Dead in the Family, by Charlaine Harris

May 14, 2010

Dead in the Family (Sookie Stackhouse, #10)During Dead in the Family, Sookie is still dealing with the physical and emotional fallout from the Fae War. Sookie’s boyfriend, Eric, is having difficulties with Louisiana’s new vampire power structure, and her friend and employer, Sam, is facing increased scrutiny now that shapeshifters have made themselves publicly known. Sookie faces ambitious vampires and vengeful fairies, and is also drawn back into drama surrounding the Shreveport wolf pack, all while many of her strongest allies are distracted with troubles of their own.

This review doesn’t include any major spoilers for this book, though I will bring up a few more of the many, many plotlines than the cover blurb does – because it would be hard for me to write much about this book without them. Those who don’t want to hear what could be thought of as light spoilers should read no further, and of course you shouldn’t read this review at all if you haven’t finished the previous Sookie books.

Like several of the recent Sookie books, Dead in the Family follows many different story threads rather than focusing on mostly one central mystery or problem. I know that’s put off some fans, but personally, I love this trend. It makes the series feel more like it’s following this woman with a difficult, complex life, rather than someone who keeps stumbling across mysteries. What makes this one stand out a bit more from the similarly structured books is that there’s more of a constant theme to all these events. It’s right there in the title: family.

Sookie only recently discovered that she has fae relatives, and the ones she became closest with are both beyond her reach. Her cousin, Claude, remains nearby, but she becomes worried by his downright strange behavior. Her brother Jason, who she once thought of as her only remaining kin, is finally showing signs of maturing after his recent tragedy, but Sookie still sees him as someone who needs to be protected from supernatural life despite the fact that he’s become as much a part of that world as she has. And now she’s trying to form a relationship with her new-found nephew, Hunter, and she’s determined to make his childhood as a telepath easier than her own was.

And Sookie isn’t the only one with family issues. The public revelation of shapeshifters has caused upheaval in Sam’s family life. Bill is slow to heal from the wounds he got in the Fae War, and he remains isolated from both his only vampire relative and his human descendants. Eric’s maker, a man with complete power over him, has come to visit at a time when Eric can least afford any distraction. Sookie’s human friends are settling down and having children, while she faces life with a man she can’t grow old with – assuming either of them live that long.

It’s really good stuff.

The recent discovery of new family connections and the change in her relationship with Jason have raised the stakes for her somewhat. She can confide in Jason more these days, but that just pulls him into any trouble that she faces. She can ease the troubles that Hunter’s ability will bring his way, but it’s at the risk of bringing him to the attention of those who would see him as a tool or a prize. And the drama of Eric’s vampire relatives adds another layer of danger. They take much of the time and attention of Sookie’s strongest ally, and their actions also endanger his position – which is one of the only things that keeps Sookie relatively safe and free.

Through it all, Sookie continues to grow and change as a character. She’s become a harsher person, more used to the violence that’s commonplace among supernaturals, and it’s interesting to see her acknowledge that a bit.

I’m still loving the direction of these books. And yeah, some parts of this book made me worry that a relationship development I’m really not going to like may be coming, but I’m probably wrong about that. I sure hope so.

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