt is better friends with Stefan than she could ever be, and some guy–another dark and mysterious one–keeps popping up when she’s all alone.
I don’t want to discuss too many differences between this universe and The CW’s universe; let’s just say, there are lots. I have even started to preface lots of descriptions with “TV Elena” and “Book Elena” or “Italian Stefan” and “Mystic Falls Stefan.”
But back to the books.
The first series was written in the early ’90s, but the second series, The Return, was written in the 2000s. It picks up just days after the conclusion of Dark Reunion, but L. J. Smith, instead of trying to remember what was and wasn’t available for use in 1991, seamlessly moves her characters into the 21st century. Computers, mobile phones (with video recording options) and Priuses (Prii?) are inserted without being too obvious. L. J. herself, whose writing has significantly matured since the first series, takes plenty of space–three times the amount of any of the previous books–in each novel to meticulously describe new worlds, feelings, people, and danger. While there were a number of times during the first series that it was difficult for me to suspend more disbelief in regards to the speed at which things happened and the questionable plot holes and unanswered questions that would not stop percolating in the back of my mind, the second series was a bit more balanced in regards to human activity and thought.
We now arrive at a publishing conundrum: a series of books being written while the TV series based around it is moving in a different direction. Unhappy with the direction L. J. was planning to take the book series, her publishing company, Alloy Entertainment, decided to retain the rights to The Vampire Diaries without retaining L. J. herself. Here is what it says on her website:
Lisa wrote Phantom, but at that time Alloy Entertainment Inc. used the fact that she’d done the original trilogy as “work for hire” to remove her from doing any further Vampire Diaries books. An anonymous ghostwriter will finish the series, possibly making it more like the TV series, according to the only statement Alloy Entertainment Inc. (who owns half the copyright) has made to the public, in the Hollywood Reporter. Lisa retained the name Eternity and is writing a book called Eternity: A Vampire Love Story.
Since I just finished the third Return book last week, I have not yet gotten to Phantom, the first book in The Hunters series… but I’m still wondering if I want to. I would have loved to see a particular direction pursued, but it looks like the higher powers have spoken, and we can’t even hope for L. J. to publish her original plans for Elena, Stefan and Damon on her own. Sure, she’s planning on publishing Eternity, but it doesn’t look like the same story will come through.
So if, like me, you have managed to go through life without these books and need something to carry you over until The CW brings everyone back to Mystic Falls after the winter holidays, check out all eight books–and I guess if you really want, you can check out Stefan’s Diaries (also not written by L. J. Smith), too.
— Jessica Pryde, FINALLY reading Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead
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