If you were…bemused by the presence of fairies in Sookie Stackhouse’s world prior to now, you are not going to particularly enjoy Dead and Gone, the ninth book in the series. Sookie’s extended supernatural family shows up in a major way, and things get a lot darker and weirder. Spoilers to follow…
The book opens with something fun, which we should not ignore: in the world of vampires being out of the coffin, we’ve now come upon a period of vampire reality television. Sookie, Amelia, and Octavia are watching The Best Dressed Vamp, which is like What Not To Wear, but with the risk of someone’s throat getting torn out (it’s okay, he was a vampire, he healed right up).
But there are more important things on television than tacky vamp wardrobes. The shifters have finally organized enough to reveal themselves to the public at large, and Sookie gets to be at Merlotte’s when it happens. For the most part, the bar patrons are cool with it, although the only people changing are Amelia’s boyfriend Tray Dawson, who’s a werewolf, and Sam, who is pure shifter, and gets to choose – here, he chooses his favorite, and generally harmless-appearing collie form. (Jason and his new Hotshot friend Mel, both panthers, do not change.) The people of Bon Temps are surprisingly chill about the whole thing, except for Arlene, who throws a shit fit and quits.
(If you were curious about the “real world” impact of the Great Reveal, it goes well in Bon Temps but is messy outside of rural Louisiana. A lot of pro athletes have are full or part were, people in the military, as well. This naturally gives them unfair strength and speed advantages. Should trophied athletes’ entire records be reconsidered? Sookie postulates:
The outing of the two-natured was a much different revelation from 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 wereanimals had been living among us all the time, integrated into our society yet maintaining their secret lives and alliances. Sometimes even their children (those who weren’t firstborn and therefore not weres) didn’t know what their parents were, especially if they were not wolves.
And my favorite,
The fundamentalists were equally stymied. “We were worried about Adam and Steve,” a Baptist minister [was quoted in an article]. “Should we have been more worried about Rover and Fluffy?”
Honestly, the idea that both vampires and wereanimals exist in the world and want to be public about it and integrate with the human populace is fascinating, and filled with a lot of long-term questions, which Harris does do her best to at least partially examine. Or at least throw them out and let us decide for ourselves.)
There are two phone calls, one in Sookie’s favor and one not. The first is a phone call for Octavia, her old flame from New Orleans, finally locating her. She moves out, much to Amelia and Sookie’s relief.
Sam gets a phone call: his mother, a shifter, changed in front of her husband (Sam’s stepdad), who freaked out and shot her. Sam has to leave to be with his family, and puts Sookie semi-in charge of the bar. This leaves her with two inconveniences: one, she has to call Tanya Grissom (“werefox and former saboteur”, who is living in Hotshot with former Sookie near-beau Calvin Norris) to cover a few of Arlene’s abandoned shifts; and two, it means she’s the one that gets the call when they find a body crucified in the Merlotte’s parking lot.
But first! Bobby Burnham, Eric’s daytime guy (a “daytime guy,” in case you couldn’t figure it out, being a human who does business errands for Eric while he’s dead), comes by Sookie’s with a wrapped package and instructions to bring it to Eric at Fangtasia. Sookie doesn’t open it, mistake number one, and brings it to Eric, mistake number two. She presents it to him in front of Victor Madden, the vicious second for the King of Nevada (and now Louisiana and Arkansas), Felipe de Castro. Turns out it’s a ceremonial knife used in vampire weddings, and whoopsy-daisy, Sookie is now vamp-married to Eric (as in, this would not hold up in legal human courts, but now she is Officially claimed, and Victor can’t touch her). It also means that Quinn, who works with the vamps in a professional capacity, isn’t allowed to enter Area Five without express permission from Eric. It’s a neat little way for Eric (who was never thrilled with Quinn) to cover all of his bases, and Sookie is rightly furious that she went along with it blindly and is now having her life managed.
On the other hand, Eric finally learns, and reveals, the witch Hallow’s curse placed on him that led him to be amnesiac and running to Sookie’s house in the middle of the night: that he would be close to his heart’s desire without ever realizing it. So this isn’t purely political to get Sookie’s gift directly under his thumb and away from Victor, it’s also extremely emotional.
Okay, back to the corpse. Sookie gets the call about the body while she’s in the middle of a conversation with Special Agents Sara Weiss and Tom Lattesta, FBI, from the Rhodes office. They heard the reports about Sookie’s adventures back at the summit, and as she feared, they’re hunting her down because they want to know what she can do (and if she can do it for them, presumably). So they can be on the scene at Merlotte’s and work it into a potential anti-supernatural hate crime, which is a brand-new-ish thing in the wake of the second Revelation. It’s anti-supernatural because the victim is Crystal Norris, Sookie’s sister-in-law, who was partially shifted. (You may last recall Crystal Norris cheating on Jason while pregnant with his baby. An ugly thing to do, but not as ugly as crucifying a pregnant woman.)
Of course Jason is heavily suspected, what with his history of being suspected of murder, and also of Crystal cheating on him not that long ago, which caused them to separate and her to move back in with her sister. Calvin, however, doesn’t think Jason did it, and promises Jason he’ll be in on the kill. It’s okay, though, Jason has his new buddy Mel to keep him company and comfort him in this tough time. Bros.
But let’s skip around a bit, and solve this mystery: it was in fact Mel who injured Crystal in the first place. Un-bros! Mel’s in love with Jason, Crystal found out and taunted him about it, Mel retaliated. But right before the werepanther community tears Mel apart, as is their way, he swears Crystal was still alive when last he saw her. She was in the back of the truck, unconscious, and then she was gone.
Meanwhile, Sookie gets visited by three spirits. I’m kidding, although I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened. Honestly, what this series is sorely lacking is ghosts, of any stripe. But spirits one and two in question are Lattesta and Weiss, who I’ve already introduced, so this metaphor doesn’t track at all, except to provide me the opportunity to complain about the lack of ghosts. Anyway, the third spirit is our old pal Arlene, who lures Sookie to her trailer with the promise of patching up their friendship. Sookie isn’t sure she fully believes Arlene’s motivations, or is even sure she wants to repair the friendship, since Arlene has been so incredibly hateful to her lately, but she likes Arlene’s kids and wants to make an attempt for their sake. Sookie is a pretty decent person. She heads over to Arlene’s trailer, slightly earlier than Arlene asks her to, and is lucky that she follows that impulse, because it’s one hundred percent a trap. Arlene’s in there with a few men from the Fellowship of the Sun, and they are fixing to crucify her like Crystal. Sookie calls Andy Bellefleur, who’s luckily with the FBI agents. Sookie agrees to go in and endanger herself because at the moment they don’t have concrete evidence, and she knows this will lift all the suspicion off of Jason. Again: Sookie is a decent person, because if I had telepathic knowledge that some religious fanatics wanted to literally crucify me, I’d fucking bail. ANYWAY, the FBI agents show up, people start shooting at each other, one of the Fellowship guys dies, one of the agents gets shot (Weiss), and it turns out the Fellowship weren’t the ones that crucified Crystal, they just thought it seemed like a good idea to copycat.
Okay, let’s get to the meat of this. Terrible things happen to Sookie basically every other week, and she’s had a rough time of it this book so far, but this is kind of the worst. The sky fairies (Sookie’s “ancestors”) have been at war with the water fairies. It turns out the water fairies are the ones who murdered Sookie’s parents, knowing they were relatives of fairy prince Niall (Sookie’s great-grandfather). Now Breandan, an enemy, wants to close the barrier between the fae world and the human world, but Niall wants it open because he now has kin in the human world, that he wants to see. Sookie, who’d make great leverage against the prince, is in danger. She gets attacked at her home by Murry, one of Breandan’s buddies, and she accidentally kills him by stabbing him with an iron trowel (she meant to stab him. She didn’t realize it would kill him). Naturally, Breandan isn’t thrilled about this (Niall is psyched for a variety of reasons, he is thrilled to have one of his enemies dead, and thrilled that Sookie is living up to all of his unspecified expectations of her), so Sookie is even more of a target than she was before. Wisely, she calls in her favors with the vamps and weres, getting Bubba as her nighttime guard and Amelia’s boyfriend Tray as her daytime bodyguard. The former goes missing. The latter gets poisoned. And Sookie gets kidnapped.
She’s taken to a shack in the middle of nowhere, where she’s tied up and held hostage by Neave and Lochlan, water fairies who work for Breandan, who reveal they were the ones who murdered her parents. They’re also the ones who found Crystal, only barely alive, and crucified her in the Merlotte’s parking lot. They keep Sookie in the shack for an unknown amount of time, just straight up torturing her for fun. (Lucky for us, Harris spares us a lot of the details, but rest assured that it ain’t pretty.) Sookie comes close to death, closer than she ever has before physically, but definitely spiritually. She abandons the idea that anyone will come for her, and sits with the knowledge that she’ll die alone in this dirty shack.
Bill and Niall show up and dispose of Neave and Lochlan, but not before Bill gets bitten by Neave’s silver-capped teeth. He and Sookie, as well as Tray, are relocated to a makeshift supernatural hospital, which is soon under siege by vengeful fairies. Tray does not make it. Nor does Claudine, Sookie’s fairy godmother, who is pregnant with a full blooded fairy child. And Sookie is left physically battered and mentally in a dark place.
And the bullet points:
–Does anyone new get introduced that in theory will come up later as a recurring character?
Fairies galore, they are related to Sookie somehow, or aren’t, and I’ll be perfectly honest with y’all, I have no idea who any of them are, how they fit together, and more importantly, I do not care.
-Does Sookie get laid and/or romantically propositioned? (And by whom?)
Does an ancient and bizarre vampire marriage ceremony count as a romantic proposition?
–Does anyone wind up dead?
My man (well, Amelia’s man) Tray. Claudine and her unborn baby. Crystal, of course, and I should probably be more upset about that than I am.
–Does Sookie get injured in some capacity?
Hoo boy does she. And this isn’t the kind of mild fight in a cemetery injury that can be cured by a night in the hospital and a bunch of vampire blood, either.
–Is Andy Bellefleur a pain in the ass?
Y’know, I shit on Andy a lot for someone who’s been in the books increasingly less. He is actually perfectly fine in this: he’s accepted the truth of Sookie, and while it creeps him out still, it’s the least of all the weird shit he has to deal with, so he uses it and doesn’t abuse it. He trusts her when she calls him at the trailer, and he comes to her aid. He’s in future books, but I think I’ll let this bullet point die here with him being All Right.
–Sookie Paramours: Who Wore It Best?
Fans of Eric and Sookie ought to be really getting a kick out of this. Certainly, the first time I went through this series, I was one of those folk (what’s not to like about wacky, flamboyant Eric?), but now I can focus more on his scheming and I don’t care for it. Bill is excessively broody and always needlessly invested in Sookie’s life. Quinn is kicked to the curb in a variety of ways, and Sookie has some regrets that not all of it is her doing or decision, as am I, because a lot of it isn’t his fault. Sam, meanwhile, continues to be a really solid pal, and definitely someone Harris is setting up as a Very Reliable Man.