Sookie’s Dead Reckoning

April 29, 2011 in Dead Reckoning - Book 11, Reviews, Southern Vampire Mysteries

Dead reckoning is the process of estimating one’s current position based upon a previously determined position, or fix, and advancing that position based upon known or estimated speeds over elapsed time, and course.

Or put simply, dead reckoning is the process of working out where you are and where you might end up – based on where you’ve already been.

I really couldn’t think of a more appropriate title for this book.

Dead Reckoning is Charlaine Harris’ eleventh novel in the Sookie Stackhouse series, and marks a definite return to the elements that make this series so popular. After a couple of necessarily “darker” instalments, this one literally rockets out of the gate – and it really doesn’t let up. This is a busy, action packed book with more than enough intrigue, angst, and surprising plot developments to keep us flipping the pages.

You all know my weakness for spoilers (and spoiling), but I’m going to do my best to review this thing in detail without giving too much away about actual events. Much of what you’ll read below is my perception of events and their possible repercussions, rather than a play by play account of what goes down in the book. Nonetheless, you may wish to stop reading if you don’t want your cherry popped even a little bit before Monday.

SOOKIE

I’ve been saying it since Dead and Gone, but I’ll say it again – Sookie’s torture at the hands of Niall’s enemies was a watershed for her character, and she will never again be the Sookie we met in Dead Until Dark. Original Sookie, for all intents and purposes is dead. And that would seem to be the point.

Dead Reckoning sees Sookie completely recovered physically from the events of DAG (almost six months have passed), and the edginess we saw emerging in DITF has become an even more prominent feature of her character. While she still has her sense of humour, Sookie is becoming more ruthless, proactive, and decisive with every book. Was it the torture that changed her, or the company she’s keeping? Is this a survival response to her unique set of circumstances? Or is it simply in her best interests now to acknowledge the dormant, dark side of her nature? Sookie is more than a little preoccupied with these questions in Dead Reckoning, and we’re left with the impression that her answer will probably be found in a little from each column.

Sookie’s ongoing struggle to reconcile her upbringing with her less than Christian lifestyle is more prominent than ever, yet it’s hardly new. As she grapples with questions of right and wrong, she’s also looking for a moral baseline in those she loves – most notably Gran, representing the choices made for her by accident of birth; and Eric, representing the choices she’s made for herself.

As she attempts to make sense of all of this, Sookie is blindsided by a major development that will force her to make a choice – does she love Eric enough to fight for him? How far would she go to keep him? Are the consequences of keeping him worth it? From the return and death of Eric’s maker in the last book to this new problem, we see clear echoes of her earlier issues with Bill coming around again in her current relationship. Which begs the question – what has Sookie learned, and what will she do differently?

There’s some big stuff going on with our girl, peeps. And it’s SO GOOD!!

ERIC

The Viking has his plate full….still. Far from being freed by the death of his creepy maker, Eric’s watching his life spiral out of his control – and his cage is seriously rattled. Not only are he, Sookie and Pam dealing with the Victor Problem and a big downturn in business – but now a new crisis threatens to drive a catastrophic wedge between him and Sookie. What’s worse is that the normally proactive and take-charge Eric is powerless to solve this problem on his own. Add a sometimes impulsive wife who can be as high-handed as he is into the mix, and it’s not hard to see why he’s throttling his progeny in sheer frustration.

It’s not all bad news for our viking honey, though. Sookie’s ability to “think outside the box” helps him achieve a satisfactory resolution to at least one of his problems, while her impulsiveness clarifies a highly contentious Eric-related plot point, once and for all. Oh, and it may or may not result in a sequence of scenes that are right up there with the most gut-wrenching, emotionally intense, and seriously fracking HOT in the series – well worth the price of admission, all on their own.

So on the bright side, there’s definitely that.

SAM

Yeah he’s STILL here, but at least his new moniker seems to be “friend”. Sookie uses the term more frequently in this book in relation to Sam than I can recall in any other. Either she is deeply in denial (a possibility I find very difficult to swallow at this late stage, given her obvious progress in the self-awareness department), or we are really meant to be taking this relationship at face value. I vote for the latter, which should surprise no one.

Sam is quite a strong presence in Dead Reckoning, as he and Sookie attempt to solve the mystery of Merlotte’s firebombing and deal with the culprit, an old enemy of Sookie’s. Shifty Shifter feels different to me in this book – I can’t quite put my finger on it yet, but somehow he too feels darker and more aggressive. No longer satisfied with being Head Vampire Hater, Sam is officially adding fairies to his growing shit list.

I have a few words of advice for Sam Merlotte, if I may – get your own life in order before you start dishing up judgement on everyone else’s.

BILL

After taking a back seat in Dead in the Family to NOT die from silver poisoning, everyone’s favourite killjoy crawls out of his sickhole. I struggle to understand why at this point – and quite frankly I smell appeasement. Can we at least give him something relevant to do? Bill has more page time in this book than he’s had in the last two, the vast majority of which is spent stroking his unrequited Sookie-Boner.

Memo to Bill: When you find yourself recycling the Viking to bring a woman around – and even THAT isn’t working for you – it’s time to reassess your game plan.

Just sayin’.

While Bill has his usual moments of complete and utter douche-baggery in this book, he also has a great scene in which he not only reveals an interesting little tidbit about his past – but has readers nodding their heads in complete agreement with his point of view.

Yes, you read that correctly.

I agreed. WITH BILL.

There’s a first (last, and only) time for everything.

AMELIA

The witch puts in an appearance, and as usual she has her witchy nose all up in Sookie’s business without regard for the consequences. Or not. No one can be this dense unintentionally, mark my words. My feelings about Amelia and her dodgy father are well documented here; suffice to say my opinion on both remains completely unswayed.

MR. CATALIADES

Well, well, well – look what the cat dragged in. Mr. C has some information for Sookie that will give her, (and us), an answer to one of the Big Questions of the series. I’m intrigued to see how this new knowledge will play into Sookie’s plans going forward.

ALCIDE

Alcide and his pack drama-rama are thankfully mostly absent. My tolerance for his using, manipulative ways since becoming pack master is completely exhausted at this point. Still, the furry one does make a rather hilarious appearance – resulting in a significant moment of clarity for Sookie.

FAMILY MATTERS

The “ties-that-bind” theme of Dead in the Family continues with revelations about Sookie’s human and fae families flying all over the place, along with emails and letters galore. Sookie will reach a deeper understanding of Gran’s relationship with Fintan, and she’s thinking about the choices Gran made in terms of the decisions demanding to be made in her own life.

Dermot and Claude are still around, though for how much longer is anyone’s guess. Sookie is beginning to get her head around what it means to be fae, and her previously naive and idealised take on the capacity of her kin to “love” in the human sense is coming in for some timely scrutiny.

THE VERDICT

As a self-proclaimed fan of the rather hard-core variety, I absolutely loved this book…but I must add a disclaimer.

There WILL be readers who will find themselves frustrated by some of the short term plot developments.

I tend to take the long view of Sookie’s journey, and look for progress in the overall arc of the story and the characters with each book. As long as I can see those things making sense I’m happy, and I do see it here. This is an immensely satisfying book – some big questions that have niggled for the entire series are finally answered, and there are some surprising “A-ha!” moments when Charlaine sets off one or two of her well documented “bombs in the garden”. The necessary wrench we all knew would come is finally thrown into Sookie and Eric’s relationship; and I look forward to reading about them putting up a fight to keep what is theirs. But best of all, I’m really enjoying seeing Sookie mature, and spend less time wondering what colour to paint her toenails. We’re on the home stretch now, and it feels like we’re starting see the shape of a Sookie to come – a Sookie who isn’t afraid of the big emotional stuff anymore, and whose determination to survive and thrive in the life she’s chosen for herself will see her finally claim her rightful place.

Dead Reckoning is released on May 3.


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