Friday, March 9, 2012

Winner Review: Sunflower Award

Winner Review by shelikesthesound

It’s not often I come across canon vampire stories anymore, and it’s even rarer to find one that’s well-written. AllTheOtherNamesAreUsed manages to do both in one story, showing us her idea of what happened when Edward was turned.

It opens with Edward in the hospital, clinging to life as the Spanish Flu ravages his body. As he drifts in and out of consciousness, we see some of his human memories in fever-induced dreams, while he’s still human, painting a picture of who that seventeen year old boy was before he became the vampire we all know and love. The end of Edward’s human existence plays out in snippets as he drifts between the land of dreams and reality, and we catch a glimpse of Elizabeth Masen’s plea for Dr. Cullen to save her only son.

The room slowly darkened again, and the bulbs scattered across the ceiling were lit like beacons. I closed my eyes and I could still see them. Like fireflies. I saw my mother's face, surrounded by fireflies in the backyard. A dinner party. She looked lovely, radiant, joyful…Chopin's Nocturne wafted through the French doors of the parlor…Father was at the piano. Mother danced in the grass as she cleared the glasses from the tables. I tried to hum along, but my throat was so dry, my body so heavy. I concentrated on the melody, and my mother dancing.

The bed shook and my eyes fluttered open for a moment; the angel-doctor was holding my mother.

"Mrs. Masen! What are you trying to do? You aren't strong enough…let me help you lie down."

"What are you?" She asked as she grasped his arms. My eyes fell closed.

"I'm your doctor, and I'm here to help you." He lifted her into her bed, but his voice was discomposed. The man next to me moaned, drowning out their hushed conversation. Then I heard her clearly.

"You must save my Edward!" she coughed, and then took several labored breaths. Her voice sounded frenzied, as though she were using every last bit of her energy. "Only you can help him."

I heard the angel-doctor freeze. I felt the questions in his pause: What is she asking? What does she know?

"You can save him; only you can," she said, and then lay back in her bed, gasping. He whispered something to her, and then called loudly.


Switching to Carlisle’s point of view, the author takes us through his thought process, showing us how he justified fulfilling Mrs. Masen’s last request and pulling off taking Edward from the hospital. Carlisle’s desperation is palpable as he races against the breaking dawn, and Edward’s slowing heart, to get him to Dr. Cullen’s home.

In the books, it was never told what that first taste of human blood did to Carlisle as he bit Edward’s neck to inject the venom, but AllTheOtherNamesAreUsed gives us a beautiful and terrifying look at what went through Carlisle’s mind in those moments.

I held my hand over my mouth and backed away from the table, until I could grasp something, anything, to keep me from approaching Edward again. I had barely been able to stop drinking his blood, despite my precautions. I'd fixed Elizabeth Masen's face in my mind before biting him, remembering her words, her pleading eyes. Hoping that the memory of her—her last wish, and her faith in me—would counteract the first taste of human blood. It had only just worked. I'd tried to merely bite, and not drink, but I was so startled by the flavor that I'd drawn in a mouthful, and that had almost been my undoing. I'd drained more of him than was necessary, taking several gulps as I fought to control myself, willing myself to let go. My eyes had seen only crimson, once his soft throat lay open beneath my lips, the pulsing blood so much more fragrant and delectable than anything I'd tasted or even dreamed of before. I'd shuddered in near ecstasy. I'd finally understood something of Aro's perspective. If I'd started with this ambrosia, and didn't see humans as true people, it would be hard to imagine feeding on anything else. It had finally been the vision of Aro's crimson eyes, superimposed with Elizabeth Masen's green ones, that had allowed me to pull away from Edward's open throat: the fear of what I might become, juxtaposed with all I hoped I was worthy of.

I clung to the doorframe behind me as my breathing slowed and my vision returned to a normal spectrum. I'd done it. The bloodlust was passing and I hadn't killed him. His heart still beat…I swallowed down another surge of venom at the thought. Edward was not my prey. He was a person, and I hoped, one day, perhaps a friend. I let out a haggard breath.

First in Carlisle’s viewpoint, and then Edwards, the author takes us through Edward’s change. It’s not hard to think back to that moment in Breaking Dawn when Bella lay on the table and chronicled what it was like as the venom transformed her and compare that well-known experience with Edward’s. And, it’s obvious, the more you read, the more you realize how different it really was for him.

Another part that gives you a better understanding of the Edward portrayed in the Twilight books is his first reactions to waking up. In canon, Edward and Carlisle have an amazing bond that transcends the father/son, confidant/friend relationship throughout the story. But in AllTheOtherNamesAreUsed’s world, those beginning days are much different, illustrating the complexity of a teenage boy being thrust into the realm of monsters and legends.

And, mentally, Edward is every bit the seventeen year old his physical from is changed to, frozen for all time. He doesn’t understand what has happened to him and lashes out when Carlisle explains. He becomes the embodiment of everything we were told newborns are: angry, confused, and rash.

"Look," I said, frustrated beyond control, "I'm no doctor, but I know if your heart is still, you're dead. And my heart is still. And yet I speak. And breathe. It makes no sense!" Rage was starting to overwhelm me.

We're vampi…

"Vampires don't exist!" I yelled, looking up as I cut him off.

He froze, stunned. And then calmly continued. "They do, actually. I've been one a very long time." He took a deep breath, steadying himself. "And now you are one too."

I stared at him. "No," I insisted.

"Your mother could tell you were dying. She asked me, begged me to save you."

"You don't think she might have been talking about medicine?" I asked sarcastically.

"She knew you were beyond that, she knew there was no other way, she wanted you to survive…like me."

And then I saw it. I saw his kind, worried face, and superimposed on it I saw my mother's haggard wan face pleading for me to be saved. You are more than that. Save him as only you can. Promise me! Only you can save him! The cello voice answered I promise!

"STOP THAT!" I cried. "What are you doing? Why are you doing that?"

His face was confused. "I'm not doing anything Edward, I'm just trying to explain…"

"I don't want to see her like that! Don't make me see her!"

The author never takes the easy route, not making the characters instantly have the relationships we know they find. Instead, their time together moves and grows in a natural and realistic way. Carlisle is not perfect, does not magically have all the answers, but stumbles and makes mistakes like any person who has no clue how to interact with others. Edward, we realize quickly, never woke up as the vampire who is perfect.

I approached, watching him warily, my instincts telling me it was a bad idea for two vampires to be near one open throat, but he backed away. I crouched and drank greedily. It did not taste good, but it felt amazing. After several minutes, no more blood came. "What's wrong with it?" I asked.

"It's drained," he said. "I assume you're still thirsty?"

I nodded. The burn in my throat had barely dulled.

"Your turn," he said, smiling.

I closed my eyes and reached out with my senses to find new prey. "What's that scent to the east? It's not deer."

Carlisle raised his face into the breeze. "It's a cat of some kind, and it's big, from the sound of its heart."

"Will I be able to kill it?" I asked.

"You are stronger and faster than anything out here. You needn't fear your prey," he reassured.

I nodded and started following the scent. My eyes glazed red again, and I realized that when this happened, my senses were even more attuned, more focused. I reached a large rock, where the cat was lying. It had just fed, the carcass of a rabbit lying near it. I realized that I needed to get above it. Feeling power surge through my legs, I copied Carlisle's move and propelled myself off several trunks, gaining height each time, until I was on one of the lower branches. I crouched, moving along the branch until I had a clear jump to the cat, and then pounced. I landed on it and sunk my teeth into its neck effortlessly, an amazing heated elixir flowing into my mouth, but my jump carried both the cat and I along the boulder to its edge, and we started to slip to the ground below. The seal of my lips broke, and blood flowed onto its fur, making it slippery. The cat was growling and struggling, and broke free momentarily, but I pounced again, and this time, I pinned it solidly. I was stronger than it. I sunk my teeth back into its neck, mourning the blood that had spilled. It tasted wonderful, and seemed to penetrate the back of my throat like a heated rain infiltrating desert sands. I shuddered with pleasure as I drank, and felt real relief, which I'd started to fear would always elude me. I drained the cat, sucking hard to get every last drop. When I stood, my mind was clear, and my throat felt warm and raw, but not painful.

Carlisle was standing nearby. "That was very good," he said encouragingly. " Do you feel better, or do you need to drink more?"

"Better," I acknowledged. I looked down and realized my shirt was covered in blood. "Ugh," I scowled. "I'm a mess! How disgusting!" Carlisle fought back a smile.

"You did very well, Edward."

I looked at his shirt; it was perfectly clean. "You're not wearing your meal," I complained.

Prelude in C is one of those stories you just cannot put down. From the first paragraph, it sucks you in and refuses to let go of you. With only twenty-three chapters posted, the journey Edward and Carlisle embark on as they try to figure out how to live with each other is far from finished. It will be interesting to see where the author takes this story as it progresses.

This is one of those stories that could easily pass as the missing canon moments of the start of the Cullen family. I recommend this to anyone who ever wondered what Edward left out in his explanation to Bella about his beginnings. It might just surprise you.

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