The following originally appeared on my former book review column in May, 2010:
The latest installment of the Sookie Stackhouse series gives Eric Northman fans a completely different view of the Nordic vampire.
On May 4, 2010 Ace Hardcover released the latest installment of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, Dead in the Family. Charlaine Harris concluded her last book of the Sookie Stackhouse series, Dead and Gone in 2009, with a huge cliff-hanger that could change everything that readers have been accustom to up until now.
In the aftermath of the Fae War that dominated Dead and Gone, Sookie’s great grandfather informs her that he is sealing off the world of the fae from the humans. No fairies will pass into the world, including him. In leaving, her tells her to go easy on the vampire, that he is a good man and that he loves her. He is gone before she can ask which vampire he refers to. Both vampires had come to her aid in the attacks against her family, and Bill had pledged his undying love to her, but exchanges between Eric and Sookie suggest that there has been much left off the page that will be explained in the future.
Relationships in Dead in the Family
Charlaine Harris opens Dead in the Family shortly after the Fae War. Many characters, including Sookie are still recovering from the attacks and even torture that they underwent during the war. Sookie and Eric are together, and he often reminds her that she is married to him despite her arguing that it had been a trick and that it only held ground in the vampire world. There are several rather touching and telling scenes between the two within the opening of the book which begs the question, is Eric the vampire that Sookie’s great grandfather was talking about in last year’s book?
Harris is not giving anything away though, at least not in the opening passages. Bill Compton is still living across the graveyard and at Sam’s urging, Sookie does go to see him. He is still suffering from silver-poisoning and again, in a moment that only Harris can deliver, Bill opens up to Sookie and tells her everything he has been holding back. Vampire Bill fans will not be disappointed either, but again, Harris is going to keep this contest for Sookie’s heart on a tight, neck-and-neck race.
Difference From Earlier Books
What is most notably different about Dead in the Family in comparison to other books in the series is the overall tone of the book. Though the subject matter of Harris’ books are often dark, Dead in the Family lacks the sort of upbeat frivolity that moves the earlier installments along. Sookie is depressed and clearly lost after confronting her own mortality in Dead and Gone. It seems that her cheerful, sunny innocent disposition is gone and what readers get is a more realistic woman who is trying to figure everything out outside of the ideal.
It is this mind-set that sets the tone and keeps much of the action a bit slow-building, but once Harris reaches her peak, the reader is off into a rich world of the supernatural and all of the politics that go along with it. Other notable characters such as Sookie’s newly taken brother, Jason, Alcide the Were, Claude the Fae and even Dermot who has some pretty surprising secrets of his own.
Back Story in Dead in the Family
Lastly, what is rather interesting in Dead in the Family is a lot of the back story that comes out about many of the main characters that readers have fallen in love with over the course of the Sookie Stackhouse series. Readers will learn about how the mysterious Eric became who he is and just who made him, they will also learn a more in-depth version of just how Lorena found Bill and made him into a vampire and they will also get a first-hand glimpse into Sookie’s supernatural side of the family.
Overall, Charlaine Harris’ Dead in the Family could be seen as a turning point for the series. There are many more questions and facts that are raised that change what has come before. Both new readers and old fans of the series will not be disappointed with this latest installment.
Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris is available for purchase through Ace Hardcover with ISBN 0441018645.