I read the previous book in this series, The Return: Nightfall, in September 2011. Shadow Souls is the sixth book in L.J. Smith's series, and it picks up with Stefan stuck in prison in the Dark Dimension.
Elena Gilbert, once the shallow, self-centered, stereotypical popular blonde teen, has now become a vampire, died as a vampire and come back from the dead, becoming a selfless and noble creature worthy of the true-hearted Stefan in the process. She's determined to save Stefan, even if it means sacrificing her own life. She intends to enter the Dark Dimension with Damon as her guide and Matt to support her. However, Matt gets turned around and ends up back in Fells Church, while Meredith and Bonnie decide to go with Elena. In the Dark Dimension, the three women must pretend to be Damon's slaves, since free humans are not allowed in the land of demons. L.J. Smith locates the entrance to the Dark Dimension in Sedona, Arizona.
In Nightfall, the female kitsune Misao gave Elena clues to the whereabouts of the two halves of the fox key, needed to release Stefan from his prison. When Elena saves the life of a slave woman, the woman turns out to be a key ally who gives Elena the access she needs to find the first half of the key. To find the second half, Elena must infiltrate the home of a dangerous goddess, Bloddeuwedd.
Bloddeuwedd is a figure from Welsh mythology. The goddess was created out of nine kinds of flowers to be the wife of the hero Lleu Llaw Gyffes (meaning Fair-Haired One with Skillful Hands), whose mother, the goddess Arianrhod (meaning Silver Wheel), had cursed him never to marry an earthly woman. Two magicians then created the unearthly Bloddeuwedd, whose name means "Flower Face."
Bloddeuwedd, the myth goes, did not take kindly to being given away to Lleu. What woman would? While he was away, she spotted a man named Goronwy heading a hunting party, and the two fell in love. She tricked Lleu into revealing the one, very unlikely way he could ever be killed, and then Goronwy attempted to kill him. In some versions, Lleu's life is spared when the magicians turn him into an eagle. For betraying her husband, Bloddeuwedd was transformed into an owl, which the Welsh considered to be the enemy of all the other birds.
(Read more about Bloddeuwedd at Thalia Took's goddess website.)
L.J. Smith's version of the goddess is beautiful, aloof, full of hatred and vengeful. Her immediate reaction to meeting Elena and Damon is to try to kill them. Will Damon and Elena live long enough to rescue Stefan? What evil tricks will the nasty kitsune pull this time? And what the hell is happening to Damon at the end?!
The books I have not yet read are:
The Return: Midnight
The Hunters: Phantom
The Hunters: Moonsong
The Hunters: Destiny Rising (release date: October 2012)
However, the Hunters trilogy was not written by Smith. These books have her name on them, but were ghostwritten. There are also six volumes of Stefan's Diaries, based on the TV show rather than the book series, none of which were written by Smith:
So, do I read on past Midnight? The Vampire Diaries without Smith is a bit like Harry Potter without J.K. Rowling, isn't it? Or do TVD fans have good things to say about the ghostwritten books?
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Now, on a completely different subject, this coolest thing at MYHABIT this week is not Kindle covers, but iPhone 4 covers. My fave is this one with a Keith Haring design.
If you, too, are fascinated with the life and work of the late American artist Keith Haring, I recommend you read the published version of his journals - fascinating. I read this (some version of it) back in '00.
The other MYHABIT things I heart this week are
Hello Kitty jewelry and Warrior Poet children's clothes.
The website went with the traditional pink for the girl-oriented item and blue for the boy-oriented item. You are under no obligation to be bound by gender stereotypes; feel free to dress your boys in Hello Kitty and your girls in Warrior Poet.