Sunday, May 02, 2010

Book Review: "Dead in the Family" by Charlaine Harris

Between Eric's legs I could see a man, very scarred and very muscular, with dark eyes and hair. I knew he was short because I could only see his head and shoulders. He was wearing jeans and a Black Sabbath T-Shirt. I couldn't help it. I giggled. "Haven't you missed me, Eric?" The Roman's voice had an accent I couldn't really have broken down, it had so many layers. "Ocella, your presence is always an honor," Eric said. I giggled harder. Eric was lying. "What is wrong with my wife?" he asked. "Her senses are confused," the older vampire said. "You have my blood. She's had your blood. And another child of mine is here. The bond between us all is scrambling her thoughts and feelings." No shit. "this is my new son, Alexi," Appius Livius Ocella told Eric. I peered past Eric's legs. The new "son" was a boy of no more than thirteen or fourteen. In fact, I could hardly see his face. I froze, trying not to react. "Brother," said Eric by way of greeting his new sibling. The words came out level and cold. I was going to stand up now. I was not going to crouch here any longer. Eric had crowded me into a very small space between the bed and the nightstand, with the bathroom door to my right. He hadn't shifted from his defensive posture. "Excuse me," I said with a great effort, and Eric took a step forward to give me room, keeping himself from between me and his maker and the boy. I rose to my feet, pushing on the bed to get upright. I still felt fried. I looked to Eric's sire right in his dark and liquid eyes. For a fraction of a second he looked surprised. "Eric, you need to go to the front door and let them in," I said. "I'll bet they don't really need an invitation." "Eric, she's rare," said Ocella in his oddly accented English. "Where did you find her?" "I'm asking you out of courtesy, because you're Eric's dad," I said, "I could just leave you outside." If I didn't sound as strong as I wanted, at least I didn't sound frightened. "But my child is in the house, and if he is welcome, so am I. Am I not?" Ocella's thick brown brows rose. His nose...Well you could tell why they coined the term "Roman nose." "I waited to come in out of courtesy. We could have appeared in your bedroom." And the next moment they were inside. I didn't dignify that with an answer. I spared a glance for the boy, whose face was absolutely blank. He was no ancient Roman. He hadn't been a vampire a full century, I estimated, and he seemed to come from Germanic stock. His hair was light and short and cut evenly, his eyes were blue, and when he met my own, he inclined his head. "Your name is Alexi?" I asked. "Yes," said his maker, while the boy stood mute. "This is Alexi Romanov." Though the boy didn't react, and neither did Eric, I had a moment of sheer horror. "You didn't," I said to Eric's maker, who was about my height. "You didn't." "I tried to save one of his sisters, too, but she was beyond my recall." Ocella said bleakly. His teeth were white and even, though he was missing the one next to his left canine. If you had lost teeth before you became a vampire, they didn't regenerate. "Sookie, what is it?" Eric was not following for once. "The Romanovs," I said, trying to keep my voice hushed as though the boy couldn't hear me from twenty yards away. "The last Russian royal family." ~Excerpt from Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris After nine books, Sookie Stackhouse has been through a lot. She never intended to get involved in the affairs of the supernatural community, but the strange "disability" that allows her to read minds has made her incredibly useful in vampire politics--and the werewolves aren't shy when it comes to using her ability as well. But it's the recent discovery that Sookie has fairy blood that has really turned her world upside down. "Dead in the Family," the tenth installment of the Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris, picks up soon after the Fae Wars have ended and Sookie is just trying to heal mentally and physically. Sookie's tough and she's been through her share of rough moments. But the Fae War was the closest Sookie had ever come to being killed and it has taken quite a bit of Eric Northman's blood to heal her. As a result Sookie's bond to Eric is stronger than ever. And while she's pretty sure she's in love with the vampire Viking, it's difficult to sort out her emotions with the constant tug of the psychic bond. Before Sookie and Eric have a chance to figure out their relationship, Eric's maker comes to town with his newest "son" in tow, and the boy turns out to be extremely unstable. But that's not the only complication Sookie has to deal with. Her fairy cousin Claude abruptly decides to move in with Sookie, which is strange since Claude doesn't particularly seem to like Sookie. Add to the mix the usual Were politics, drama involving Sookie's brother Jason and a young telepathic cousin, and you have one busy mind-reading cocktail waitress. "Dead in the Family" is a slower-paced book than those that have come before in the Southern Vampire Mysteries, which is refreshing in a way, but it also dials down the suspense quite a bit. It feels as if Harris has decided to give Sookie a bit of break after the events of the last book-- which makes sense since no human alive could withstand the grueling set of circumstances Sookie has had to deal with and convincingly run right back into the fray. Like the title would suggest, "Dead in the Family" seems to be all about family-- Sookie's, Eric's, Bill's and even Sam's. We learn more about the history of all the characters than we have ever before and it's something of a sentimental journey-- albeit a frequently dangerous one. Sookie is, as always, a very likable character though Harris seems to be trying to give her an edge as time goes by. Sookie is jaded and not so shy when it comes to wishing her enemies were dead-- something that bothers the good, Christian girl that Sookie still considers herself to be. Because "Dead in the Family" is paced so differently from the other books, it has a sense of being anti-climatic, though it's nice not to see Sookie continually put through the wringer. The difficult part in reviewing the book comes when I have to say whether or not a very fast-reading, 320 page book is worth $25 (though Amazon currently has it listed at $9.99) and I can only say that it depends on how attached you are to Sookie's story. "Dead in the Family" is the kind of book that ties up loose ends and allows the reader to take an emotional journey with the characters and it's certainly entertaining even if it isn't a standout in the series. I like Sookie Stackhouse and I'm always happy to have a chance to return to the Southern Vampire Mysteries--and I have no doubt most of Harris' fans will not be disappointed in the newest offering--but I don't think I'd give this one more than a 7 out of 10.


Sullivan McPig said...

Thamks for the review! I still have to read Dead and Gone, but I just bought that one as I always wait for the paperback, so it will be awhile before I read Dead in the family.

furiousBall said...

I'm going to name all of my children Sookie now... perhaps not a great idea here in Jersey, I don't want one of them being called Snooki by mistake

SQT said...

Sullivan-- I tend to wait for paperback too-- I'm just lucky to get these for review.

FB-- I've always wondered where the name came from. Especially since her brother's name is Jason.

Jocelyn said...

Furiousball never fails to entertain!

Thank you for this review...and I'm here to say, "Where the hell have I been that dear SQT fell off my radar?" I was ever so glad to see your comment tonight.