Welcome back to our re-read of Charlaine Harris’s bestselling Sookie Stackhouse series. This week we’re reading the ninth book in the series, Dead and Gone. Only three more before we’ve completed the series!
It’s been two and a half months since the events of the previous book, and our story begins as Sookie is watching what seems to be the vampire version of What Not to Wear on TV, with roomies Octavia Fant and Amelia Broadway. Apparently America is addicted to vampire reality shows. Shocking!
Sookie reads from Amelia (who has insider information now that she’s dating Tray Dawson), that the were community plans to come out to the public that night. When she arrives at work, Sam confirms her suspicions. The weres’ debut to the world promises to be interesting. Arlene is dating Whit Spradlin, a Fellowship of the Sun official. Jason has a new best friend in were-panther Mel Hart, now that Hoyt is dating Holly. And all the above are currently at Merlotte’s, as is vampires Bill and Clancy. And then the weres come out on live television, all across the nation. At the same time, Tray and Sam shift in the bar, Sam into a collie, and Tray into his wolf form. Sookie and Amelia are able to diffuse the tension and fear by having the shifters do a few tricks.
Arlene shows her true character in a hateful speech and quits. Jason actually defends Sookie (again, shocking!) and Sam, still a collie, whines and covers his nose with a paw, diffusing the tension once again. But things don’t proceed as smoothly everywhere—Sam’s father shot his mother when she changed, and she’s in the hospital. Sam instantly goes to visit her, leaving Sookie in charge of the bar. As Sookie is frantically covering for Sam, Eric’s daytime man Bobby Burnham visits Merlotte’s, asking that Sookie come to Fangtasia for an interview with the king’s lieutenant, Victor Madden. Bobby also gives Sookie a package wrapped in velvet and gold tassels, informing her that Eric requests Sookie give him the package that night, in front of Victor.
Sookie does as he asks, and hands him the bundle ceremoniously. Eric unwraps a knife, and kisses the blade in front of Victor. Once this is complete, Sookie finds out what is going on, and she’s not pleased. By accepting this rare knife from her, Eric and Sookie are now pledged to each other. Essentially, they are married. Not only that, but Quinn had requested a private meeting with her. He is not allowed to enter Eric’s area without permission, and now that Sookie is clearly under Eric’s protection, Victor cannot force the issue. Sookie isn’t happy about Eric’s high-handedness, but there’s not much she can do right now. Gotta love her conflicted feelings: “I would think of Eric and feel the warm rush of joy, and then think of Eric and want to punch him in the face.” Can’t really blame her.
In the morning, Sookie receives a visit from Agent Sara Weiss and Special Agent Tom Lattesta of the FBI. They have a photo of her, taken in the rubble of the Rhodes pyramid. But before the agents are able to interrogate her, there’s a phone call from Merlotte’s—a woman has been crucified behind the bar. It’s Crystal, Sookie’s pregnant, soon-to-be-ex sister-in-law. It’s a horrible scene, and when Calvin arrives, it’s a good thing Sookie’s there to hold him back—the police won’t let him by the body to catch a scent. By the time they do, all their scents are so mixed together that he can’t discern anything. At least Jason isn’t under suspicion—he was with another woman at the time.
Back at Fangtasia that night, Eric shares some insight into his past. As a Viking, he was married to a woman named Aude, and they had six children, three of whom lived. Aude died in childbirth, along with their sixth child. Eric was 23 at the time, and when she died, needed another wife to help take care of the children. On his way home from meeting a prospective bride, he stopped by the side of the road to help an injured man. But of course, he wasn’t really injured. His name was Appius Livius Ocella, and he became Eric’s sire. Eric was never able to go back to his village, and because Appius was his sire, he had to obey him in all things. Eric is free of him, but now that we’ve found out about Appius, can we assume he will pop up at some point? Spoiler alert—yes. Eric also confirms Sookie’s suspicion, that by “marrying” her, he protected her from the king’s wish to use her abilities for his own purposes. Now that they are pledged, the king can’t touch her unless he petitions Eric first. On a more personal note, Eric shares more about his time as an amnesiac. In particular, he now knows why he was running down the road to Sookie’s house—the witch cursed him to be close to his heart’s desire without ever realizing it. So can we then extrapolate that Sookie is his heart’s desire?
The bar reopens the next morning, and Sam returns. At the bar that night, Sookie’s great-grandfather Niall visits and warns her that there is trouble with the fairies, but that he’s taking care of it. On the plus side, Octavia’s boyfriend has finally found her, and is whisking her away to live with him in New Orleans. Both Sookie and Amelia are ecstatic. The next morning, Special Agent Lattesta and Andy Bellefleur come to ask about Crystal’s death. While Sookie agrees that it was a hate crime, she also says, “I don’t know if it was personal hate, because Crystal was a slut…or racial hate, because she was a were-panther.” Good question. A few hours later, Diantha arrives with a warning from Mr. Cataliades, a warning that he is not technically allowed to send—he’s supposed to remain neutral. “Fairies are moving around in this world. Be careful. They’ll take you if they can, and they’ll hurt you—because Niall has many enemies.” These same fairies killed Sookie’s grandfather Fintan, all lead by Breandan, the only other fairy prince. Well that’s just great.
To understand the situation a bit better, Sookie meets with Claude and Claudine. They share that Niall is a prince of their royal family, who claims kinship to the sky, while Breandan is the son of Niall’s dead older brother, Rogan, who claimed kinship to the sea. Breandan believes all the humans with fairy blood should be eradicated, that every time a half-fairy child is born, fairies lose some of their magic. He wants to close the doors between worlds, and Niall’s other half-human son, Dermot, brother of Fintan, is siding with him. Apparently, Jason looks ridiculously similar to Dermot, one of the reasons Niall favors Sookie and ignores Jason.
When Sookie gets home, she begins gardening around the house for a little distraction. Then she hears the words, “I’ll enjoy killing you for my lord,” and erupts from the ground, driving a trowel iron into the fairy’s stomach. He’s soon “dead and gone,” as Sookie terms it, and she calls Niall for help. When he arrives with his son Dillon, Niall is incredibly proud that his human relative killed his enemy. And as they examine the body, it turns to sparkling dust, which Sookie then distributes around her yard with a garden hose. To make her day complete, Quinn shows up shortly thereafter, and vents his frustrated belief that she ended their relationship unfairly. Sookie is getting very frustrated when Bill shows up. The two men attack each other, and Quinn throws Bill into Sookie, knocking her unconscious. Sookie wakes to Eric—apparently her injury broke up the fight, and both men departed. She and Eric, ahem, hook up, and when Eric leaves, Sookie sees that Bill is watching over her outside.
As if Sookie’s life isn’t strange enough, Arlene calls and wants to mend fences. Sookie drives over to her place, but is suspicious of this sudden change of heart, and hides in the woods. She listens to the thoughts in Arlene’s trailer—Fellowship of the Sun men are planning to do the same to Sookie as was done to Crystal. So she calls Andy Bellefleur before confronting Arlene, finally saying what we’ve been wishing she would all along. When Andy and the FBI agents arrive, the men start shooting. The scene ends with Agent Weiss shot in the chest, and the FoS sympathizers wounded or dead. Sookie blames herself, and while she sits in shock as EMTs and police swarm the scene, she sees a fairy in the woods—a clearly hostile one. Then it disappears. As Sookie is still mentally recovering, Amelia asks Sookie on a double date with Tray and a guy named Drake—a guy who looks a lot like Jason. Hm, could that be Dermot? Sookie warns Amelia and Tray, then buys two water guns and fills them with lemon juice, for fairy repellant. She also calls in a marker with Felipe de Castro. The vampires send Bubba to protect her, and Alcide also sends Tray to spend the night with Amelia as a bodyguard for them both. But a woman compels Tray to drink vampire blood in the woods, and he is violently ill. After he goes home to recover, Niall appears in her living room looking disheveled—the war has escalated with the murder of a fairy woman, and he wants to make sure Sookie is protected. When he leaves, she calls Jason, and he informs her that Dermot stopped by his house, yelling insane things. Sookie is forced to tell him about their extended family. Jason does not handle Niall’s favoritism well.
When Sookie thinks back to Dermot’s words later, she realizes something important. She immediately calls Calvin to meet her at Jason’s house, where he’s hanging out with Mel. When Jason realizes that Sookie wants to touch Mel, to hear his thoughts better, he holds Mel in place for her. Sookie hears the full story, and Mel himself confesses. Mel is gay, and he loves Jason. Crystal knew, and was taunting him with horrible comments one day. He finally lost it and hit her so hard that he thought she was dead, but she wasn’t—just wounded. He left her in his truck for a moment, and when he returned her body was gone. He has no idea how Crystal appeared outside Merlotte’s. After his confession, Mel states that he is prepared to die for his actions, and Sookie leaves as the panthers follow their law.
Sookie had promised to meet Amelia at Tray’s house after work that day, but when she arrives, the house is completely dark. She calls Bill for backup. While Amelia is safe at Sookie’s house, Tray is missing—and there’s been a fight. And when they return to Sookie’s house, she is abducted right outside, and wakes up in the custody of two fairies, Lochlan and Neave. They were the ones who crucified Crystal, they arranged the death of Sookie’s parents in a flood, and now they torture Sookie for hours before Bill and Niall find her. Bill and Niall kill them both, but not before Sookie is scarred both physically and emotionally.
Sookie wakes in a hospital to Claudine sitting beside her bed, and Dr. Ludwig attending her. Tray is barely alive, and Bill is in similar condition from silver poising—Neave bit him with silver-capped fangs. Eric soon arrives, and his matter-of-fact treatment of Sookie’s horrific wounds and bites calms her as he partially heals her with a huge amount of his blood. But when Sookie asks why Eric didn’t come to her, when he must have felt her need, he can’t answer, though he promises to explain later. Then he carries her to Bill and Tray’s hospital room, where Clancy is transfusing Bill with his blood. But they are not safe yet—Breandan’s followers are tracking her, and will attack at any moment. Before they do, Bill tells Sookie, “I have always loved you, and I will be proud to die in your service.” Then the fairies attack. Tray grabs Breandan from his bedside, allowing Bill to kill him with Sookie’s trowel. Sookie defends herself with her lemon juice squirt gun, and when Niall arrives with his forces, the battle is already over. But Clancy is dead, and the pregnant Claudine.
In the aftermath, Niall decides to do the very thing Breandan wanted—close the door between the two realms. He has different motivations, though, as he simply wants to protect the humans from fairies. Niall says his final goodbyes to both Jason and Sookie, and ends with, “The vampire is not a bad man, and he loves you.” And before Sookie can ask “Which vampire?” he is gone.
Whew! The plots keep getting more and more intricate, don’t they? And Sookie progressively more battered with each book. Will Sookie’s experiences in this book be a turning point? Before, while Sookie certainly didn’t appreciate the death and destruction that’s been so much a part of her experience with the supernatural world, she did enjoy the excitement, adventure, and opportunities brought into her life. For once she was valued, and considered both normal and powerful. After the torture, Sookie says “I’d looked at death too closely—close enough to see all the pores in Death’s face—and I’d suffered too much. I wouldn’t bounce back this time.” Eric, at least, has a different perspective. He is proud of Sookie for being so strong—Lochlan and Neave have broken beings physically stronger than her, but she survived with her soul and personality intact. Only time will tell who is right, time that we’ll follow in the upcoming books.
This book shows a turning point in Sookie’s relationship with Jason. After his betrayal with Crystal, setting Sookie up to discover the affair, Sookie finally makes Jason see how much he has damaged their relationship. As Sookie says, “Jason’s actions over the past few months had killed something in me. Though Jason was my brother, and I loved him, and he was showing signs of finally growing up, I no longer felt that I had to support him through all the trials his life had brought him” I don’t know about you, but my reaction was “thank goodness!” So glad to hear that Sookie is no longer being blindly loyal to a brother who mistreats her. Jason finally realizes at least some portion of his misdoing, and that realization is brought home when Sookie tells Niall that despite all the trouble the fairies have brought her, she’s grateful that he “brought her the reassurance that she had family who loved her.” Jason is sitting right there, clearly struck that Sookie knows he doesn’t love her as he ought. Will this bring about a change in Jason’s behavior? Again, we’ll have to see!
On a lighter note, Sookie spends a moment contemplating the changes that a known were community brings to the world, even just in the area of sports. Does having were blood bring an unfair advantage? She says, “The outing of the two-natured was a much different revelation than the vampires’ announcement. The vampires had been completely off the human grid, except in legend and lore. They’d lived apart. Since they could subsist on the Japanese synthetic blood, they had presented themselves as absolutely nonthreatening. But were-animals had been living among us all the time, integrated into our society yet maintaining their secret lives and alliances. Sometimes even their children didn’t know what their parents were.” Scary thought for the humans, and people felt betrayed. Harris does an excellent job conveying the tension there, such as in Sam’s parents’ relationship. Sam’s father was right to feel betrayed that his wife lied to him for their entire marriage, but he was not right to shoot her. Either way, their marriage is over.
After the revelation, a woman named Sarah Jen admits to Sookie that she’s always thought Sam a little odd. But when Sookie lies and says that Sam has always said wonderful things about Sarah Jane, it changes her perception totally. These small moments, where Harris comments on social interactions and everyday life, are a huge reason why I love this series so much. Isn’t it so true that knowing someone likes you changes your perspective on them?
Now let’s talk about Sam for a moment. Sookie casually mentions to Sam that she’s married Eric, and Sam is horrified, and he’s equally displeased when he smells Eric on her skin. His reaction makes her angry, but can you blame him? Poor Sam, never makes a move at the right time. He’s certainly stuck in the friend zone, isn’t he? But at the same time, the first person Sookie calls when she hears about Crystal, is Sam. At one point, Sookie tells us, “I was astonished to realize how often I confided in Sam, how much he knew about my secret life.” And as she is being tortured, Sookie things “I thought of Sam and how happy it would make me if I could see him now. I wanted to say the name of someone who loved me, but my throat was too hoarse from screaming.” Sam is clearly a hugely important part of Sookie’s life. She’ll prove just how important he is very soon….
Poor Quinn is the bad guy once again, as he and Bill knock Sookie unconscious. But he does ask a key question, “Why are you harder on me than on anyone else? Have you asked Eric to give up Fangtasia? Have you asked Bill to give up his computer enterprise? Have you asked Sam to turn his back on his family?..You’re asking me to give up the people I love if I want to have you.” Sookie is first, confused by all the people he lists off, particularly Sam. And she also states that she’s not asking him to give up his family, she just wants to come first as a person. Sookie wants to know if it comes down to it, would Quinn save his mother or her? He would most likely choose his mother, but the men Quinn listed above would most likely choose her. Do you agree with Sookie’s reasons?
As for Eric, Sookie spends much of the book wrestling with the blood bond. Does the delight she feels in his presence come from the blood bond, or her feelings? Eric’s high-handedness is also a problem. As Sookie says, “I don’t doubt that you want what you think is best for me. And I don’t doubt that marches right along with what you think is good for you.” Touché. And where was Eric when Sookie was being tortured? He fought to defend her when the fairies attacked, but was nowhere to be seen when she was being tortured. This is explained in the next book, so I’ll give my comments then on whether it was a satisfactory excuse. And lastly, Sookie dreams of Eric at one point, and in her dream, he was human, sold real estate, and they walked together under the sun. Hm, what would Freud think of that?
For not having events on the scale of the destruction of the Rhodes pyramid or the battle between vampire monarchs, this book contains some huge personal events for Sookie. I really like this book and the direction it sets for the rest of the series, but what do you think?
Join us next week as we discuss the tenth book in the series, Dead in the Family!