The Vampire Diaries: The Return: Shadow Souls by L.J. Smith

The Vampire Diaries: The Return: Shadow Souls by L.J. Smith is the latest addition to her best-selling series about vampire brothers Damon & Stefan Salvatore, and Elena Gilbert, the young woman they both love. The Vampire Diaries: The Return are Smith’s new additions to the series, which she originally wrote back in the 1990s.

I’m a big fan of the original four books (published more recently in two volumes), and despite the major differences, I also love the CW TV series adaptation.

But I’m not so sure about these new books in the series — and this latest addition has left me sorely disappointed.

It feels as if Smith has veered far away from what I found so enchanting about the original books — the dynamics of a vampire romance mixed in with high school drama.

Plus, the original books were at least grounded in reality — even if the stories included vampires and werewolves. It was as if the real world had been touched by the supernatural, while certain rules still held true.

In The Vampire Diaries: The Return, it seems as if all rules go out the window — and this is especially so in Shadow Souls, where just about anything goes. We suddenly find our heroes in a “Dark Dimension” where our high school heroines are dressed up and forced to act as vampire slaves; where vampires are joined by all manner of other worldly creatures; where there are Ladies in Palaces and “Guardians” and a red sun that never sets.

Part of the problem also comes from the storyline, itself. Besides being so far-fetched it’s hard to grasp (and that’s saying something for a vampire book) — the plot seems to meander randomly for so much of the nearly 600-pages, that you’re never quite sure where Smith is going next. The really only interesting part comes in the last few pages, which makes me actually want to read the third (and supposedly final) volume. But it didn’t feel like enough to validate everything that lead up to this moment. It almost felt as if Smith was contracted to write three books — but only had enough plot to make up two, so she stretched and filled this book with fluff. And it’s a lot of fluff.

I’m used to devouring Smith’s books in a matter of a few days (if that) — and yet, I hardly felt compelled to keep turning the pages of Shadow Souls. I had no problem putting down the book to go to sleep or to move on to other activities. I think that’s what disappointed me most of all. I’d expected to plow through this book quickly, and yet I could barely manage to finish reading it.

Still, as I said, the last few pages have compelled me to continue with the next volume, whenever it is released (probably next year) — and I doubt my complaints will keep Smith’s true fans from buying this book, either. I’m just disappointed by what I had hoped would be a fun read, and turned out to be very humdrum.

Here is the official synopsis:

On the run . . .

Elena Gilbert’s love, the vampire Stefan Salvatore, has been captured and imprisoned by demonic spirits who are wreaking havoc in Fell’s Church. While her friends Bonnie and Meredith explore the evil that has taken over their town, Elena goes in search of Stefan.

In order to find him, she entrusts her life to Stefan’s brother, Damon Salvatore, the handsome but deadly vampire who wants Elena, body and soul. Along with her childhood friend Matt, they set out for the slums of the Dark Dimension, where Stefan is being held captive. It is rumored to be a world where vampires and demons roam free, but humans must live enslaved to their supernatural masters. . . .

Elena will stop at nothing to free Stefan. Yet with each passing day the tension between Elena and Damon grows, and she is faced with a terrible decision: Which brother does she really want?

Back in Fell’s Church, Bonnie and Meredith have made some dire discoveries. They hastily try to follow Elena and warn her—only to be caught up in Elena’s most dangerous adventure yet.

For the comments: Have you read this book yet? What did you think?

5 thoughts on “The Vampire Diaries: The Return: Shadow Souls by L.J. Smith

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  1. I read all the books up to this one but decided not to buy it. At first I really liked the books but then it started taking a turn that didn’t mesh well with me. I like a good supernatural story but this one was taking it too far for me. I just couldn’t get into it anymore because it was so un-believable. Thanks for the review. I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way.

  2. This is a total bummer… but I’m glad you read it so I didn’t have to. 🙂 C’est la vie. At least we can enjoy the series on TV… gotta love frisky Damon.

    1. Yeah, it was majorly disappointing. I mean, obviously I’m all for vampire books — and I don’t even mind somewhat trashy/cheesy vampire books — but this one was just … bizarre. ALTHOUGH, like I said, the last few pages were enough to make me want to read the next one. But I’ll let you know if THAT one makes this last one worth-while.

  3. I tottally agree with the opinions above. When i started reading the series, i could’n let the book down even to go to sleep. I felt really tired by all this stuff going on in there, the only reason for reading it was to find out which will be Elena’s final choice. It really let me down… Elena should either die, whith the full meaning of the term, or have a happily ever after with one of them.

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