One of the great things about paranormal romance series is that revisiting that world and those characters feels almost like a homecoming. I’ve spent so much time in Bon Temps over the years, been with Sookie through calm and danger (mostly danger) so often, reading a new novel is like being with good friends. As usual, these particular friends come with some nasty enemies.
Oh, Ladies Night Out, the highlight of the week for women everywhere. Sookie and her friends (Tara, Holly, Kennedy, and Michelle) are spending it at Hooligans, her cousin Claude’s club, watching a bunch of fairies and one human strip. Of course, only Sookie knows those guys are fae. And naturally, the night turns tense when the human stripper turns out to be J.B. du Rone, Tara’s husband. Tara holds it together and the group heads home only for Sookie to find her grandfather in her living room. Since Niall had supposedly closed all the doors to Faery, this is something of a shock. However, it gives Sookie a chance to prove that “plain speaking” can be the cure for even the biggest misunderstandings. After some roundabout conversation with Niall, Dermot, and Claude, it is determined that Niall was not the one who had cursed Dermot, so Claude and Niall head back to Faery pronto to figure out who actually did.
This gives Sookie time to connect with boyfriend Eric. I have to say, this is one weird relationship. The two have great sex when they are together, and Sookie tells all and sundry she is just so, so happy with him – but they act like being together is the most strenous thing ever. I think this is because they rarely just have fun – they are normally being firebombed or planning someone’s murder. This time around Felipe de Castro, the vampire king of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Nevada is in town and Eric is busy preparing to entertain him. That preparation means she won’t see Eric for a bit, till he is ready to have her meet with Felipe and company.
Sookie is a bit perturbed by this. She figures the cracks in her relationship with Eric will turn into full blown canyons if the only times they ever get together are when they are fighting for their lives against vampire royalty. Still, she goes with the flow and attends the party a couple days later as requested. She arrives to find Eric’s home being abused by his guests. She grows irate just thinking about what it will take to clean up the mess. But that is nothing compared to what happens next. She walks in on Eric sucking blood. From a younger woman. Who is pleasuring herself while it happens. Eric offers up excuses – some good ones, some not so good – but she really isn’t ready to play forgive and forget. She wants to stomp out, but there is the little matter of Victor’s death and Felipe waiting for an explanation. She pulls it together long enough to deal with that, when things go wrong yet again. The young woman Eric was drinking blood from is dead on his front lawn. And before the vamps can even say “hide the body,” the police are there. Great. Now she’s involved in yet another murder investigation .
On the one hand, Sookie is endlessly busy in this book. She is either working at Merlotte’s (where she has taken on additional responsibilities), or she is cooking for her brother or Tara, meeting with friends, dealing with the murder investigation, or dealing with the problems at Hooligans, caused by Claude’s defection. There is the mystery of Dermot and just who harmed him and why. There is the tangle that is Eric’s life as a high ranking vampire. Then there is the cluviel dor, the magical gift she found in the attic. Sookie must deal with it somehow but she is unsure just what the consequences of dealing with it will be.
On the other hand, for all the busyness, nothing much happens in this book. Sure, there are a couple murders, a near death experience for Sookie a time or two, and we learn of yet another plot. However, these things have become so routine to Sookie (a fact which somewhat horrifies her) that they barely make a blip in her day. They sure don’t make any impact on important plot points; nothing does before the last few pages. For much of the book it all felt like we were just treading water. If I pulled any emotion from the story this time around it was tired and frustrated. Sookie is sick of dealing with the never ending crisis that has become her life since Bill first stepped through the door at Merlotte’s. It was fun at first but it’s lost its shine for her. I can relate. I am starting to feel that way towards the series. It is still fun, but it is teetering on the edge of not being so. I felt as though I was in a holding pattern for something big, I just couldn’t figure out what that something big is.
Even the romance is in a holding pattern. She is tired of her relationship with Eric going nowhere. She wants more from him than she’s got. She senses he wants something from her, but she can’t figure out what. The two of them are doing a dance in which neither satisfies the other’s needs. When we come to the climax, it is a pop and fizzle rather than the atomic bomb I would have expected.
Sookie’s happy place in this book is Merlotte’s. She loves working there and she loves partnering with Sam. That’s great, but I can’t say that it makes for scintillating reading. And maybe that’s part of the problem – Sookie is ready for some boring and ordinary in her life. She’s certainly earned it. But that doesn’t make for much entertainment for those of us who are voyeurs of her adventures. It’s clear the author has made a decision to stretch the story out. I understand why but I don’t know how much longer she’ll be able to pull it off. My feeling is – not much.
If you are still reading and enjoying the series, I would pick this one up. It’s equal to the last few books and the fact is that Harris remains a good writer who has built a fascinating world. I may not be loving ’em the way I did the first few, but after eleven books the fact that I am still really liking them says something positive all by itself. Also, something does happen in the last few pages that looks like it will really shake things up for Sookie. So if you still care, are still intrigued, you will want to read what happens.