Welcome back to our weekly Sookie Stackhouse re-read of Charlaine Harris’s bestselling series. This week we’re reading From Dead to Worse, the eighth book in the series. Now that we’re getting into the more recent books, which are probably much more fresh in your memory, I plan to cut down a bit on the recap itself and dig in a bit more to the world and the characters. Sound good? Let’s dig in!
Our story begins with Sookie as a last-minute substitute for Halleigh’s sick bridesmaid in her wedding to Andy Bellefleur. A few recognizable faces attend the wedding—Maria-Star is the photographer, Amanda the werewolf is in the audience, Calvin Norris, and Bill and his girlfriend Selah Pumphrey. Not too surprisingly, Bill walks in on Sookie as she is changing out of her bridesmaid dress, makes sure that she didn’t tell the Bellefleurs about his legacy to them, then continues his efforts to explain past actions. He says “I would give anything to lie with you again.” Awkward, especially since his girlfriend Selah overhears. To make the wedding even more eventful, Sookie also meets a vampire called Jonathan, from Nevada, and sees a man—or creature—standing in the woods, tall, slim, blond, and handsome. He looks slightly aged, and carries a cane. When he steps out of the woods, the vampires look over and incline their heads, and he inclines his as well. But the vampires keep their distance. So he’s either really powerful, really scary, or both.
When Sookie leaves for the night, she hears someone approaching behind her, and instinctively turns and punches out with her keys, knocking the vampire Jonathan to the ground. Isn’t it interesting how Sookie doesn’t think now, before reacting defensively? And she felt no need to apologize for her actions—not that Jonathan expected her to. He says that he was curious about her, and had heard Pam speak of her. Which Sookie knows is a lie—she hasn’t spoken to Pam in weeks, as she is still recovering from wounds sustained at Rhodes. But Sookie lets the matter go, and leaves, and as she pulls away, the strange man is watching from the trees.
Amelia’s father, Copley Carmichael, visits the next day, along with his driver Tyrese Marley. Carmichael mentions that he knew Hadley’s husband, hoping to get a rise out of Sookie. Sookie knew of his existence already, after discovering the marriage and divorce documents in Hadley’s files. It seems she discovered the document two books ago, but we readers haven’t heard about it until now. But Carmichael still manages to surprise Sookie—he also mentions a baby, Hadley’s child, of which Sookie had no knowledge.
Sookie calls Eric, who asks her to meet with an unknown someone for dinner tomorrow. He drives her into town, and waits outside while she has dinner. That unknown someone is the blond man from the wedding, a fairy named Niall Brigant. He’s also Sookie’s great-grandfather. Sookie is even more shocked than we are! Five or six hundred years ago, Niall met a human woman named Einin, and she gave birth to twins, Fintan and Dermot. Fintan was Sookie’s paternal grandfather. Apparently, Sookie’s biological grandfather, Mitchell Stackhouse, was sterile from the mumps, and Fintan fell for Adele and promised her children. Sookie finds it hard to believe her grandmother had been unfaithful, but it seems it was true. And this certainly explains the obsessive love Sookie’s mother held for her father—she was enthralled with the supernatural in him, to the detriment of her children. Fintan is now dead after 700 years, and though he had forbidden Nial from visiting his human children, that request is now defunct. After springing that bit of personal history on Sookie, Niall also shares that he can suppress his fairy essence so that vampires don’t go crazy around him, and has the ability to keep humans from noticing him. He also wears an invisible coating on his hands to protect his skin from iron. Lastly, he admits to sending Claudine to guard Sookie. Jason gets no guardian fairy, however—Niall isn’t a fan of Jason, and says the “essential spark” passed him by. Ouch.
As Sookie and Eric return to Bon Temps, a patrolman pulls them over. But it’s not a patrolman—this is Sookie, so it couldn’t be that simple. It’s a were, and he tries to shoot her. Eric takes the bullet instead, kills him, and hides the body. After a chemistry-filled moment, they continue driving back to Bon Temps.
The next morning, Octavia Fant arrives. Who is that? It’s Amelia’s witch mentor. It seems that there is a slight discrepancy in books (nothing that impacts my enjoyment) about Octavia. The previous book stated that Amelia wanted Octavia’s help to fix Bob-the-cat and couldn’t find her because of Katrina. In this instance, Amelia left New Orleans purposely to avoid punishment for what she did to Bob. At the same time, she was worried about Octavia and wanted to track her—she just didn’t want Octavia to actually find her. Or perhaps I’m overanalyzing? Either way, the morning after the patrolman incident, Octavia arrives at Sookie’s house to deal with Amelia’s use of magic. And though she’s an elderly, experienced witch, she’s unable to change Bob back either.
Then Sookie sees in the paper that Maria-Star Cooper was killed in her home. Maria-Star, photographer, werewolf, and Alcide’s girlfriend. As she’s reading, Alcide calls—Maria was murdered. And Alcide thinks Patrick Furnan, the packmaster, is behind it, and will be after Sookie as well. The patrolman attack is suddenly clear. Alcide asks that Amelia read Maria-Star’s apartment for evidence. When all three women arrive, Tray Dawson is already there, and the witches do an ectoplasmic reconstruction. They find that two weres killed her, including Cal Myers, detective on the Shreveport force.
Sookie goes to Alcide with Dawson to tell him the news. Not only has Maria-Star been killed, but so was Christine Larrabee, the widow of one of the previous packleaders. Yet Alcide, in the midst of all this horror, is angry that Sookie was out with Eric the other night. As Dawson so eloquently says, “Alcide’s acting like a butthead.” Dawson watches out for Sookie after that, and follows her home from work at the bar to make sure that her house is empty. Sidenote, when Sookie informs Eric of recent events, Eric states that he’ll only interfere in were affairs to defend vampire interests, or to defend Sookie. Nice one, Eric.
When Sookie takes a break from violence to visit the library the next day, a large man comes in and threatens the librarian with a knife. The librarian just happens to be detective Alcee Beck’s wife, Barbara. Fortunately, Alcee shows up just then with his wife’s lunch—and a gun. When threatened, the man turns and runs at Sookie, trips over Sookie’s foot (after being concussed by a Nora Roberts paperback she’d thrown), and falls on his own knife. That’s that, but now Alcee is suspicious of Sookie.
Sookie is fed up with all the attacks, so she calls Patrick Furnan to confront him. But he has no knowledge of the murders—he didn’t order them, and his own wife is missing. He agrees to meet with Alcide if Sookie is present to arbitrate. She brings Sam as well, and acts as a human lie detector for the werewolves as they talk. It is agreed that neither ordered the aggression, but someone did—and that someone arrives at the scene right then. It’s a werewolf named Priscilla, the mate of a nearby packmaster. Her mate is dead and their home was destroyed by Katrina. They want Shreveport for their own, and Cal—her brother—was helping them get it. The fighting begins with the evisceration of Cal by Patrick Furnan. Sam changes into a lion and fights, while Sookie is in the middle of the melee, trying to escape. Priscilla kills Amanda, and this makes Sookie so angry that she attacks her and just holds on to her body until Claudine appears to save her. Sam then klls the Priscilla as Claudine stands over Sookie and fights off the wolves. And when the fight is over, Alcide claims leadership of the pack…in the usual way.
While that conflict might be resolved, Eric informs Sookie that the queen is incapacitated after Rhodes, the sheriffs are covering for her, and that Jonathan was most likely a scout for a potential takeover. Great. And Sookie deducts that the most powerful vampire in Louisiana is currently Eric. He doesn’t want to be king, but he’s certainly in danger, and that carries over to Sookie. After that Bill arrives for guard duty, and almost instantly Quinn’s sister Frannie arrives, frantic with the news that vampires from Vegas are coming to take over. They’ve already taken out the rest of the sheriffs, and a large force is gathering at Fangtasia. Quinn sent Frannie ahead to warn them—the Vegas vamps were holding Quinn’s mom and forced him to share what he knows of the Louisana power structure. Did I mention Sookie hasn’t heard from Quinn since Rhodes?
After that chilling news, Eric arrives and asks for sanctuary at Sookie’s house. They prepare to fight, and soon after the vampire Victor Madden knocks on the door, with Quinn in his tiger form. Eric assures himself that they will spare Sookie—her power is too unique to waste—and they decide to invite Victor in. Victor states that the queen is dead, the other sheriffs are dead, and he will kill them all if they do not surrender to his king, Felipe de Castro.
Eric accepts Victor’s offer, and the fight is over before it has begun. In the morning, Quinn is waiting to speak with Sookie. She breaks off their relationship, not necessarily because of his near-betrayal, but because his mother and Frannie will always come first to him. Sookie wants to be first with her boyfriend. When she gets home from work, Frannie and her mother angrily confront her about dumping Quinn, Amelia backs Sookie up magically, and they drive off. As thanks for her help, Eric sends Sookie a new cell phone, and Home Depot with a new front door.
Sookie “overhears” that Tanya is still in the pay of Sandra Pelt, who wants her to do all she can to make Sookie miserable. Now that Sandra’s parents are dead, nothing holds her back from coming after Sookie. Sookie actually contemplates speaking to one of her many supernatural contacts, and having Tanya taken out, or both her and Sandra. But she just can’t justify having her killed. She does think that Tanya needs to be stopped, though, so she speaks to Amelia instead. Amelia and Octavia suggest that Sookie simply tell Calvin Norris about Tanya. So Calvin brings Tanya over, and Amelia and Octavia perform a spell to remove Tanya’s connection to Sandra, and her desire to help her. In return, Octavia is Sookie’s new roommate. Sookie is not thrilled about this, to say the least.
Then Jason stages it so that both Calvin and Sookie catch Crystal cheating with Dove Beck. Because both Calvin and Sookie stood with the couple for their wedding, they have the potential obligation to stand in for them during the punishment as well. As Crystal is pregnant, Calvin must take the punishment for her. Jason selfishly refuses to stand for himself, so Sookie has to execute the punishment herself—breaking some of Calvin’s fingers—with a brick. But before she does, she tells Jason she never wants to talk to him again, ever.
Later, Eric visits the bar, goes into Sam’s office, and they both call in Sookie and demand she tell them what’s wrong. When she tells them, they don’t react as she wants, making her even more angry about what happened. But isn’t it interesting that Sam called Eric, thinking he could make her feel better? After she calms down, Sookie is speaking with Eric outside the bar when Felipe de Castro appears. Sookie makes her excuses and skedaddles, leaving Eric with the king. But halfway home, she turns around—she can’t just leave him there if he’s in danger. But she doesn’t find what she expects. Sigebert, the queen’s bodyguard, has swept Felipe, Eric, and Sam into silver chains. Sookie gets the best weapon she can, her car, and just runs him over, back and forth and then leaves him wedged under to the car. She unties Eric, and he cuts of Sigebert’s head. Sam unties Felipe, who then admits he is in Sookie’s debt. The king offers to buy her another car or help her get it repaired. The men are clearly embarrassed that Sigebert subdued all three of them.
Sam takes her home, and they have a rather deep discussion (discussed later), and she ends by hoping her own survival is worth the price she pays. Dawson has her car fixed by the next morning, at the request of the king, and just asks that Sookie put in a good word about him with Amelia. Sookie later runs into Alcide, who tells her that she’s still a friend of the pack, and one of his favorite women in the world. And if Sookie ever needs the pack, they will be there to help her. Sookie feels Alcide is becoming a much better man than he was.
But the story still isn’t over. Octavia returns Bob to a man in an instant. Apparently, she knew all along how to change him back, but was afraid if she did, Sookie and Amelia wouldn’t need her. She wanted an excuse to stay. Bob gets some clothes, and determines to find his family in New Orleans.
Eric visits the bar with Pam, and informs Sookie that she has received a formal offer of protection from the king. It’s a big deal—when she calls for help, the vampires are obligated and come and risk their lives for hers. Right after he tells her this, one of the Fellowship of the Sun adherents purposely almost knocks her over. Eric’s about to jump into the fray when Sookie brings her tray down on the guy’s head as hard as possible. The group leaves, but promises Sookie will see more of them. Duh duh duh…will this come back to haunt Sookie, perhaps?
When Sookie arrives home, Niall is waiting. He offers Sookie a boon, and she asks that he locate Hadley’s child. By the next morning, Sookie has the address and drives out to meet him. Hunter is four, and telepathic. There isn’t much she can do for him now, but Sookie tells his father to contact her when he needs help—and he will.
Well, we have some interesting happenings in this book, don’t we? From Dead to Worse is a bit of a set-up/in-between volume of the series. It wraps up loose ends from the previous ongoing storylines, and sets up a whole new plotline with the fairy Prince Niall. And while we don’t have the same terror and violence as the explosion in Rhodes, I think Charlaine Harris still does a good job of maintaining our interest and giving us some life-or-death ordeals in a smaller scale plot. It also provided bandwidth to develop some character relationships, and end a few as well.
And as a few of you insightfully commented on the last post, there are a few things that Harris has to write her way out of over the course of the next books, such as the blood bond. That is certainly quite the stumbling block in Sookie’s relationship with Eric! Sookie struggles with feeling absurdly happy when Eric is near, and peaceful. She can’t tell what is from the blood bond, and what is from her legitimate feelings for him. When that fake patrolman tries to shoot her, Sookie is glad when Eric drinks him, happy that he has the blood he needed, and furious that the were tried to hurt Eric. She believes she wouldn’t react that way without the blood. But is that true? Aside from being lovers, Sookie and Eric are friends of a sort, and she certainly cares for him. Eric almost died in the last book, but Sookie saved his life, risking her own. When Sookie tries to blame that on the blood bond, he says “That’s not why you came to wake me, first of all, the day the hotel blew up.” Touché, Eric. The blood bond wouldn’t cause that level of self-sacrifice.
Sookie continues to develop the strength and surprising ruthlessness she has developed over the course of recent events. After Eric kills the fake patrolman, she says “I didn’t know where he’d put the body, and I realized that I didn’t really care. A year ago it would have torn me up, leaving a body behind as we sped away along the interstate. Now I was just glad it was him and not me who was lying in the woods. I was a terrible Christian and a decent survivalist.” I don’t know that she has to be one or the other, but Sookie survives through everything. She’s lucky, but she’s also a fighter.
Bill is clearly still trying to win Sookie back, demonstrating his love and remorse at every possible turn. Sookie is still determined to see him as a “no-good rat bastard.” And when he tells her that while he never intended to have feelins for her, he fell into a trap he can’t escape. Sookie sarcastically calls it “The trap of LUUUUVVVV.” Gotta love it. I’m so glad Sookie didn’t just forgive Bill in one book—how unrealistic would that be? He has to work to regain her trust. And as pathetic as his groveling is sometimes, and desperate his attempts to regain her heart, as a reader it is totally satisfying. Not for the first time, Bill offers to die for Sookie. When they are in the clutches of Victor Madden, Bill says “Know this, I will die for her. If you harm her, I’ll kill you. Bill turned to Eric and said “Can you say the same?” Sookie believes Eric wouldn’t. That theory will certainly be tested in the coming books.
Poor Quinn—their relationship is over. While I don’t blame Sookie for ending it, I don’t think her reason is entirely fair after reading future books. I’ll keep this general to avoid spoilers (though I’m sure most of you know who I mean), but is her future paramour able to put her first in everything, as she asks of Quinn? I would say no, not always. He has other obligations as well.
On another note, we do find out some interesting information about supernaturals, including fairies. To quote Niall directly, “shifters are humans with a genetic twist, vampires are dead humans transformed into something different, but the fae have only a shape in common with humans. There are many kinds of fae, from the grotestque, like goblins, to the beautiful, like us….Angels are yet another form, the one which has undergone an almost complete transformation, physical and moral. It can take hundreds of years to become an angel.” And according to Eric, fairies are tough and ferocious, aren’t immortal but live a very long time unless they’re killed—most often with iron. They keep to themselves, like moderate climates, and magic is in their essence. Apparently, Niall is very powerful in the fairy world. So Sookie’s lucky to have his protection and regard, but also unlucky in that he has a lot of enemies.
We also finally learn more about Sam and his early life, though I am surprised that Sookie is only asking now. He grew up outside Fort Worth, Texas, in a town the size of Bon Temps. He joined the army when he was eighteen, and was in for four years. Sam’s dad was a shifter, and when he passed away six years ago, left him a chunk of money, allowing him to buy Merlotte’s. Sookie finally admits to herself that Sam is one of her closest friends. He’s always there for her, tries to protect her and help her at personal cost to himself. Sam insisted on accompanying Sookie to the shifter meeting, where he could have been killed in the skirmish. His mere association with her puts her in danger. Had Sookie not been involved with Eric, Felipe and Sigebert would not have been at the bar, and Sam would not have been caught in the crossfire. Sookie feels terrible that Sam was involved. And while Sam insists that it isn’t her fault, he does say I don’t know how we can pry you loose from them.” But does Sookie want to be pried loose? I don’t think so.
Sam claims he wants to be left in peace, to have a normal life. Sam wants that for Sookie either, but while she gets sick of the politics and the battle, Sookie explains that her “life wasn’t any prize. Every day was a struggle to just act like I was a regular human, like I didn’t know all the things I know about other humans…Knowing about the supernatural world puts that all in a different perspective…Plus, it’s nice to be valued for the very thing that makes regular people think I’m just a crazy girl.” To someone who has always been ridiculed for her power, the supernatural world accepts her, and even appreciates her. In that world, she’s normal—even powerful. And so far she’s willing to pay the price for that.
Now let’s talk about Niall. At the end of the book, Sookie finally calls him on his neglect. He left her alone for the worst moments of her life, only to come waltzing in now? She wants a relationship with him, but she also is confused by his behavior. He very much wants to be in her life right now, though—perhaps now that she has proven to be an interesting and powerful human? He even says that he loves her courage, but worries that she is mortal, and is continually trying to give her something. Finally, Sookie asks if Niall can take her telepathy away. He responds “You are asking if I can remove something from the fiber of your being…No, I can’t do that.” But would Sookie really want that anyway, and will that phrase, “fiber of her being” still be true in future books?
We’ll see! Join us next week for the ninth book in the series, Dead and Gone.
Whitney Ross is an editor at Tor Books. In her free time, she’s also a book collector, wannabe jetsetter, and Starbucks junkie, and enjoys competitive sports such as skiing and shopping.