Posted on July 31, 2008 by alanajoli
I would assume, given all the fuss about the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris, that I’m missing a great deal of what makes them good by reading From Dead to Worse before reading the beginning of the series. I hope this is true, because otherwise, I don’t really understand what all the hubbub is about. Sookie is a fun main character, the writing is charming, and the setting is both intriguing and well used (how many urban fantasy series take place in the South, much less post-Katrina Louisiana?). But From Dead to Worse is missing something extremely core: a plot.
For those, like me, who have missed this series, Sookie is a telepath, which made her early life a little unbearable, as all the humans thought she was crazy. Then the vampires came out, so to speak, and the “supes” (or supernatural community) turned the world upside down–giving Sookie a chance to learn more about her own abilities and start controlling them. At this point in the series, she’s saved the lives of a few vampires, been responsible for the death of at least one, has friend of the pack status with the local weres (who are still in the closet), and works for a shapeshifter who runs the bar where she waitresses. Her boyfriend, Quinn, a were-tiger, has gone AWOL. Her former vampire lovers, Eric and Bill, both still have the hots for her (and since she’s blood-bonded to Eric, she has trouble keeping the feelings for him less than mutual). She’s been told she’s probably got some fairy blood in her. That’s where we start. That’s also pretty much where we end (though the Quinn situation has been resolved). From Dead to Worse feels like it’s a book full of loose ends getting wrapped up: were-pack politics get messy, then get resolved with someone new in charge. Then vamp-politics get messy and get resolved with someone new in charge. An old adversary of Sookie’s causes trouble, gets called out, and stops being a problem. If I had already invested a lot of time in the series, all of these wrap ups would probably make me feel like something was actually being accomplished. Without all that history, however, the novel feels like three very short novels stuck together with no overarching theme to tie them together. In addition, Sookie gets to learn more about her family through the engaging character Niall, a fairy prince, which is the most interesting thread in the book. Sadly, it doesn’t go anywhere.
This may sound like I’m lambasting this book, and you should know that it’s not intended to be. The style of writing is engaging, and the book certainly goes down easy. The characterizations are fun, and most of the players (far too many to keep track of if this is your first entrance into the series) are interesting and developed. New character Octavia Fant, a feisty older witch who has been displaced by Katrina, steals the scenes she’s in. So here’s my advice: don’t start with this book. Because given all the fuss, I’d wager there’s a lot to like about Sookie’s adventures, and the interesting threads about Sookie’s family (and her roommate’s family as well) seem like they’ll be going somewhere in future additions, now that all the messy vamp and were politics are taken care of. Harris does a good job of summing up what has gone on before, so that’s not the trouble: the trouble is, without having spent any time with the characters before this, it’s hard to care about the politics. So do yourself a favor and pick up the first book in the series if you want to test the waters. Leave From Dead to Worse until later, when I suspect it feels like the events inside actually matter.
Review by Alana Abbott
Look for more urban fantasy fiction at the DriveThruFiction shops.