Tuesday, April 2, 2013

8 Heart Review: Fifty Shades Darker by EL James

Fifty Shades Darker
EL James

Page Count: 532

Release Date: 17 April 2012 (new edition)
Publisher: Vintage Books (Random House)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by Edenfantasys in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)
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Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Daunted by the singular sexual tastes and dark secrets of the beautiful, tormented young entrepreneur Christian Grey, Anastasia Steele has broken off their relationship to start a new career with a Seattle publishing house.

But desire for Christian still dominates her every waking thought, and when he proposes a new arrangement, Anastasia cannot resist. They rekindle their searing sensual affair, and Anastasia learns more about the harrowing past of her damaged, driven, and demanding Fifty Shades.

While Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Anastasia must confront her anger and envy of the women who came before her and make the most important decision of her life.

Erotic, sparkling, and suspenseful, Fifty Shades Darker is the irresistibly addictive second part of the Fifty Shades trilogy.


[NOTE]: Read my review of Fifty Shades of Grey, the book that started it all, by clicking here!

I wasn't a fan of the first book, but am so glad I gave the second a chance. In Fifty Shades Darker, Christian (our fantasy man, the sex god, the physically flawless human being with athletic ability, musical prowess, an amazing family, a scattering of houses all across the nation, some helicopters and private jets—and of course, pilot licenses for both vehicles—AND a gajillion dollars) agrees to vanilla, agrees to sacrificing himself for Anastasia as much as it pains him, because that is the depth of his love for her. The emotions in this installment of the Fifty Shades series are mind-blowing and the implications of what Christian is giving up just to keep Ana around, devastating. I found this book so much more enjoyable than the first, and actually—dare I say it.... liked it.

Mr. Grey's dangerous past and lingering associations haunt his current relationship with Ana, indicating their love may be geting more dangerous—darker—than ever. As he becomes more and more dependent on her in a way he's never felt with anyone else, he realizes he must exorcise the demons of his past in order to achieve a fulfilling, worthy future with the lovely (okay, not so lovely) Miss Steele... even if it damn near kills him.

This book is richer in both content and in emotional resonance. It consumed me, and once I really got into it, I couldn't put it down! Things actually happen, things other than the same love scene over and over again. Well, maybe that's a bit of a stretch. The BDSM is once again a huge letdown, but you heard me complain enough about that in my first review, so I'll restrain myself on that matter. The sex scenes are still repetitive—in fact, they're identical, just with different locations (table, bed, helicopter) and different occasions (birthday, Monday, Tuesday...). So, sadly no improvement whatsoever there.

But where I did see improvement, was in the two main characters and the relationship between them. There's actually growth among them; the previously boring, innocent Ana finds a way to surprise even herself, while—quote, unquote—"mercurial"Christian learns to trust, as much as it hurts him. The exquisite unraveling of Christian's agonizing childhood and the psychoanalysis on how it's made him they way he is today... this... THIS will break your heart. Ana only wants to kiss those scars that are so deeply embedded into Christian's flesh but even she may not have that power. The way he gives himself to her so wholly because of how much he loves her, is what made me cave.

Now, as much as I was engrossed in the stirring conflict of emotions, this book is far, far from perfect. I fell a little in love with Christian through his weak, needy portrayal, but I can't say this very confidently, because there are bigger, better things that made me want to puke on him, instead. Even Anastasia recognizes he has more money than he has sense; throughout the entire book, he is shit-terrifying bipolar, a control freak, and demonstrates multiple personalities—in other words, pretty fuckin' scary. He suffocates Ana in affection and "compassion" to compensate for his behavior, but what the fuck? You can't swear at a girl, and then buy her a car and stick your tongue in her love hole (my new PG word for snatch) to make it up to her! It doesn't work that way, Mr. Grey, you ass! But alas, apparently it does work that way—a horrendous result of both James's unbelievable portrayal of a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, and of Ana's idiocy.

Brace yourself for a fangirly (or anti-fangirly) rant: ANA FUCKIN' STEELE, the incriminating reason why Anaïs Nin is tossing around in her grave at night! I'll give you this: I do respect her a bit more after reading Fifty Shades Darker. Not when she returns to Christian obviously, but because she has her moments where she just plain kicks ass: hater ass, Christian ass, filthy perverted boss ass—all sorts of good ass! She actually stands up for herself (for once!); I was proud of her for her assertiveness. But aside from her glittering moments, I wanted to spank the shit out of her. I don't know if James has deliberately created the most dislikable female character on the planet, but she's done a great job at it. Also, I noticed Ana orgasms pretty much at the slightest breeze. Christian looks at her love hole and she orgasms. Christian says her name and she orgasms. Christian touches her shoulder and she orgasms. Ana is a dumbass and I don't know what Christian sees in her; it pained ME to have to read this whole book from her perspective.

Oh, and they've known each other for a good five weeks and they're saying vows? What the actual fuck, this was probably my biggest problem with their relationship. No one can commit or develop proper feelings that quickly, especially if they're doe-eyed and virginal like Anastasia, or fifty shades of fucked up like Christian. Sigh... James fails in the realistic factor again. (But then again, Christian buys Ana multiple designer cars, a bunch of houses, ancient wine, antiques, is solving world hunger, and is a doting boyfriend. We never guaranteed this book would be realistic).

I also find it very strange they call each other by their last names: Mr. Grey this, Miss Steele that—are they from the 19th century? Well, Ana could be, given her lack of any sort of worldly experience (i.e. relationships, sexuality, email).

Okay, my rant's over, I promise. So. Aside from the outraged ramble you've read above, this book has many redeeming qualities that made me enjoy it. As flawed as the main relationship is, you can tell Christian really does love Ana; it's just that he keeps pulling her into unbearable situations, forcing her to face things she shouldn't have to. Ana is smart enough (just barely) to realize this, but not strong enough to resist it—which keeps her from leaving the toxic, all-consuming relationship. They are both enshrouded by doubt that they are wrong for each other and that they don't deserve each other... and they're absolutely right, except that they have one thing in common: unbridled love. And this is what will keep them together.

Fifty Shades Darker ends breathlessly and on a lingering note. I SO want to read Book 3. Let's keep our fingers crossed it doesn't disappoint!

[UPDATE]: Read my review of the next book in the series, Fifty Shades Freed, by clicking here.


Much much MUCH better than the first one // Deep emotions // Character development (it took 1000+ pages, but James still did it!) // Darker, more alluring, and more thrilling // There's actually a plot // Suspenseful because of life-or-death situation both Ana and Christian are thrown in // Romance is actually palatable


Placid sex scenes // Awkward big words thrown in elementary writing // Stiff dialogue // Exasperating narrator... Ana is a moron in every which way // Sorry, but Christian Grey is still a weird fuck // Unrealistic. Duh.


"What I feel for you frightens me."
Now that we've gotten that over with, here are the real winners:

Some observations of Christian Grey:
He's very alluring.
Oh, he's so mercurial.
Holy fucking cow.
... vagina. 
These are the magical Mr. Grey's carnal effects on Anastasia:
He makes me feel so wanton.
He just makes me feel so sexy.
It's so arousing. 
I'm like an overflowing tank of gasoline.
Upon penetration:
.....that doesn't sound correct to me. Mr. Grey, are you sure you're doing it right?

Upon making him orgasm:
I feel like Aphrodite.
Well Ana, you do have an inner goddess and all.

Just a little something Ana casually says when Grey is misbehaving:
"Since when have you been so loquacious?"
Since when has that word been used outside the SAT's?

Evidence that our poor narrator is illiterate:
"I believe you have certain expectations, Miss Steele. Which I intend to fulfill to the best of my ability."
"The best... of your a... bil... ity?"
And the best for last from Mr. Grey himself...
"Get in the motherfucking car NOW!"
*swoons and faints* I now can see why she's so in love with him! 


I know we've got some Fifty Shades of Grey haters out there; I know this because I was one of them. Hear me out though: Fifty Shades Darker was so much better... I actually loved it! Eventful and engrossing, there's actually a developed plot, and visible character dynamism in this one. Even if you were discouraged by the first book, I think you should give the sequel a chance, because I'm so, so glad that I did. James has made so much improvement, I can't emphasize enough. The raw, heartbreaking emotions actually allowed me to overlook the stiff dialogue, unsuccessful eroticism, and awkward diction/imagery/writing style (or lack thereof); so even if the predecessor wasn't worth finishing, I guarantee this one definitely is Americanflag

8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended (x)