Friday, April 26, 2013

The Sookie Stackhouse Novels: Dead to the World - BookReview

Article author: Alwyn Ash

"My gran had always told me that a woman - any woman worth her salt - could do whatever she had to." ~ Sookie

Four books in, and the best has arrived! There has always been a steady pace to The Southern Vampire Mysteries that has kept it even and entertaining, a world of vampires as telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse faces the usual perils and excitement of events that materalise in the fictional Louisiana town of Bon Temps. Eric Northman, Vampire Sheriff of Area Five, has always been the smart, ruthless and enigmatic Viking (yes, he really is that old!) who had spent every book in the series so far desiring to bed Sookie. However, after a spell cast by a witch called Marnie "Hallow" Stonebrook reduces him to a confused and vulnerable state, much changes between the Merlottes' waitress and charismatic Sheriff.

His life in danger, the vampires ask Sookie to be Eric's guardian. There is also concern when Jason, Sookie's brother, disappears, leading to an investigation and fear that the witch coven responsible for Eric's reduced condition might have either taken or killed Jason. As with previous installments, there will be deaths, though no spoilers here...

Familiar faces such as werewolf Alcide Herveaux, Pam Ravenscroft, Bubba (Elvis Presley in vampire form), and the vindictive Debbie Pelt (Alcide's interest) also return; sadly, Bubba is still not growing on me in the same way that he does for other readers (you know who you are) - there could have been so much potential in resurrecting the "King of Rock and Roll" as a vampire, instead we are left with a "Lennie Small" (see Of Mice and men) with no real contribution to any plot other than gathering information and killing...

"Oh, God, puppy dog eyes.
From a six-foot-five ancient Viking vampire."

― Sookie Stackhouse

Though little is explored with Hallow (perhaps Pam's means of persuading the witch to reverse the spell on Eric should have been witnessed by Sookie?) there is no doubt that author Charlaine Harris has enriched her tales with witches, Weres and other beasts - this is no ordinary book series, there remains hidden depths that are gradually unearthed, piercing the imagination as surely as a stake through the heart. What I like about the use of witches is the revelation that some of them are also werewolves (twice the danger!) and this idea is fully explored during the final part of the novel when Sookie and her friends (vampires and Weres) engage in a bloody battle against the witch coven.

As always, Bill Compton's involvement is little more than a brief appearance; as Sookie's "first", I sometimes wonder why he has been sidelined in this way - perhaps that is the greatest Southern Vampire mystery of them all...

The love story between Sookie and Eric is the true reason for Dead To The World, a "will they or won't they" scenario that steps on the platonic doormat for a brief second before engaging fully in the actions of a couple mutually attracted to one another, both mentally and physically; Eric's changed personality is clearly the catalyst for what follows - the waitress' attraction to the vampire has always been present, so she was already half way there. But the true surprise is just how thoughtful and gentle this new Eric can be while around Sookie, a complete contrast to the manipulative and cold-hearted vampire who owns Fangtasia.

That said, it is inevitable that the vampire's true nature be restored or the balance of the tale be forever changed. But exploring a side of Eric never seen before is intriguing and delightful, as it is for Sookie.

The presence of the ever delightful Debbie Pelt ("delightful" as in bitch) leads to a shock ending, and one that will surely have ramifications in future books. The event also further develops Sookie's character, as did previous installment Club Dead; how far will author Harris take this, I wonder...? This is where The Southern Vampire Mysteries works well, taking every possible scenario and turning it upside down.

Jason's predicament is another example of just what might change as, at full moon, he is destined to be transformed into a werepanther. This is to be the plot for next novel, Dead As A Doornail.

Review summary

The best in the series to date.

Dead to the World publication date: 2004