Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris

GENRE: urban fantasy/supernatural mystery/Southern Gothic fiction

Sookie doesn't have that many relations, so she hated to lose one - but of all the people to go, she didn't expect it to be her cousin Hadley, a consort of New Orleans' vampire queen - after all, Hadley was technically already dead. But she is gone, beyond recall, and she's left Sookie an inheritance - one that comes with a bit of a risk - not least because someone doesn't want Sookie digging too deep into Hadley's past - or her possessions. Sookie's life is once again on the line, and this time the suspects range from the rogue werewolves who have rejected Sookie as a friend of the pack to her first love, the vampire Bill. Sookie's got a lot to do if she's going to keep herself alive . . . The Sookie Stackhouse books are delightful Southern Gothic supernatural mysteries, starring Sookie, the telepathic cocktail waitress, and a cast of increasingly colourful characters, including vampires, werewolves and things that really do go bump in the night.

I have to issue a warning at the beginning of my review: as this is the sixth book in the Sookie Stackhouse novels, spoilers are bound to appear in my review, but hopefully not in too great a number.

This was another delightful Sookie Stackhouse novel, but it was not as interesting as the others, primarily because it is more or less an interlude into the seventh book in the series, All Together Dead, in which (according to the summary) some very big things are supposed to happen and Harris had to set the ground for them in Definitely Dead.

In the previous novel, Sookie learned that her cousin Hadley was a vampire and the lover of Sophie-Anne Leclerq, the vampire queen of Louisiana, and that another vampire murdered Hadley out of jealousy. Hadley bequeathed her New Orleans apartment to Sookie and so Sookie must travel to New Orleans to pack Hadley’s possessions and take them back to Bon Temps. This sounds like a simple enough task, but in Sookie’s life nothing is simple anymore ever since she first kissed a vampire.

New Orleans is a dangerous place, what with the political (and loveless) marriage between the queen and Peter Threadgill, vampire king of Arkansas, who is plotting against his wife. By accident, Sookie is sucked into this royal intrigue. On top of everything, she has to find out what truly happened to Hadley on the night she got murdered and why a newborn vampire almost killed Sookie when she stepped into Hadley’s apartment. Apart from all the dangers lurking around her and threatening her life, in forms of vampires and angry and resentful werewolves, Sookie also experiences an emotional shock, finally learning about her first lover Bill’s ulterior motives regarding Sookie and her true nature. (I have to point out that Bill’s ulterior motives and Sookie’s supernatural nature were already revealed at the end of the third season of HBO’s True Blood). Sookie is crushed and feels betrayed. I truly felt sorry for her at that point.

Her love life is also complicated. She has feelings for the vampire Eric, who avoids feelings like the plague and still resents and cannot believe that, when he was without memories (and consequently, his arrogance), he would have given up everything for Sookie. The vampire Bill is still around and the werewolf Alcide has moved on. But Sookie finds a new love interest in the form of a weretiger, Quinn, who first appeared in the fifth book in the series.

All in all, this was a very delightful and interesting read. It has romance and action, and it further explores the world of vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters and witches, as Sookie finds a new witch friend in Amelia, the landlord of Hadley’s apartment building. Amelia has a crucial role in this novel and I truly liked this new character. Amelia is a quite powerful witch and quite brave, too, although she doesn’t look like it at first.

I very much enjoyed the revelation of Sophie-Anne’s past, how her human life was and how she became a vampire and then such a powerful and popular vampire queen. Sophie-Anne is a little more than one thousand years old and has a very interesting past behind her. That was my favourite part of the book; I always enjoy reading about a vampire’s human life and their transition from a human being into a vampire.

What bothered me in this novel is the same thing that has been bothering me from the start: it’s hard to say who Sookie’s main love interest is because she is lusting after several men at the same time. She is a great character, but this trait in her really bothers me. Is it so hard to decide? Just because a few guys of her acquaintance are very attractive specimens of the male gender, it doesn’t mean she has to lust after all of them, although she is officially focused “only” on one man in each book. It is made clear in a subtle way that the vampire Eric is the one her heart yearns for, but she is showing it in an odd way. Also, the ending was really rushed in this book. The mystery was solved before I even felt that it properly began and I saw no logic in how Sookie figured out everything, but she did.

I did enjoy all the revelations, though, especially the one concerning Bill’s ulterior motives, Sophie-Anne’s human life and the closure to Hadley’s murder, which was reached with a really great spell. These things were really well done in the novel. Fans of the Sookie Stackhouse novels will surely enjoy this instalment.



Peppermint Ph.D. said...

I enjoyed this series of books and am now enjoying True Blood :) It is difficult at best to write a review about a popular series (especially a book in the middle) and not stumble into spoilers..I think you handled this really well...I'm trying to make myself more aware of the fact that everybody hasn't read everything I read. I get so excited sometimes that I tell the whole story...Oy! I'm working on my self-control ;)

Blodeuedd said...

Oh Bill, Bill! He made me so mad in this one!

Jan von Harz said...

I have never read any of the Sookie Stackhouse books, but really enjoyed the first two seasons of True Blood. I was going to start reading the series until I found out just how many books there really are. Maybe some day. Anyway great review!

Malena of Royal Women said...

Great review! I love the Southern Vampire Mystery-series, and I also love True Blood and the fact that they do not follow the books slavically. It makes the TV-series so much more exciting!