Sunday, November 22

Dead and Gone - Charlaine Harris

After much debate, the Weres have decided it's time to let the human world know that vampires are not the only paranormal creatures dwelling alongside them. Simultaneously, in newsrooms across America, friendly spokespeople change in front of the cameras. In Sookie Stackhouse's workplace, Merlotte's bar, the report is accompanied by her boss Sam's transformation into a collie and her friend Amelia's boyfriend Tray turning into a wolf. She can tell through her gift that the revelations, both global and local, are generally well received in the bar, but her former best friend Arlene is a notable exception. A convert to the Fellowship of the Sun, an anti-vampire 'religion,' Arlene's initially unsure of how to respond, but she quickly moves to outraged revulsion.
When the body of Sookie's brother Jason's pregnant ex-wife Crystal is found nailed to a cross, her limbs partly transformed into their panther form, Jason is a prime suspect. In light of the revelation, though, the murder is being looked at as a possible hate crime. In uncovering the killer Sookie is in more danger than ever before, and from an unexpected source. She gains and loses part of her already tiny family, and consolidates her relationship with vampire sheriff Eric. Former lover, and vampire, Bill is still interested, but he'll never be more than a friend to her now, though when her fairy great-grandfather Niall tells her “the vampire is not a bad man, and he loves you”, she's not sure which one he means.
As I said in March (when reviewing From Dead to Worse), I've been finding the more recent books a little flat. Although there's a heaping of back story that has to be slogged through at the beginning of each novel, I enjoyed Dead and Gone far more than I expected. The characters were interesting, there was a hell of a lot of action, and for once Sookie didn't make a new conquest. I wasn't wholly satisfied, and one sizable plot point particular irritated me:
a massive argument divides the fairy folk, who despite their longevity are dwindling in numbers due to decreased fertility. Some fairy believe this is because they're being contaminated by contact with humans, whose inventiveness has provided the fairies with inventions they can use but whose fondness for iron is toxic. This group want to kill all humans with fairy blood and close the passage between our world and theirs, to protect themselves - it was they who drowned Sookie and Jason's parents. The other group, which includes Sookie's great-grandfather, want to maintain things as they are, knowing this will trigger a war which will only end when the leaders of one or other side are killed. Despite winning a battle that sees all the fairies we've met in the series so far (including Claudine, who's saved Sookie's life several times before and who is - for no good plot reason except pathos - pregnant) die, the victorious Niall decides... to close the doors to the world of the Fae anyway. WTF? Couldn't he and his brother's son Breandan have talked about it first? Maybe reached a compromise along the lines of - we'll spare the fairy-tinged humans but close the passage and not allow any more interbreeding?
This irritating quibble aside I did, as I said, enjoy this installment more than I expected, and I'm quite looking forward to the next one, though I'd rather read another in the Harper Connelly series. - Alex

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