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on March 25, 2010
I'm kicking myself for buying this book and putting the emotional investment into reading it. Shadow Souls is truly awful, and I thought nothing could be worse than Nightfall. I am embarrassed for LJ Smith and all of the readers (including myself) who held out hope that the story of the Vampire Diaries could be redeemed after her last mess of a novel.

Much like the previous book, Smith seems determined to cram a bunch of folklore and fairy tales clichés into Shadow Souls, and this time most of them fit into the messily-detailed dark-age other world she creates. She spends so much time on period detail that is unnecessary- do we really need to know the color of the veils that each of the girls wears during their procession though the city? Magical Auras, demon dogs, gate keepers, fierce falcons- ugh. The book meanders all over the place at times, and so slowly that I had to put the book down in frustrated boredom several times.

I thought Damon had lost all of his charm in Nightfall, but again, I underestimated just how bad it could really get. He maintains that he will die for Elena as they make their dangerous quest, yet there is no real spark or chemistry left between them. And LJ Smith can't seem to make up her mind about the physical capabilities of the vampires. After decreeing that no sex is possible in the last novel, Elena's not-quite-human aura seems to make Damon capable of feeling for/wanting from a woman something he has not felt in 500 years. Am I the only one getting whiplash trying to keep up?

The last pages and a sudden change for one of the major characters is just unbelievable and very disappointing. (It also foreshadows another tedious quest.) LJ Smith has successfully done one thing for me with this book: after waiting twenty years for more of the VD series, and Damon specifically, I no longer care what happens to these characters. They have little in common with the flawed and intriguing people I met two decades ago.
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on March 16, 2010
I think at this point, it's obvious that the author neither cares about her readers or, perhaps more importantly, her characters. The whole time I was reading this book, I kept waiting for it to get better or at least start to make sense. Elena is laughable in this book, she's nothing like she was in the original four books. She's a whiny, giggling wreck. Her only purpose seems to be to stand around and make men fight over her. She spends most of the book lusting after Damon, but rather than make it believable, Damon stalks around like a cartoon character - I was expecting him to start twirling his mustache and squinting through a monocle. Poor Bonnie and Meredith are relegated to supporting characters. In the original books, they were part of the team, even if they weren't main characters. Here they only serve to point out how wonderful Elena is. Stefan finally show up 400 or so pages in, babbling like a moron. He practically throws himself at Elena's feet, crying, "Darling! Angel!" How this Stefan managed to live for 500+ years without getting a stake through his heart is beyond me. Matt is once again reduced to a minor role and Damon still refers to him as "Mutt". They didn't get along in the original books, but at least Damon was civil to him - the way you would think a gentleman of Renaissance Italy would be. Instead, he acts like a six-year-old boy.

There's a vague sadomasochism vibe in the middle section - Damon, Elena, Bonnie, and Meredith have to enter the Dark Dimension, but only if Damon takes the humans as slaves. A particularly insulting part is the way Elena rescues an old slave woman. The old woman is being beaten in the middle of the street, but no one pays any notice. That is, until Elena risks life and death to go to her rescue. Then, suddenly the crowd comes alive and surges to her defense - "[I]t was one thing to see a merchant beating his worn out drab. . . [b]ut to see this beautiful new girl having her clothes slashed away. . . that was quite another thing" (pg 220). I get it, really, I do. The ugly should be made to suffer, after all, they're ugly and worn out, hardly worth notice. But if a beautiful girl decides to get a little dirty and actually might (*gasp*) get hurt in the process, well, we can't have that!

The last chapter, where our heroes should be discussing what they are going to do next, is instead a slapstick comedy affair. One of the characters goes through a very important change, but it's mentioned in a kind of off-hand way, and then it's nearly lost in the author's eagerness to return to "comedy". I had to go back and reread it to make sure I had actually read it correctly.

This book is a joke and I regret spending the money to buy it.
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on March 17, 2010
This book, like its predecessor Nightfall, makes a mockery of the first four Vampire Diaries books--which have been beloved by me and many others for most of our lives! The original books were about love, honor, friendship, mystery, suspense...full of very interesting, well-developed characters and a plot that was engaging and made sense.

The characters and plot in this book are cartoonish and don't even line up with the original books'. This book is all about ridiculous juvenile conversations, out-of-character phrasing/mannerisms/actions for almost every character, and a silly complicated COMPLETELY POINTLESS plotline to tie it all together.

I have often been tempted to think that these latest books were really written by a ghostwriter, but the problem is that very occasionally you can still see a glimmer of the L. J. Smith who used to be. Maybe it's just a sentence or two. But it's enough to convince me that she's still in there somewhere, so I shall cross my fingers and hope that one day soon she will write a good book again. Because that day is certainly not here yet.

In conclusion, this is certainly not the worst book, or even the worst vampire book, I've ever read, but it is definitely the worst book I've ever read that was written by an author who used to write GOOD books!
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on April 12, 2010
I have to be honest. This book was actually better than The Return: Nightfall (Vampire Diaries). Sadly, this does not prevent it from being a horrible book.
This book was all over the place and the plot was barely coherent.

Here's the deal: Damon was possessed at the behest of Hot Topic rejects, Misao and Shinichi. This led him to tricking Stefan into going into a place called the Dark Dimension. Elena gets over floating like a balloon to team up with Damon to get him back.

Caroline is still possessed and trying to have Matt arrested for assaulting her. I have to say that the parts with Caroline were the only things remotely interesting about the book. Unfortunately the Matt/Caroline?Mrs Flowers scenes were shoved aside in favor of feeble attempts at eroticism with Damon and Elena.

Stefan and Elena bored me. Every time Elena had an out-of-body experience, I grit my teeth at the insipid dialogue and promised my brain Milk Duds to soothe the loss of brain cells.

Bonnie and Meredith? Strictly on the sidelines and BORING. Meredith was one of my favorite characters and now she's been reduced to generic friend. Ugh.

Another thing that bothered me was the unhealthy obsession with the ideas of purity and virginity. Elena is a virgin. Uh, okay and this is a secret WHY?

Also, readers do not need it pounded into their heads how hot Elena is. Seriously, it seemed like every five pages I was subjected to how awesomely and mind-blowingly hot she is. COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY!

Oh, and THE END *deep breath*... This could have been a shocking and heart-wrenching development, but for some reason LJS decided to play it for comedy. This left me feeling overtly hostile to the book and not at all looking forward to the next installation.

The thing is, LJS did better. I expect better of her. Come on! This is the woman who wrote Secret Vampire (Night World)!
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on May 1, 2010
I tried very hard to like "Nightfall" and still had some hopes for "Shadow Souls", but unfortunately things really has taken a turn for the worse with this book. To be blunt it reads like bad fan-fiction of the first three books.

First of all, the trend of "Nightfall" to mix in other mythos continues in "Shadow Souls", times 1000. Where the "Vampire Diaries" once contrasted with her "Night World" series by being completely focused on vampires (ok, so there is a werewolf involved too, but that is a retcon in the 4th book), it now makes the "Night World" series seem orthodox vampire stories by comparison.

This already started in "Nightfall", but by "Shadow Souls" it's almost crazy. Suddenly there are enough vampires to fill a whole shadow realm not to mention other mythological entities and they can also walk back and forth between the worlds. It's over the top, and also surprisingly incoherent at times.

The characters from the books were slowly turning into caricatures of themselves in "Nightfall", but in "Shadow Souls" it's off the charts. This is especially tragic because I enjoyed The "Vampire Diaries" 1-3 as a kind of reverse version of "Heathers" where the cheerleader redeems herself and finds her own goodness.

In a way, I'm not surprised. This is a bit similar to the rift between Anne Rice's first 3 "Vampire Chronicles" and those that came after. I remember being incredibly disappointed by "Tale of the Body Thief", because (does this sound familiar) Lestat became more and more a caricature of himself as if written by a fan-fiction writer in love with the character. Also it stopped focusing on vampires, and instead added new mythos to the series. To be fair to "Tale of the Body Thief" (which I hated) it's not nearly as crazy-out-there as "Shadow Souls".

L. J. wrote that she was really enthusiastic about the new series, and I think it's obvious she had a lot of ideas pouring into the books. I suspect it's unfortunate it's not a new series with totally new characters instead of a continuation of the "Vampire Diaries". Not only is she changing the meaning of everything that happened in the first books, but I think that with new characters there would be a natural character development which can't happen in the "Vampire Diaries", and which I suspect is a big reason why the characters are increasingly becoming caricatures of themselves.

I really love all the other books I've read by L. J., and not just the story - I enjoy the way she writes. But not even that pleasure could be had from "Shadow Souls". I can't put my finger on it, but the style of writing has a different feel to it as well. Still, she's written so many books I've enjoyed that I'll give her next book a chance no matter what.
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Like many of you, I read the first four of these books more than a decade ago, when I was the same age as these characters. These were my old friends, and I was so happy to return to them again after so long. I was even willing to forgive the timeline inconsistency as she jumped the characters more than 10 years into the future.

I particularly enjoyed the fourth book. It isn't that I disliked Elena, but I find her a lot less interesting than, well, every single other character in there. She's apparently a drop-dead gorgeous, incredibly self-absorbed girl who always gets everything and everyone she wants. Yet somehow I managed to sympathize with her, at least throughout the first few. But the character I got really attached to was Bonnie. I really enjoyed getting to see all the supporting characters interact and work together. I was particularly surprised and delighted by the tension between Bonnie and Damon.

This book reads like a particularly bad fanfiction written by an obsessive Damon/Elena shipper who has no regard for past characterization. One major thing that separated Elena from Katherine (aside from Katherine being homicidally possessive and generally insane) was that Elena actually knew what she wanted, and that was Stefan. Katherine was the one who couldn't decide, and just jerked the two of them around. Apparently Elena is no different after all.

I'm also really irritated that the author spent time building up other relationships and interactions, and apparently not only are they not going anywhere, but as a reader I'm supposed to have forgotten they'd even happened. Not one thought from Damon about Bonnie. Not a one. No sign of any sort of jealousy from Bonnie, either, about Elena making out with Damon constantly. I guess I'm supposed to pretend that none of that ever happened? I guess these books are all about Elena. And I'll be honest. I don't want to read about Elena. I'm sick of that self-absorbed, spoiled cry-baby. Unless someone has a spoiler indicating people get back into character again, I think I'm done.
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on April 13, 2010
As a fan of L.J. Smith in my early teens in the 90s-- I have all her books and have waited for the last 10+ years for the ending to the Night World series-- imagine my excitement when I heard of her return from a long hiatus of writing!

The Vampire Diaries, 1-4, did not lack closure. It was always sort of cheesy but well-written and restrained: there was the love triangle and Elena and Stefan's push-pull attraction, sure, but it was about friendship and honor and loyalty above the supernatural or even Elena's pure, heavenly, wondrous beauty, of which we're reminded repeatedly through Nightfall and Shadow Souls. Despite not seeing the need for elaboration after we left the victors dancing in the clearing on the Solstice, I was game for a revival, but it smacks of opportunism with its purple prose and thin plot: one, for bolster of, and being bolstered by, the TV show; two, for jumping on the YA/fiction trend of sexy vampires and the girls they love.

The outline of Shadow Souls has been told: Stefan is jailed the Dark Dimensions, which is some sort of limbo, because of the kitsune siblings (from Nightfall; anyone else get the image of the pair of Pokemon villains?) and Elena is going to find him because they are Soul Mates and will succor him with her Powers-rich, cure-all blood. Where Elena goes, so must Damon, Meredith, and Bonnie. (Matt would too, but he had a hissy fit.) There is a stay in the Dimensions, which is a trashy romp through 90s Coulter, because the girls have to travel as Damon's "harem", and there are lolls on litters and selfless rescues of the indigenous and gratuitous whippings and a hanger-on from Damon's past who speaks French (très Laurell K. Hamilton) and pages of descriptions of color-coordinated scarves and jeweled bikinis and lapis lazulis and a masked ball and lots of kissing (but not sex! APB: Elena is a virgin!).

All the characters return, but by Shadow Souls are pastiches of their former selves. (With the exception of Elena's family-- Aunt Judith and Margaret-- which I found curious, as Nightfall was about the possession of little girls, and there was a brief cameo of the younger sister and no mention of either of them afterwards.) Elena is an ethereal beauty with "wing" powers; Meredith is still stoic but armed with a Blackberry, Bonnie is a weak crybaby, tremulous for her Damon close-up, Stefan's only vocabulary consists of variations of "love" ("lovely love", "loveliest lovely love"), Damon is the delicious verboten with a heart of gold (or a child chained to a rock of secrets, whichever), Matt is teetering about on his white horse, Mrs. Flowers is no longer mysterious, Caroline scuttles around like an Exorcist child, pregnant and eating slugs, and Fell's Church is in the proverbial handbasket.

I love a quest; I love a view of a world not my own; I even love sexy vampires and the girls they love. Yet, 1000+ pages into books one and two of The Return and contemplating the next 600 of the eventual third (please let that be all!), the fond past is where I should have kept L.J. Smith and where Ms. Smith herself should have kept the story.
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on April 10, 2010
Words cannot describe how disappointed I am with "The Return" of LJ Smith after her long hiatus from writing. I wish she had started writing new novels instead of doing character assassinations, and ruining her much beloved series. The series has gotten quite ridiculous with inconsistencies, and a 180 degree turn from the characters. I am no longer intrigued, but rather laugh at all these characters who are "shadows" of their former selves.

I cannot believe that the same person wrote these new novels. I grew up with her writing and own all of her old books with the old covers, and not the new, cheesy ones that are all trying to copy Twilight. I threw away all of my Vampire Diaries novels, and now just watch the TV series, as it is quite entertaining and much better than the new books.

Also, if you're an old die hard fan like me, I wouldn't hold my breath for the long awaited "Strange Fate" for her Night World series. I have sampled the new LJ Smith's writing in the latest Vampire Diaries novels, and I am not even going to bother seeing how she is going to ruin the Night World series.

Please, write a new series, and do not ruin any more of your well written old works, LJS!
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on April 3, 2010
wow. this book was something else.

i basically read about 600 pages about how elena is ruler of the universe. every single guy she meets wants her, we get it she's beautiful, how answers to questions or finding fox keys just pop into her damn head from no intelligent source, how she keeps things from her friends and basically cheats on stefan day and night but people still bow at her white feet. it must be great to be this girl who can do whatever she wants and have such a loyal fan base regardless. who can possibly relate to this character?

i wouldn't recommend this book to anyone. if you know the series and just "have to know" what happens buy it. but i bet you'll be as disappointed as i am. this book has gotten so far away from what the first few books were that it doesn't even slightly resemble the series.
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on April 2, 2010
If you liked the first 4 books of the series, be happy and content with the ending of book 4. This book is a mockery of the series. The author obviously just threw some words on paper to make a buck, not caring that she was insulting the characters, the original story lines, and her readers. I gave up not even half way through it, it was that bad. She tries to make us believe in a love triangle (between Stephen/Elena/Damon, reminiscint of Twilight but terribly written) that wasn't really present in the first 4, making Elena sound like a no-morals wanton girl, repeatedly falling for Damon. Totally unbelievable! Save yourself time and money and move on to another book/series, you'll be thankfull you did.
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