Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

[This review contains spoilers.]

"Maybe I should install a crematorium in my backyard."

Synopsis

Sookie impulsively takes up her witch friend Amelia on her offer to dissolve her blood bond with Eric, and even though their love survives the process, they must break up because Eric's maker Ocella set up an arranged marriage for him with the Queen of Oklahoma. Sookie discovers an old letter from Gran about her half-fairy grandfather that includes a magical fairy object called a cluviel dor that will grant Sookie one wish. Sookie also discovers that Mr. Cataliades is the source of her mind-reading gift.

Pam and Eric are in conflict because she wants to make a vampire child, and Victor Madden, the king's agent in Louisiana, won't give his permission. Bar businesses Merlotte's and Fangtasia are suffering because of competition with two sleazy establishments owned by Victor, as well. Eric, Pam, Sookie and their allies set up a special private party for Victor at Fangtasia featuring a concert by Bubba, and manage to assassinate Victor.

Review

I'm a huge fan of Charlaine Harris's work, and even I have to admit this is far from her strongest Sookie novel.

The most disappointing development for me is the dissolution of the Sookie/Eric blood bond, which is my favorite ongoing plot in the book series. Even though it's satisfying that they still love each other without it, Eric's upcoming arranged marriage with the Queen of Oklahoma (noooooo!) has essentially broken them up. And I don't get that. Apparently, vampire/human marriages are recognized as important by vampires under some circumstances, but not others, and that doesn't make a lot of sense.

Even worse, Sookie reconnects emotionally with Bill after she winds up naked in his daylight hiding place. Since Bill saves Sookie from being tossed into a car trunk by two evildoers, it feels a lot like the author is absolving him of the car trunk rape much earlier in the series. That, and the dissolution of the Sookie/Eric blood bond, feels an awful lot like Sookie is going to return to Bill (noooooo!)

I also hated seeing Eric and Pam fighting over something that wasn't either of their faults, because it didn't feel like something they would do. How could Eric have the free will to take out Victor in such a decisive way while still obeying his orders about Pam not making a vampire child and Ocella's beyond the grave edict of an arranged marriage? Can you say, forced conflict? It would have made more story sense if the removal of the blood bond had also removed Sookie's love for Eric. (Although, once again, noooooo!)

The fairies cleaning out the attic and Dermot's attempt to renovate it into another bedroom is fun, but it feels a bit like an episode of HGTV blended with a sitcom about Sookie's wacky roommates, the crazy fairies. And Sookie lived with Gran nearly her entire life, and never got even a particle of a mind-reading hint that Gran's marriage was a lie? Like the Bill rescue, it felt like retcon for me. I also thought that the explanation we finally got as to where Sookie's mind-reading gift comes from (a genetic baby shower gift from Mr. Cataliades) was unsatisfying. Although it explained Hunter, it didn't explain Barry the bellboy, although I suppose one of Barry's ancestors could have gotten a mystical genetic baby shower gift from a demon, too.

The bloody battle in Fangtasia to overthrow Victor was cool, although it appeared to drive yet another wedge between Sookie and Eric. I liked the contrast of the battle with the baby shower for Tara, since it served well as a commentary on the widely diverse problems in Sookie's life. And at least the Pelt situation finally, finally ended with Sandra's well-deserved death. Here's hoping another previously unknown Pelt bent on revenge doesn't show up in the next book.

It seems likely that book twelve (which will be released May 1, 2012) will focus on Eric's familial obligation to marry the Queen of Oklahoma, whom we have yet to meet, and the as yet unused fairy object, the cluviel dor, which will grant Sookie one wish. I did like that there are restrictions on the wish (no way to wish for world peace or for Sookie's "gift" to disappear). Here's hoping that Sookie uses it to wish that Eric is freed of his obligation.

Bits and pieces:

-- At the start of the book, Sookie is living with Claude and Dermot. Dermot vanishes inexplicably near the end of the book, and Sookie throws Claude out because he and Amelia try to trick Sookie into getting involved with Alcide. Sookie has had it with Alcide using her. About time.

-- Miriam, the woman Pam chose to be her child, was dying of leukemia. That was a bit too convenient plotwise, and a shame. I would have enjoyed Pam making a vampire child.

-- Because four bars aren't enough in the story, action also takes place in Hooligan's, Claude's strip bar that has become a refuge for the exiled fae. That felt a bit like set-up for the next book, too.

-- Niall and Eric had Terry Bellefleur secretly guarding Sookie.

-- Lily Bard and Jack Leeds again cross over from Harris's Shakespeare series, but this time they're working for Mr. Cataliades, hired to warn Sookie that Sandra Pelt has gotten out of prison.

-- Amelia and Bob are a couple again. I like Amelia's protective wards around the house that allow in only those with good intentions. I want one of those.

-- Eric has a new "day guy" -- a were named Mustapha Khan.

In closing...

I plan to post a review of book twelve shortly after it comes out, which is May 1. And I won't be including spoilers.

Important notice! After eleven books and many seasons of the series, I have no idea what kind of spoiler limitations to put on the comments section under these circumstances -- so I'm not going to put any. It's a spoiler free for all! If you're new to the books and haven't seen all of the television series True Blood, reading the comments may, and probably will, spoil you. Read on at your own risk!
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

3 comments:

Juliette said...

I didn't like this one much either. Like you, I liked the blood bond! (Though it is nice to know Sookie loves Eric without it). And I'm fed up of the fairies. And vampire arranged marriages is just a bit too much somehow (I don't know why I think this is too much when I'm fine with vampire monarchs, but there you are!).

I don't think Sookie's going to end with Bill though - I think she's going to end up with Sam. Back when I first started watching the TV show, that was actually what I wanted, though I'd prefer Eric now. The one thing that bugs me a bit about the way Harris is building up to this is that she keeps going on about babies, through the various baby showers and human marriages - everyone's having babies, you can't have babies with vampires, so Sookie has to give up on the walking corpses and get together with someone she can reproduce with. Since many of us remain single and don't have babies (and many others in couples would like to but can't, without either of them needing to be undead) this really annoys me as a subtextual reason to break up a couple!

Billie Doux said...

Juliette, you're absolutely right about the baby subtext. Sookie's human friends are getting married and reproducing, while Sookie is throwing showers and babysitting Hunter. I've also gotten the impression a couple of times that Sookie would end up with Sam, and then I keep changing my mind because he has such lousy taste in supernatural women. :)

Juliette said...

That's true! His thing with BookMaryann was seriously weird... There's quite a sweet short story/novella (I'm not sure where the line between those is!) about Sookie and Sam that came out last year (in a companion I bought at the height of obsessive mania!)