Reviewed in the United States on April 7, 2014
It's like reading a newer, more detailed version of the story that I already love! I STRONGLY RECOMMEND that ANYONE who has read the Twilight Saga more than twice should absolutely buy this companion book! It fills in so many details that would have made the original story too slow-paced if put in during the actual reading of events, but the details clarify things that the reader didn't even know needed clarifying! For example: there are detailed personal histories of pretty much every character in the entire saga! This includes the stories of how Renee and Charlie met and fell in and out of love; of Jacob's parents, and siblings; and the whole story of Sam-Emily-Leah and what it was like when Sam first turned alone, and why he and Jared are so close. Even more interesting, to me at least, are the detailed personal histories of all the vampires in the story, like Kate, Tanya, and Irina, their individual lives as humans, and when, why, where, and how their mother, Sasha, turned them into vampires, (also the story of when Sasha made an immortal child, Vasilli). Again, even MORE fascinating, the real story of the Voturi: when and how they came to be, (in Ancient Greece, around 250BC, if I remember correctly...) which of the three is oldest, why Marcus is so indifferent and depressed about everything, (Aro had Marcus's wife killed overe 2,000 years ago; she was also Aro's sister; which shows even more just how crazy his lust for power truly is.) It also revels who truly is THE MOST IMPORTANT MEMBER OF THE VOTURI; the whom without, they could not function as a whole, Marcus would be able to commit suicide, as he truly desires to do, and the guard would question why they follow the orders of 3 old vampires who do nothing but use them until they are no longer needed or are replaceable, (and most are killed IF they ever want/try to leave, Eleazar being a rare exception). This MVP is only mentioned once in the books, showing just how little the vampire world knows about the true inner workings of the Voturi; (in the Guide, we learn the Aro is the only one who "controls" said MVP, mainly by indulgence, subtle manipulation, bribery, and using any and all means possible to make said person very happy so he/she will use his/her extremely potent power to do as Aro wishes; hint: it's not Jane or Alec). The Guide tells us stories of the lives of the permanent members of the Volturi Guard and how they gained their positions; most were relatively "good" and decent vampires beforehand, some even fought against the Volturi or tried to hide their existence from them before they were "converted". The story of Jane and Alec is one of the better tales. It takes place during the Dark Ages, and, like Bella, the twins showed an infinity for a special vampiric ability even as small children. Aro heard about these two "Witch" toddlers who could affect things with their minds. It was not long before this time when the immortal children had been officially forbidden by Aro and his brothers, so as much as Aro wanted the twins, he knew that he would have to wait until they became old enough to be safely turned, so he left them in their home village, assuming that the humans would never harm two innocent children, (he did, of course, leave scouts of a sort behind to keep an eye on the children, just in case another vampire took notice and got the same idea that he had). A few years later, a visiting vampire told Aro that he had heard in passing of two "witch twins" in a small village who were about to be burned at the stake for witchcraft by the frightened humans of the village. Apparently, the twins powers had become quite noticeable to the human population. Aro raced to save them, but he was too late: the twins were already burning on the pyre. So, he killed all the humans in the village, and pulled the children from the flames and quickly bit each of them himself, (something The Guide says that Aro NEVER does). Aro was then faced witha dilemma of sorts: he himself had decreed that to create an immortal child was punishable by death, and I'm here, he had just created two. He managed to find a loophole, of sorts, seeing as the twins had recently turned thirteen (13), along with the fact that living through the ordeal of being burned alive at the stake had fundamentally changed Jane and Alec's view of the world, and given them both severe cases of PTSD, which is what would fuel their new vampiric psychic powers. In The Guide, Stephanie writes that, (and I'm very loosely paraphrasing, here): while they were burning on the stake, each twin had a different psycho-emotional experience. Alec reacted by trying to "escape" from the pain of the fire, so he did "created" a place in his mind where he could feel absolutely nothing: no pain, but also no sight, smell, taste, or sound. This response was the raw beginning of his ability to strip others of all five of their senses with an anesthetic-type "mist" that he releases from his palms, (in actuality, it is an illusion of the psyche, but until Bella, no one knew that it wasn't real). Jane's reaction to being burned alive was almost opposite to her brother's anesthia. Jane was filled with so much rage toward the people who had done this to her and her beloved twin, that she wished with all her might (and magic) that the people responsible felt as though they were burning alive, too. After Jane had completed her transition, she learned that she could make burn where they stood just with her mind. Unlike with Alec, though, Jane figured out immediately that her power was only psychological. Too add to her frustration, she also discovered that she could only "burn" one (1) person at a time, while her twin could immobilize entire army within a minute or two (2). The Egyptian coven members have some of the greatest histories: Amun and Kebi became vampires around 2500BC. Amun is the same Amun that the Ancient Egyptians worshiped as one of their highest gods. Stephanie writes wonderful background stories for all the nomads we encounter throughout the Saga. My favorites are of Alastair, Victoria, Maggie, Charles and McKenna, Hilda - (Heidi, of the Volturi's "mother"), Chelsea and Afton (Volturi), and Laurante. I also loved reading about the Romanian coven, their glory days, their war with the Volturi, (in which, because of their ambush assignments, Stefan and Vladamir were the only survivors of the last attack), their co-existence with the Egyptian coven (which is, by 2000+ years, the oldest coven known to still exist - only because Amun refused to fight the Voturi with the rest of his coven, who were slaughtered). My favorite stories in The Guide are about the Cullen Family. The is a ton more information about each member of the family - I always loved reading Carlise's history. Stephanie writes pages of background on Esme, which we never knew before, like that she had met Carlisle as a teenager and thought of his for the next ten years as her dream man. Pages and pages on Edward and Rosalie. Only a small section on Emmett; I guess with him, what you "read" is what you get! Although, it does include a memory of aftere Emmett had been mauled by the bear, and Rosalie was running through the woods to get him to Carlisle to change him because she was scared that she would kill him if she tried; well, Emmett, in his delirium, thought that he was dead, and that Rose was an angel carrying him to God aka Carlisle. The Guide also includes how Emmett, always practical, left a good portion of Edward's family trust on his parents doorstep after his transformation, to try and make up for them losing such a strong, healthy, working son who brought in most of the money for the house. We learn all about Alice's childhood, how she had visions of the future, although to a lesser degree, as a human, the tragedy of her human life that was filled with murder, hit men, scandals, adultery, lies and deceit, and, finally, why Alice ended up in a sanatorium with all of her hair cut off which is where she received multiple ECT, lost her memories, but gained a vampire friend in an orderly who was working there because he figured it would be one of the few places that missing bodies wouldn't cause a scene. Stephanie never gives this vampire a name, but, we're begins to care for Alice, bringing her little gifts, and having her "guess" what they are, (in other words, he figures out that she has some sort of psychic ability). We learn of how James caught her months' old scent, and how she was a 'singer' to him, and how she couldn't she a future where he didn't kill her. So, the vampire orderly turned her, because and then sacrificed himself in order to give her time to complete as much of the transition as possible; enough so that Alice's blood wouldn't appeal to James anymore. Along with all the information about all the vampires, Stephanie also includes about 100-200 pages on the Quillutes as a tribe, the individual wolves, tribal history, and local history. This also includes profiles on the humans in the Twilight world, (Charlie, Renee, Angela, Jessica, Mike, Tyler, Ben, Sue and Harry Clearwater, etc.). The Guide also includes beautiful drawings of some of the settings in the books, props, jewelry, houses, and, my personal favorite, sketches of the Cullens, as pictured by Stephanie Mayer herself.
I have written way too much here; given a million spoilers away. Basically, I'd give this book ten (10) stars, if I could!
BUY THIS BOOK IF YOU LOVE THE TWILIGHT SAGA BOOKS!!!