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Fifty Shades of Fifty Shades – Fifty Shades Darker: A Review

October 3, 2012


Everyone knows the middle installment of a trilogy is normally the weakest. There are a few exceptions to the rule, but E.L. James’s second “Fifty Shades” novel is not one of them. When Fifty Shades of Grey ends with Ana dramatically rejecting Christian and his BDSM habits, and you’ve already bought the concluding two parts of the trilogy, you know that this rejection isn’t the end for the couple. Far from it, in fact. There’s a whole two more novels to go. However, I did expect more of the second novel to be dedicated to Christian trying to win Ana back. I thought she’d show more strength – she goes on and on about how she’s an independent woman, but a few days without Christian and she’s literally gone to pieces, which she doesn’t really deserve to do because she finished with him. Bella falling apart when Edward leaves in New Moon I can understand, but Ana’s reaction to the break up and the way she jumps back into Christian’s arms (and his bed) the first time he says “I’ve changed” is, frankly, pathetic. It’s clear from Ana’s narration that she considers herself a strong, independent woman and later in the novel this is certainly more in line with how she comes across, so it’s all the more annoying that E.L. James puts her through something so seemingly out of character just to move the plot along.

Speaking of plot, then, Fifty Shades Darker had more of it than I was expecting. Not only is there the whole storyline around Leila, Christian’s psychotic ex-sub, but there’s also drama with Ana’s pervy boss Jack Hyde and Christian’s ex-dom, the very much demonised Mrs Robinson. In all of these situations Ana manages to come across as the strong, independent woman she claims to be, again making how weak she is without Christian look particularly pathetic. Even at the very end of the novel, there’s promise of drama to come in the form of the sort of epilogue of narration from a shady-sounding bloke who seems to have it in for Christian. There are enough clues in the short piece to guess who the bloke is, but there’s a lot that remains to be cleared up in the final installment. Cliffhangers are a sure-fire way to keep people hooked in, so I’ll give E.L. James a bit of kudos (just a little bit, mind) for that one. However, one of the plot aspects that really winds me up in this novel is the way Ana and Christian seem to solve any issue with sex. Been given a promotion? Celebration sex. Dinner time but not sure what to eat? Obviously hungry for some Christian-lovin’. Just got home after a crazy car chase? Tension-relief sex. It’s crazy. Fifty shades of crazy. Even by fantasy standards.

As with the first installment, the writing is atrocious. If you thought the number of innuendos and euphemisms used in Fifty Shades of Grey was alarmingly small and the language painfully repetitive, then Darker will really, really wind you up. By the end, I was sick of Christian’s words being Ana’s “undoing”, him “finding his release” and her “exploding” around him, and there’s still a whole novel more of it to put up with. The only small blessing to be had is that Ana’s schizophrenically opposed subconscious and inner goddess seem to have been subdued a bit. They’re still there, but their interjections are reduced to occasional mentions rather than infuriating commentary.

Overall, for all I hate these novels, I also sort of love them. They’re trash and so, so unliterary, but there’s something compelling about them and I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t completely sucked in. Even in the time between finishing Darker and writing this review, I’ve scaled most of Fifty Shades Freed and will be done with it before the weekend. Perhaps the parameters of what constitutes good writing is changing, but that’s a story for another time.

Check out my review of Fifty Shades of Grey here.


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