Sunday, June 22, 2008

From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris

Sookie Stackhouse is a waitress at Merlotte's Bar and Grill in Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina, while not recent, has cut a swath through the vampire community, which is mostly based in New Orleans, as well as a tragedy at the Pyramid owned by the Friends of the Sun, an Anti-Vampire group that managed to kidnap and kill many vampires, and nearly kill many more. The Queen of Louisiana is still recovering from a wound that has her missing both legs.

Sookie is mostly inured from Vampire politics in her home, but other supernatural creatures have also been raising a ruckus, such as the Weres. The Weres have split in two, and the two groups are at each other's throats. But all that takes a back seat to a double wedding of two local bigwigs, which is attended by the vampires who deal with one of the grooms. Sookie is there to serve drinks at the bar, but gets hijacked into the wedding party to replace one of the bridesmaids who was taken to the hospital. At the wedding, she meets Maria-Star Cooper, a local photographer who is helping with the wedding photos. She is also a Werewolf and the lover of Alcide, leader of one of the Were factions.

The day after the wedding, however, she is found brutally slain in her home, and Alcide is sure that his rival, Patrick Furnan, had her killed, especially since one of his men was among the killers. As other female Weres are killed, tensions between the two run even hotter, until the only place it can end is outright war.

Meanwhile, Sookie's roommate, Amelia, gets a visit from her very important, very rich father, who seems to want to run her life. Soon after, Amelia is tracked down by her old mentor who wishes to bring Amanda to heel for her unrestrained use of magic, which turned Amelia's ex-lover Bob into a cat that still lives with them. Both Amelia and her mentor help Sookie discover who killed Maria-Star and soon the mentor, Octavia Fant, comes to live with Sookie and Amelia. Amelia's father also reveals that Sookie's cousin Hadley had a son, but that she left her son with the father even before she became a vampire and got killed for the last time.

But that isn't the only relative to turn up for Sookie, because she gets to meet her grandfather, who turns out to be a faerie, and is apparently responsible for Sookie's telepathic talent. Kept away from Sookie by her father, who forbade him to contact any of his children, now that Sookie's father is well and truly dead, her grandfather wants to do something for her to make up for all the time when he has had no contact with her. She can't think of anything she wants, and she's somewhat suspicious of the offer, but she agrees to think it over.

Another relative plaguing Sookie is her brother, who finally married his werepanther bride. Things aren't going so great between them, but the camel's back is finally broken when Jason tricks Sookie into catching his wife in the act with another man. As both Jason and his bride took vows to be faithful in the werepanther way, Sookie, as the stand-in responsible for Jason's misbehavior, must crush the hand of Jason's bride with a brick... or that of Sookie's friend, Calvin, who agreed to be the stand-in for Jason's bride. Jason is all too quick to make Sookie do the actual deed, which is the final straw for her, and she tells him she never wants to see him or speak to him again.

Amidst all this, the Weres go to war, and Sookie attempts to broker a peace, only to find it is a third group of Weres who are responsible for the whole thing. In the ensuing fight, Patrick Furnan and the leader of the other pack are killed, leaving Alcide in charge of the much-diminished pack, and Vampires from Las Vegas make a bid to take over Louisiana, now that many of the vamps in New Orleans are dead. Add to that Bill Compton's trying to heat things up with Sookie again, and Eric Northman finally remembering everything that happened at Sookie's house when he was there with Amnesia, plus her blood bond to him that ties them together, puts Sookie in a dangerous position once the shooting starts. And when she discovers a betrayal deeper than anything that has come before, her life really gets interesting, in the Chinese way...

Lots of changes happen in this book, and continue the wake of changes that started with Hurricane Katrina and the debacle of the vampire summit. Although lots of characters die, the ones who readers are most familliar with all manage to survive, so most of the action doesn't feel terribly shocking. The way that Charlaine Harris manages to intertwine the threads of the action makes the book feel almost like a series of hard slams. Sookie barely has time to recover before another supernatural crisis grabs her attention.

But this one really affects Sookie's emotions, especially the scene with her brother, which leaves her mortified and angry at what she is forced to do to a man she considers her friend. And her love life goes straight to suckage again, as Sookie doesn't seem to be able to find a man who isn't some sort of bastard or who puts her first. But was she really being fair. After all, all men still love their mothers. Will Sookie's aborted Romance with Eric be on again now?

I don't know, but I kind of hope she ends up with her Boss, Sam, who is the guy who treats Sookie the best out of everyone. Yeah, he's another Supernatural, but he's less urge and moon driven than the true weres, being only a shapeshifter. Being that Sookie's new relation is a Faerie, and she has it in her background, perhaps she'll meet some more of them in the next book. I know I'll be there to find out.

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