Dead and Gone, by Charlaine Harris

This is another page-turning little novel which continues the adventures of Sookie Stackhouse, a small-town girl with big time problems. The core of the plot revolves around the protagonist’s relationship to the Fey; she is the great-granddaughter of a full blooded Prince of Faerie, and in this book the negative consequences of that relationship come to roost.

I give the book three stars because this is the minimum rating I can give to a book that I actually enjoyed reading. Nothing has happened to eliminate my sympathy or identification with Sookie; she remains at core a decent person struggling to physically and spiritually survive in extraordinary circumstances, and she continues to navigate this World of the Weird with commendable grace. The problem is that Harris apparently wasn’t really ready to write this book, and to deal with some of the gruesome events that made it into her plot outline.

Sookie Stackhouse is subjected to an extended torture session in this novel, which receives very little “screen-time” as text. It’s clear after the fact what sort of physical damage has been inflicted, and a little lip service is paid to the psychological effects of the suffering she has to endure, but it simply isn’t enough to bring these events home and make them believable. There are also two or three deaths or near-deaths of important and sympathetic characters in the series which are handled off-screen, with no description and minimal impact. The protagonist neither witnesses nor reconstructs these killings, even when they represented the heroic sacrifice of a well-developed character.

This kind of thing is just plain bad craftsmanship. I have nothing but respect for Harris and her skill at hammering together a novel, but if she wasn’t willing to inflict the full weight of these deaths on her audience and her protagonist, then she shouldn’t have scribbled them into that plot outline. As it stands she killed one of the more charming characters in her series for very little reason and to very little effect–unless we’re going to find out later that the woman in question is fine and dandy and faked her death, this is pretty disappointing. Similarly, having a random under-developed stranger hammer one of your long-running thorn-in-the-side antagonistic characters to a cross is a poor substitute for dealing with the unresolved relationship problems that this person should represent in the lives of the central cast.

I’m hardly going to stop reading Sookie Stackhouse novels over this one lapse of authorial discipline, but I certainly hope that this doesn’t become a steady decline in quality in future installments in the series. That would be a shame.

About Arinn

Author, Game Developer, Anthropologist, Feminist, reformed Supervillainess.
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