This is the next to last book of the Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood series. These books have never been contenders for a Pulitzer Prize, but the past few entries have been endlessly disappointing. This one seemed to be even more poorly written than the others at first, but eventually Charlaine Harris found her stride and it picked up in the last hundred pages or so, once the action finally got going.
For those of you who are not familiar with the “Sookieverse,” here is an overview. The first book, Dead until Dark, was released in 2001. I didn’t get involved with the series until 2008 when HBO started its series based on this series, True Blood. I read the first eight books in 2008 in rapid succession. The ones that have followed, I’ve purchased in hardcover and read within a few months of their release. These are the sorts of books in which the narrator spends a significant amount of time describing her outfits and hair and general grooming habits, which has always annoyed me when it doesn’t contribute to the plot. When it’s Sookie describing her work uniform, which has not changed at all in the entire course of the series, I want to pull out my hair. I do really feel like the series has gone downhill since True Blood came out. I don’t know if it’s a direct result of having the books and the TV show diverging and having people, myself included, get confused about what is book truth and what is TV truth or something else. Generally Harris has kept the Sookieverse without consistency errors, at least none that I’ve ever detected, but then it’s hard to keep up with the changes the TV show makes, too. Anyway. In this version of reality, vampires “came out of the coffin” when Japanese scientists were able to invent a synthetic blood that could sustain them without having to take blood from human “donors” anymore. This occurred several months before the release of the first book in the timeline. Vampires in this universe are less prone to sparkling and more prone to being cold-blooded killers, but they’re trying to improve their collective image with the humans of the world. Sookie Stackhouse, our heroine, is a barmaid at Merlotte’s in Bon Temps, Louisiana, a fictional town in the rural north of the state. She can also read minds. She meets Bill Compton, a vampire, at the beginning of the first book, and finds that she cannot read his thoughts, which is a relief for her. They begin a relationship, and she enters the world of the vampires, quickly learning that their politics and the world of the “supes” is much more vast than any human ever dreamed. There’s Weres (Werewolves, Weretigers, Werepanthers, Werefoxes), shapeshifters, fairies, demons, elves, witches. Sookie quickly gets wrapped up in the supe universe because of her mind reading abilities and fairy blood (a whole other sideplot). Over the course of the series she has many adventures and many sexual relationships, mostly with vampires. She and Bill eventually break up, and her most significant other long-term relationship is with Eric Northman, another vampire, former Viking, and the Sheriff of District Five in Louisiana. He’s also the owner of a vampire bar called Fangtasia in Shreveport, Louisiana, a popular spot with vamps and tourists. As the series has progressed, Sookie has become increasingly less enamored with the supernatural world, and has begun quietly distancing herself, preferring the company of her human friends. Sookie has begun to not like the person she has become—she has killed on multiple occasions; always to protect her own life or the lives of those she cares about, but she feels that it’s dragging her further and further away from the life she once knew. She wonders what her Gran would say (Grandma Adele was murdered by a maniac in the first book, but her presence has been felt throughout the series) about everything she’s done. I’ve got a feeling that as Harris has tired of the series Sookie has tired of the supernatural folks. The next book will be the last, and I’m hopeful that it will redeem the series. If the last third of Deadlocked is any indicator, it just might.
I’ve always enjoyed the voice of Sookie Stackhouse telling me these stories. Of course, since she’s telepathic, her voice is also an omniscient one. She’s got an airhead vibe but she really is quite smart and excellent at using her exterior to mask her intelligence underneath. People always underestimate Sookie, usually to their detriment. In Deadlocked, however, Sookie annoyed me a bit. She has always been a very upbeat voice, despite everything that goes wrong. In this book, and also in the one or two preceding it, she’s become progressively more depressed and gloomy: it’s all about everyone who’s getting married and having babies, while she is in relationships with men who are among the undead and as such marriage and babies are somewhat off the table. As an aside, the vampires have been considered minorities and second class citizens in the Sookieverse, with marriage being restricted in most states, et cetera. The TV series has dealt with this aspect of the world in much more detail than the book series has; Harris has preferred to stay away from politics, which has, quite honestly, made the books more enjoyable to me. I just know that Harris is going to wrap up the series with a happy ending for Sookie, and she’s already foreshadowed whom she is going to end up with. I doubt the series finale will have many surprises, but I’m hopeful that Sookie finds happiness again. She’s become a fictional “friend” to me over the past few years and I hate it when my friends, real or imaginary, are sad.
Back to Deadlocked. The major mystery (there’s always a mystery) involves a female Were named Kym Rowe, who attempts to seduce Eric and then ends up dead in front of his house. The disparate threads of this mystery seem to take longer to weave together than usual, and the process is interrupted not infrequently with Sookie’s depressive monologues and catching up on what’s going on with the minor human characters. Honestly I’m glad for Hoyt and Holly and Jason and Michele and Tara and JB but I think that too much time was spent updating us on them and how unhappy Sookie is in her relationship with Eric. I wanted more Eric, more Bill, more Pam, more Alcide than I got in the first two thirds of this book. And who cares if Sookie makes a will? What does that do to advance the plot? Or maybe it’s got something to do with the next book. Harris has been known to start laying the groundwork for the next book towards the end of the current book. I’ll hold off on complaining too much about the will for now.
The last third definitely has more of the supernatural action I’ve come to expect from the Sookie Stackhouse books. There’s a double cross (or three), a kidnapping, and multiple beheadings. There’s even a wish come true for a loved one. The guilty are punished and the innocent are redeemed. But things are up in the air with Eric and Sookie. Will he marry Freyda, the Vampire Queen of Oklahoma in an advantageous political move or stay in Shreveport and continue as he has? And will Faery really stay shut off from the “real” world? Are their days on earth finally done? I suspect not.
I went into this book not expecting a whole lot. My friends who read it before I did didn’t have much good to say about it, and neither did many of the reviewers on amazon.com. Sometimes it’s better to go into a book without high expectations because you’ll get more out of it than if you expected fireworks to shoot out of the binding. Deadlocked was far from my favorite “Sookiebook,” but parts of it were certainly better than others. I will certainly see this series through to its conclusion next year, and I hope the final book does justice to the world Charlaine Harris created.