|There is more going on in this cover than I'm aesthetically comfortable with.|
After enduring torture and the loss of loved ones during the brief but deadly Faery War, Sookie Stackhouse is hurt and she's angry. Just about the only bright spot in her life is the love she thinks she feels for vampire Eric Northman. But he's under scrutiny by the new Vampire King because of their relationship. And as the political implications of the Shifters coming out are beginning to be felt, Sookie's connection to the Shreveport pack draws her into the debate. Worst of all, though the door to Faery has been closed, there are still some Fae on the human side-and one of them is angry at Sookie. Very, very angry...
In the interest of full disclosure, I really enjoyed this book - the Sookie Stackhouse books have always been one of my guilty pleasures. However, there are a lot of reasons why this isn't a good book. If this review starts sounding schizophrenic, please don't be frightened. It's just my Inner Fan and Inner Critic are screaming obscenities at each other in my mind.
As always, Charlaine Harris has written a book that is dark, morbidly funny, and in its own way thought provoking. I reviewed the series a few years back and what I said there still holds true. Sookie still has a strong voice, the characters are still compelling, and the increasingly tense political and social climate surrounding Supernaturals is getting more and more interesting.
The fan favorites - Eric, Pam, Bill, and Alcide - were in attendance, most of them with more than the short cameos that we've been treated to in past books. It was a treat to find out more about Eric's past, and as a history geek and all around awful human being, I got a cheap enjoyment out of turning one of the Romanov's into a vampire.
Dead in the Family read like two books shoved together and only one of those books got finished. I respect the theme Harris was trying to follow in this book - Sookie's family, Eric's family, Bill's family, and the families of pretty much everyone in Bon Temps - but we went from a possible murder conspiracy and took a hard left into the realm of dysfunctional family reunion. I was interested in both tales, but I would have liked them separately or at least better integrated with one another.
In a recent interview where Charlaine Harris announced the end of the series, she said, "I find myself wanting to bring back random people, just so I can say, 'Here they are. Here's what happened.' And then I think, it's not going to be a very cohesive book if I have all these guest appearances. I really have to stick to the core of the book[.]" I think this struggle is evident even in this earlier book. Of course, there was a time when this book was supposed to be the last. I suspect that parts of this book had been left as it was when it was still the finale instead of just another book in the series.
At the end of Dead and Gone, Sookie had been kidnapped and tortured by sadistic faeries as part of a war. Her physical injuries were extensive, as were her emotional and psychological trauma. We get glimpses of this at the beginning of Dead in the Family, but overall Sookie is -mostly- the same Sookie we've been reading with and about since 2001. Normally, this would bother me, the way an important character development is mentioned and dropped. Frankly it would piss me off...if not for that mostly. Sookie is Sookie. It's a fabulous testament to her character, which has always been resilient in the face of opposition, that she carries on. It's part of what readers and the other characters love about her. But whether it's immediately noticeable or not, she has changed.
Her experiences have hardened and hurt her, and she is more callous, more calculating for it. While it may help keep her alive, the growing ease with which she can consider killing someone and follow through on it disturbs even her. She suffers a moral problem which is very human and also very animal - she doesn't want to hurt people or cause death, but she will if her life or the lives of the people she loves are on the line.
This is an evolution of the character I've been wondering about for a long time and I'm glad that Harris has followed through on it. Even a character as bright, strong, and obstinate as Sookie can't remain unchanged in the face of all the darkness and death she's seen. Yet Sookie isn't the sort of person to succumb to that darkness either. Harris has respected the need for development while also knowing her character, convincingly showing the change in personality and morality as it affects this particular character, and I applaud her for it.
Personally, I really enjoyed this novel and I'm looking forward to the rest of the books in the series, however there are a few technical problems in plot construction that I can't get over.
My Rating: 3/5 Mushrooms