The tenth book in Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries (aka Sookie Stackhouse), Dead in the Family brings a lot of change to the inhabitants of Bon Temps. While it was definitely different from previous novels, I have to say I truly enjoyed it.
After enduring torture and the loss of loved ones during the brief but deadly Faery War, Sookie Stackhouse is hurt and she’s angry. Just about the only bright spot in her life is the love she thinks she feels for vampire Eric Northman. But he’s under scrutiny by the new Vampire King because of their relationship. And as the political implications of the Shifters coming out are beginning to be felt, Sookie’s connection to the Shreveport pack draws her into the debate. Worst of all, though the door to Faery has been closed, there are still some Fae on the human side-and one of them is angry at Sookie. Very, very angry…
Dead in the Family totally kept my attention all day. There wasn’t a huge plot or conflict that Sookie was knee deep in, but there was enough going on that it wasn’t boring. Honestly, Dead in the Family really reminds me of Buffy’s fourth season finale – the one where Buffy gets caught up in a dream with the “First”. Sookie has had so much going on in her life that she needed this downtime, something easy and eye opening. A lot of threads were tied up, and yet, there were plenty more that began. In my opinion, the Fae have been dealt with. I can’t see them coming back. We’re definitely going to see more vampires in the future, but instead of Eric going along with his king’s wishes, I think we’re going to see his rebellious side come out. Plus, with the weres recent “coming out”, legislation is going to occur and we really didn’t see much of it for the vampires. Dead in the Family opens a lot of possibilities of what we’ll be seeing and I kind of like it.
I’ve seen some comments saying the book tries to tie the HBO show in a little too much, but I don’t get it. Yes, there is mention of Jace Everett’s Bad Things song (it is a really good song) and the Bureau of Vampire Americans, but all of that is mentioned while discussing shifter politics. Really, there’s only two instances where this is brought up, so I get that Harris mentions it, but it is in more of an offhand manner than anything point blank.
As for Sookie, she is definitely starting to get smart when it comes to the supernaturals. She understands she’s been a little to willing to go along with whatever they want her to do; now she is thinking things through first. Getting all the details before jumping into a situation. I like this. She is also starting to get a little savage. No one will call Sookie a kickass heroine, but she’s starting to get there. She knows what has to be done, and while she’s not willing to do it, I don’t think she’ll have a problem being a participant in seeing it get done.
As for her relationship with Eric – yeah, it’s doomed. I really don’t see it lasting, even if Eric wants it to. It just seems like he was there when she needed someone without agendas, or at least hidden ones. Everyone Sookie has ever been in a relationship with, they’ve always had secrets they’ve kept from her. Secrets that generally focused on her – Bill spying on her for Sophie-Ann, Alcide wanting her for her telepathy and Quinn, he just wasn’t upfront with her about a lot of things. However with Eric, she’s always known he’ll use her for her telepathy and that he can be very ruthless and practically all at the same time. She definitely gets more from Eric than any of the previous three, but at the same time, he can’t give her what she still wants. She hasn’t given up on it yet and I really think if she finds a way to break the blood bond, her feelings are not going to be as crystal clear as they are now. I could be wrong, but Harris has already said that Sookie won’t end up with Eric and it really stood out for me in Dead in the Family.
Before I end this, I should say, while there isn’t a plot or major conflict, there are a bunch of little incidents that really are not about moving some agenda along, but are there to help develop the characters more. Usually, by the tenth novel, most characters are fully developed, but Harris isn’t doing that with hers. Sookie is changing and we’re getting to see that. With the arrival of his maker, we get to see a side of Eric that hasn’t been there before. Plus Bill gets an unexpected visitor and that is definitely going to change some things where he’s concerned. Like I said earlier, Dead in the Family really reminds me of that fourth season finale – the purpose of Dead in the Family wasn’t to put everyone into a huge battle and then have everything work out, but to give the characters more definition. Honestly, think of it this way, Dead in the Family is two or three different stories all mashed together. Harris could have done all of this via an anthology collection, but we got to see how Sookie handled each crisis and how they affected her reactions. We would have missed that if she had only focused on each crisis one at a time.
Overall, Dead in the Family was a great read in the fact that it gave you more of the characters. There wasn’t any vampire politics to keep track of or shapeshifter antics going on, but there is enough going on that it made it hard for me to put it down. Everything Sookie goes through is meant to show that she is surviving and is learning to deal with whatever the supernaturals toss at her. She’s starting to get a backbone and we totally see that.
Dead Until Dark
Living Dead in Dallas
Dead to the World
Dead as a Doornail
All Together Dead
From Dead to Worse
Dead and Gone
Dead in the Family
Also reviewed by:
Marissa’s review on Literary Escapism
My Ever Expanding Library
Good critique, Jackie. In spite of her fear of them, Sookie seems to me more and more like a fairy. I honestly don’t know where she’s going to end up anymore. I never thought it would be the case, but it seems to me as if Eric is more in love with Sookie than Sookie is with Eric. I don’t even know if Sookie is capable of love anymore. She seems to push everybody away.
LOVED Pam, LOVED Jason. Loved Bill and his family. Don’t know what’s going to happen with his visitor.
And I loved, loved, loved Claude. More of him! More of her family.
Sigh. Is it wrong that with two sons getting married next year, my big excitement is the next Sookie book? : )
Jackie, Charlaine has never said Sookie will or will not end up with any of the suitors she has had thus far. She is very careful not to articulate any favoritism…although she has said she knows who Sookie will end up with, Sookie will be in a very happy place at the end of the series, and she will not be a vampire…telepathy is a big enough cross to bear in life. The only big hint Charlaine has dropped about Eric…he will be around until the end of the series.
I liked the slower pace of this book. Sookie was gravely injured in DEAD AND GONE and she needed some healing time both physically and mentally. Torture can change one’s personality, let’s hope it has made Sookie more willing to get violent if the situation warrants. I also do not think we have seen the last of the Fae, Niall still can get messages through to Sookie and of course Claude and Dermot are still in Sookie’s world.
While Harris hasn’t said that Sookie won’t end up with Eric, a couple of years ago there used to be a quite different answer to one of the most popular/important FAQs on her website, i.e. “Who will Sookie end up with?”. The answer (at the time – around the 4th or 5th book I think)was something along the lines of “You might not have met him yet”. The above answer has been replaced quite a while ago, but I’m still quite certain it wansn’t just a result of my overactive imagination :D I used to think it meant Quinn, but it doesn’t seem very likely now, does it? Either way, this excludes both Bill and Eric, as well as Sam or even Alcide. Of course Harris might have changed her mind about the HEA guy and decided it’d be better for Sookie to be with Eric in the end. (Especially as most True Blood/Sookie fans nowadays seem to be on “Team Eric”, or should I say team Alexander Skarsgård?)
On the other hand, althought we don’t know how many books are planned in total (20 being the absolute maximum in my mind), for me it doesn’t seem likely for a “new”/”fresh” suitor being introduced starting in book 11 or so, so that Sookie could be HEA with him in the end. I might be mistaken of course, but I don’t see her settled with someone who hasn’t beena around at least since half the way through the series…
Actually, it was reported somewhere (I can’t think of where at the moment) that Harris had said during an appearance Q&A that Sookie wasn’t going to end up with Eric. Now, this was awhile ago and maybe she has changed her mind on that. It’s totally possible. However, I don’t see Sookie ending up with Eric, not after DEAD IN THE FAMILY. I mean, she still wants her witch friend (why can’t I think of her name?!) to look for a way to get rid of the blood bond. Who knows, maybe once that bond is gone, Sookie will find that she does actually love Eric and vice versa. However, I don’t think that they’ll end up while that bond is still there. It puts a cloud of doubt over everything and that wouldn’t be healthy for their relationship.
I can totally see Harris bringing in a new suitor for Sookie. Why not? There’s nothing saying that she can’t do that or that there’s anything wrong with doing that. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sookie end up with Remy. It sounds like they are going to start spending a lot of time together, so sparks could end up flying.
Great review! I like how you compare Dead in the Family to the Buffy finale. I think that’s an apt comparison.
I do hope you’re wrong about Sookie and Eric though :) I love me some Eric Northman! Although I must say I’m intrigued about the idea of Sookie and Remy. I’ve been wondering where Harris is taking the Hunter thing. For instance, I was thinking that Hunter might make Sookie want kids of her own. But you’re right, he could bring Sookie and Remy closer together, and I think that’s an interesting idea.
I am glad to hear some positive things about DITF. So many people were disappointed. I loved it. I thought it was a brilliant book for this point in the series. It was about the loss and gain of family for everyone in the book. Family is very important to Sookie, weres and vampires. All the mentioning of babies coming. I think this theme will be important in the next book. I hope Sookie’s HEA will involve a baby. I have always loved how CH writes (love her Harper mysteries) it is about the main character and how they handle life. Looking forward to the next one!
I really enjoyed this book in the series. I liked the slower pace with more info about the characters and where they are after all the craziness of the last few books. I am with you in that I think Eric is more in love with Sookie but I am not sure they still aren’t meant for each other. I want an HEA for both of them, whether together or separately. I really enjoyed Pam being in the book more :)
Like you all, I enjoyed this latest Sookie book. The pre-torture Sookie, having seen so many grisly deaths, would never be vindictive enough to want someone dead. I think now she is sincere when she says she wants Victor dead, something that is as much a revelation to her as it is to us.
I really liked the direction Remy and Hunter are taking, and I’d put money on Sookie’s HEA being with them. (I think it’s such a cliche that every HEA these days ends with a pregnancy or baby.)
I listened to the audiobook, because it was available at the library and the book wasn’t. It worked out beautifully. I was sick in bed for two days, and listened to the story. The reader did a phenomenal job, and I recommend it as a future option, or to “reread” some of the past books.