REVIEW: Dead and Gone

Charlaine Harris
Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse #9)
ISBN-10: 0441017157
ISBN-13: 978-0441017150
Paranormal fiction
May 5, 2009

For Sookie Stackhouse, the day to day activities of the vampire and were communities in and around Bon Temps, Louisiana, are of vital interest, She’s blood-bound to the leader of the vamps, a friend to the local were pack, works for a man who is shifter, and has a brother who is a were-panther…

But for most of the humans in Bon Temps, the vamps are mysterious seductive creatures-and they don’t even know about the weres.

Until now. The weres and shifters have finally decided to follow the lead of the undead and reveal their existence to the ordinary world.

At first it seems to go well. Then the mutilated body of a were-panther is found in the parking lot of the bar where Sookie works. The victim is someone she knows, so she feels compelled to discover who-human or otherwise-did the deed.

But what she doesn’t realize is that there is a far greater danger than the killer threatening Bon Temps. A race of unhuman beings–older, more powerful and far more secretive than vampires or werewolves– is preparing for war. And Sookie will find herself an all-too human pawn in their battle…

A few spoilers.

From Dead to Worse was, for this reader, the pinnacle of the series to date. And it still is. After reading this review, consider comparing it with the one for the previous book and maybe it’ll be even clearer why Dead and Gone was such a disappointment for me. I know it’s been a year since I read anything in this series, but this is my second most favorite series. I don’t worry about reading the next one because I felt the author has proven this world and Sookie’s character over and over, and made her into something I could truly be a fan of. And that’s a comfort zone I blame myself entirely for.

Sookie has always been the light at the end of this series’ tunnel. And she still is, because despite this installment, I do want to read more. In fact, that may well become my mantra as we lead up to the release of book 10. But back to Sookie. I felt she’d gained some tremendous growth in the last couple of books. I’d honestly come to anticipate something great form her with this book, and though I do blame myself for the level of comfort I’d begun to feel with her character, I don’t think coming to expect something great from her was all in my head.

Instead, in Dead and Gone, Sookie’s voice has drastically changed. And that in and of itself is not really the problem I had. It’s that it changed for the worse. The book is filled front to back with signature strange happenings and astounding twists that Harris usually pulls off every time (and I’ll talk more about that below), but the real problem for me was in Sookie’s character development, which kind of felt like two steps back this time. I’d really thought she would step up this time and seriously affect those around her, and the events unfolding. Instead, everything is happening – not because of her – but almost in spite of her. Instead of being the heroine and protagonist of the book, she’s this constant victim that I became sorely disappointed in.

Granted, Sookie’s been undergoing one trauma after another. She’s not getting on well with her brother, her ex, Quinn the weretiger, is a relationship mess  (speaking of him, he makes one random appearance here that, like a few other scenes, makes no sense) and the supernatural community has never stopped gunning for her. And that’s just it. This time, when events seemed a bit too cliched considering it’s all starting to sound like a Southern Vampire series redux, I was fully expecting Sookie to take charge somehow, to grab her life back somehow and start affecting the events around her, instead of them shaping her. At some point, Sookie really needs to figure herself out and take a stand, something I thought she was prepared to do. However, this time, it was a bit two steps back.

Darkness seems to be this magical element by which a character achieves instant and awe inspiring character growth. If so, then Sookie gains tremendous character growth for the horror she endures towards the end of Dead and Gone. A horror, by the way, which isn’t even really detailed, not much. We get the gist. Sookie mentions at one point ***SPOILER** that she would have been “glad to die”.***SPOILER*** Later there’s small mentions of her injuries. We’re in her head as she experiences it, but again it’s glossed over a lot. And prior to this horrifying character growth, I wasn’t at all convinced that the Sookie’s whose mind we were interacting with was the real Sookie.

By that I mean that her voice was just off compared to past books. The whole book was very disconnected for me. Oh, I sped through it. These aren’t long books, but if Harris did anything for me this go around, it was to keep the pace and action nice and fast. Sookie’s the heart of the series, though, and that heart is just plain missing from this book.

Besides Sookie, others were just as off. Intimacy isn’t something Sookie’s overly familiar with. Despite her many love interests (don’t worry, she even goes through all of them in her mind at one point), she herself hasn’t returned all of said interest and the amount she’s actually slept with isn’t as high. Her current interest is Eric this go around, again, and I was really pulling for someone to actually care for our Sookie. Granted, I know, this is Eric we’re talking about. The big, tall and rarely talkative Viking. Or so we thought. This time, he’s pretty chatty, in comparison. So much so that when Sookie goes one night to Fangtasia, thanks to the pull of their blood bond (at least this is how she justifies her uncontrollable urge to see him), Eric just suddenly pours his past’s heart out to her. And it’s as dull as dry toast. While excited at first to learn something, anything, about Eric at this point in the series, him just dumping it all in Sookie’s lap is not the way his development has led me to think it might happen. As with Sookie, I was wondering who the heck this vampire was. And I plain love the guy, as one of the best characters in the series.

On the level of actual intimacy, I was glad that Sookie seemed to have someone that cared for her that she could go to, but the love scene between her and Eric was…odd. Him going on and on, moaning, groaning, saying this was the best, she was the best. This might have been believable when Eric lost his memory (although he wouldn’t have remembered any other sex supposedly then either), but now, with Eric restored to the real Eric, it was plain ludicrous. He’d been de-Ericed, kind of a figurative de-balled. Eric at his best is the dangerous one that flirts with Sookie in his dangerous way, not an Eric that moans that she’s the best. It was awkward, eye-wincing to read. I honestly sat the book down at that point and had to walk away. I wanted to look at another copy and see if I had a misprint. That is how odd this whole book has struck me. It’s like Sookie Stackhouse – the Twilight Zone Edition.

The whole plot this go around was boring. It starts off with a rather interesting scenario, though – the weres coming out to the world. After that initial scene though, and besides a few interesting twists with Arlene and her kookie religious zealot friends, we’re back to more vamp-oriented and fairy supernatural politics. We’ve seen this kind of supernatural political maneuvering the entire series. It’s old. Rehashed. Everything just happened to Sookie, instead of her causing anything in the way of being interesting. Maybe this is supposed to help her seem like not so much of a Mary Sue, which I’ve personally never felt she was. While I love my urban fantasy and paranormal chicks to be lovingly flawed, I don’t care for a nonstop bash fest on them either. So the darker character growth mentioned above – no I’m not a fan, especially when it’s overkill like this book. Sookie wasn’t allowed to be her own person. She depended on everyone to save her, unless it was sheer luck that had her saving herself. She calls in just about every favor she’s owed and Eric’s assistance is used so much in one certain way that she may not be able to count on it again. How will dear Sookie be saved next time? Because physically she isn’t a match for all these supernaturals, and coming under Eric’s so-called protection didn’t do squat for her.

The ultimate battle amongst the fairies was unfortunately, for me, a big ‘ole question mark. I didn’t exactly understand the need for much of what went on during and as a result of it. Characters die that before affected the series in great ways, but now get an axe without so much as a blink and about a quarter of that pomp.

One other part of the plot, the one surrounding Jason and his ex, Crystal, was just astounding in that it was glaringly obvious who the killer was. One thing I love almost as much as a teasing will-they-won’t-they with Sookie and Eric is how Harris manages to surprise me with every book. This time, there were no such surprises. Plots, both major and sub, were easy to figure out a mile away. I just did not get this. Where was the clever twists that always kept me on my toes before? Another way in which the heart of this book, the entire series actually, was missing.

So, ultimately, a huge disappointment to say the least. I’m still a fan, just not of this book. Being that this is the first Sookie book I’ve ever been disappointed in, I feel it’s like a little blow to my confidence in the series. Unfortunately, this book leaves one too many questions in the air, several of which are ones that are just plain, “Huh?” for me. It’s very possible that I won’t understand a lot of what happened in this one till the next book is out and in my hands. I certainly hope this will be the case because as wary as this one has made me now, I will keep on. However, I hope it gets back on track, or at least on a track that makes sense. Because this one felt like something was missing. Too many elements or characters that have been interesting parts of the series up till this point felt rushed to get out of the picture, in way too random ways. The last book left me with a profound faith in the series up to this point. This one has made that grind to a halt. The heart isn’t in it this time, but I’ll look for it again on book 10, which I’m sure we can expect about a year from now.

Rating: Two and a Half Scoops, and how it freaking pains me.

series order:

  1. Dead Until Dark
  2. Living Dead in Dallas
  3. Club Dead
  4. Dead to the World
  5. Dead as a Doornail
  6. Definitely Dead
  7. All Together Dead
  8. From Dead to Worse
  9. Dead and Gone
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  1. I didn’t read the review. I CAN’T. I haven’t read the book yet and I don’t want any possible spoilers at all!

    I DID see those only 2 scoops and I am SCARED now. Lol.

  2. Sorry for writing spoilers and rendering the review non-viewable, Wendy. :( I understand, completely. I just cannot NOT write some when I’m this disappointed. If I can’t say exactly why a book disappointed me this much, then it would ALL sound like bitter, sour rambling lol. I know some of it probably comes across that way. But dang I love this series. It’s hard to keep from sounding a little bitter, a little lost when the ones we really love let us down.

    On the other hand! I think I might be in the minority on this one. From what I can tell of other blogs I frequent, love seems to be more the norm for this one. So don’t mind my rating. :) You may just love it and I hope you do.

  3. It happens, Angie. :) I didn’t think it would ever happen with this series, though. Just goes to show that either I’m getting old and crotchety, or the obvious “you can’t please everyone” mantra is more true than we’d like sometimes.

  4. (((KMont)))

    I’m sorry to hear that it didn’t live up to the previous books. But sometimes it really does help to rant. I have a confession – I couldn’t finish Dead Until Dark. I’m not quite sure why…it just didn’t work for me I guess. Then again, I wasn’t in the best place when I started reading it so I might have to give it a go if my TBR list ever becomes manageable!

    Fingers crossed the next book…floats your boat :)

  5. WOW! I just read From Dead to Worse, and it was great, but now I fear to read this next book. I know this is an odd thought of mine, but…I really hoped that eventually Sookie would get with Sam…weird I know, but Eric is my second favorite. Does anyone else feel the same way?

  6. I personally thought this was a fantastic book. One of my favorites. I wasn’t disappointed.

  7. Glad you enjoyed it, Jordyn. I was just reading back over this one because my sister borrowed the book and didn’t particularly care for it either. Thems the breaks.

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  12. Two and half scoops? I think you were being too kind. When I read this book I started flashing back to Anita Blake. Once upon a time I loved that series…..and then it…well anyone who’s read Anita Blake knows how that turned out.

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