All right, I'm about six years late (it seems) on writing this review. I actually just came in possession of "Breaking Dawn" this past week, and, shockingly enough, this one sucked me in. In fact, I pretty much just sat around all this past holiday weekend (it was Labor Day, I think) reading this book, much to the chagrin of my very loving and patient wife. (Truth be told, she couldn't very well tell me not to be a lazy bookworm, as whenever she's got a book she really wants to read, she's not much better!)
Let it be known, however, that I'm a guy, and I'm a guy who really likes science fiction (not fantasy, mind you, which really should never be placed on the same shelf as science fiction in a book store, in my opinion), so the fact that this one actually engaged me was remarkable. I'd read the earlier books, and they all seemed to have far too much romantic nonsense to be worth all the crazy attention they had received.
With this last book, however, I feel like Stephenie Meyer finally got around to story-telling. Interestingly, I believe I'm a lone voice in the crowd in that I believe this book was far superior to her previous books. All the previous ones, if you deleted all the mental gyrations of the protagonist, could probably be summed up tidily in a 20 page, illustrated chapter book. To me, their only redeeming value was in setting the stage for this book, which was sharp and fast-moving and veered left, and then right, on it's way to the final conclusion.
I consider myself a fairly sophisticated reader, and it takes a lot to truly engage me. Yet this book not only did that, but it actually surprised me -- not just once, but several times. This, despite having been privy to several key spoilers. Some of the criticisms I've heard are about how the book predictably ended -- to that, I say that I like "good" endings. Others criticized the introduction of a second point of view -- I thought adding that second voice introduced a wonderful dimension to the story and gave us a richer experience. Indeed, if she had added one or two more voices, I may have been even happier (Edward, Carlisle, or even Alice?! -- now that would have been a challenge ...).
In any case, I must actually recommend the book. If it wasn't for the fact that you couldn't understand it if you didn't first read the other books, I'd say skip them altogether and save your time to savor this one, but they do provide needed context. Nevertheless, this one pleased me well, and I give credit where credit is due. Good job, Stephenie Meyer!