I have a confession to make: Although I have been a long-term reader of this series, when the books started being released in hardcover first, I lost track of it while waiting for the paperbacks. So when I received a review copy of Dead and Gone, I had to catch up with All Together Dead and From Dead to Worse. Each book brings major changes to Sookie’s world and I find trying to pick up my place in the story without remembering what happened in earlier books disorienting so I wouldn’t recommend reading the books out of order or as stand alones.
This review contains spoilers from earlier books in the series.
Werepanthers and vampires and fairies, oh my!
Dead and Gone is the ninth book in the Sookie Stackhouse (aka True Blood, aka Southern Vampire) series and picks up two and a half months after From Dead to Worse. Sookie is in a relatively strong position, with favours owed by the new King of Louisiana and the local werewolf pack, as well as having her own fairy godmother, not to mention 2 powerful witches as housemates. And then there’s the added advantage of being able to read human minds. The story begins with the Great Reveal—in other words, the Weres are following the vampires’ example and are coming out of the closet to the human world.
The Great Reveal appears to have taken place smoothly and with a minimum of negative reaction (at least in Bon Temps anyway), but soon after, Sookie’s sister-in-law, the pregnant werepanther Crystal, is found in the parking lot of Sookie’s workplace, crucified while partially turned, and her brother Jason is the prime suspect.
Sookie and Eric
There are also developments in Sookie’s relationships with vampires Eric Northman and Bill Compton, and they each provide a good contrast for the other. While Bill might arguably be the more reliable and loyal given the choice, he isn’t always powerful enough to be able to make his own decisions. Although Bill’s recent actions suggest genuine regret for hurting Sookie with his forced betrayal and that he truly loves her, I can’t help but prefer Eric, even though he admits to looking after his own interests first, because there’s more of a spark between him and Sookie. But because he is more politically motivated than Bill, he often has more room to control his own life and make his own choices.
While I usually enjoy the dynamic between Sookie and Eric, their blood bond has brought them close enough that just being in Eric’s presence drowns out Sookie’s (IMO reasonable) anger at him making decisions that affect her without consulting her beforehand. It has an uncomfortable similarity to the early stages of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ardeur (the plot device that brings people together and changes them into what the other person needs in order to maintain that relationship. Oh, yeah, and led to Anita fucking strangers), so I really hope that both Sookie and Eric can continue to maintain some distance so that they know their feelings for each other are real. The blood bond appears to work on Eric just as much as Sookie, but I’d hate to see the loss of free will ruin their relationship. But negative potential aside (after all, the relationship hasn’t gone that far yet and there’s no guarantee it ever will), Eric shows more of the hot but sweet side that melted me in Dead to the World.
Fast fairy development
Sookie has recently been contacted by her great-grandfather, the fairy prince Niall, and is being pulled into their world as she is a tool that can be used to hurt Niall. There is a lot of fast development in the fairy world, and we learn who the main players are and their roles in the war. This could easily have become confusing, but Harris thoughtfully includes quick descriptions of where they fit in the back story (and pronunciations) and reduces the action to only a few main players that I was able to keep track of without effort. But the fast development and quick conclusion makes it feel like this plotline was rushed. And of course, the door is left ajar for it to return in later books.
Tight pacing, loose plotting
The pacing is quite tight in Dead and Gone. The story opens right before the action begins, and ends on a bit of a cliffhanger where all but 3 very important details are resolved. The reader is taken into some of the minutiae of Sookie’s life as a relief from the mayhem, but it doesn’t seem to bog down the tempo of the overall story as much as it sometimes has in earlier books.
Having said that, it seems like the mystery of who killed Crystal has taken a backseat to the rest of Sookie’s life. After all, she’s a valued employee of the local vampire population, great-granddaughter of the fairy prince, friend to the local werewolf pack, witness and stand-in for a werepanther mating, not to mention a responsible barmaid, friend, roommate, homeowner and sister. Who has time to listen in to her neighbours’ thoughts and solve mysteries?
After helping to find missing people in Rhodes (in All Together Dead), Sookie has attracted the FBI’s attention, and 2 agents arrive with the intent of getting her to admit and prove she’s psychic and work for them, shooting their careers to the top. Soon after their arrival, they become caught up in the Crystal mystery and their role in the story could easily have been played by Bon Temps law enforcement.
In From Dead to Worse, Sookie tracked down her late cousin’s wary ex-husband and telepathic son to help the little boy deal with his unusual abilities. The ex calls Sookie at an inconvenient moment in Dead and Gone, and she puts off helping until her life is more stable (read: when no one is trying to kill her). That’s it. Unless Harris was trying to demonstrate that the plotline hasn’t been dropped after From Dead to Worse, I saw no need to include that conversation in Dead and Gone.
*** MILD SPOILER ***
There is a torture scene (I’m not saying who was involved), but it was actually quite well handled. Harris successfully expressed Sookie’s horror without being too detailed about the actual torture. The writing wasn’t vague, but very deliberately focused away from what was happening and more on how Sookie felt about it, which I thought was a decent way to spare the readers, while being definite about something-really-really-bad-is-happening-here.
*** END SPOILER ***
Yay or Nay?
If you’re already reading this series, you won’t want to miss this book, even if it is somewhat darker than the others. Despite its flaws, I kept turning the pages and was almost surprised when I found myself at the end. But do your homework first—prices vary wildly between bookstores, and the locally published version is a better bargain than the US hardcover.
Dead and Gone is published in Australia by Hachette (Gollancz). You can read the blurb here.
Title: Dead and Gone
Series: True Blood/Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire (Book 9)
Author: Charlaine Harris
Australian release: June 2009
Publisher: Hachette Australia (Gollancz)
AUSTRALIA: Booktopia | Dymocks | Ever After | Fishpond | Galaxy | Nile | Rendezvous | Romance Direct | Siren | More
EBOOKS: Books On Board | eBooks.com | Fictionwise | Kindle
WORLDWIDE: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Book Depository | Borders
Other books in the True Blood series (UK/Australia)
Other books in the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire series (US)