[This review contains big honking spoilers.]
“I’d never seen anything like it. First a trial, then a few murders, then dancing. Life goes on. Or, in this case, death continues.”
Sookie, who is now romantically involved with weretiger Quinn, is hired by the Queen of Louisiana to work for her at a vampire summit in a city near Chicago. The Queen’s close associate Andre decides that Sookie is so valuable to the Queen that he must force her to blood bond with him, but in the end, agrees that Eric can do it instead. After a lot of murder and intrigue, the Fellowship of the Sun bombs the summit hotel. Sookie and Barry the bellboy use their telepathic talent to find human and non-human victims in the rubble.
Back in Bon Temps, Amelia Broadway has moved in with Sookie more or less permanently because of the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. Amelia’s boyfriend Bob is still a cat. Jason marries werepanther Crystal Norris, who is again pregnant. And Pam tells Sookie the story of how she became a vampire, and asks Sookie to take pity on Eric.
Intrigue, romance, blood bonding, and lots o’ vamps. I really enjoyed this installment, and not just because the story finally started moving back in Eric’s direction.
Pretty much everyone Sookie knows tells her not to go to the summit: Claudine, Sam, Tara, Arlene. Sookie goes pretty much because she needs the money. And the summit starts out as a lot of fun, with vampire politics, unexpected murders, courtroom proceedings, vampire kings getting married (to each other), and a dealer’s room with all kinds of fun stuff for sale, like prosthetic fangs, new coffins, Bill’s vampire database, and “Sanguinary Soup for the Soul.”
Was it the shadow Katrina that made Harris go for a disaster at the center of this book? After Sookie and Barry put together a lot of clues too late to prevent the bombing of the hotel, the two telepaths (after earlier discovering that their power is amplified if they are touching) convince the first responders to let them use their talent to find victims buried in the rubble. This section of the book is really good, and again brings up a valid point: Sookie and Barry have a rare and valuable talent. Shouldn’t they be spending their lives doing this? Wouldn’t it be wrong to force them? Sookie and Barry are nearly detained afterward and have difficulty getting away. Their talent is almost certainly going to be noticed by someone in authority.
At any rate, the most enjoyable scene to envision in your imagination is right after the explosions, when Sookie rushes to save Eric and Pam, and she and Eric ride Pam’s coffin down the side of the pyramid-shaped hotel. (This is the scene on the cover of the book. Isn’t it cute?)
Before the disaster, Andre decides Sookie is invaluable to the Queen, corners her, and says that he is going to force her to exchange blood with him so that they will have a blood bond. This feels exactly like rape and Sookie panics, but is about to let it happen because she has no choice. Eric senses Sookie’s distress, arrives quickly, and talks Andre into letting him do it instead, and Eric and Sookie have their third and certainly most important blood exchange. Although Sookie mentions her attraction to Eric before this scene, afterward her feelings for him are stronger and that she can sense whenever he is around.
Eric is chivalrous to rush to Sookie’s rescue and offer to substitute himself for the blood bond. Or is he? Eric certainly gets off on it, literally. And he gets what he wanted all along, which is Sookie tied to him forever. Quinn also goes above and beyond for Sookie in this book, and even takes an arrow for her, but Sookie learns that Quinn has a violent past as a pit fighter, which he did because of his mother and half-sister. (It’s complicated.) By the end of the book, Sookie is torn between Quinn and Eric, and it’s unclear which way she will jump.
In Bon Temps, Jason and Crystal Norris decide impulsively to get married after Crystal discovers she is again pregnant. At the ceremony, Sookie and Calvin are required by Hotshot custom to “vouch for” the behavior of Jason and Crystal. It’s obvious that this will not work out well for Sookie and/or Calvin.
Sookie is now living with Amelia Broadway. Amelia is a fun and interesting character, and certainly a better friend to Sookie than either Tara or Arlene. Amelia’s lover Bob spends the entire book as a house cat (reminding me a lot of Amy the rat on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) but still manages to act like a jealous boyfriend. Amelia swears off men to please Bob, and starts dating Pam. Hilarious.
Pam tells Sookie how she became a vampire. She was a nineteen-year-old Victorian virgin about to throw her future away on a reckless romance, and Eric turned her and became her lover. Pam and Eric haven’t been lovers for a long time, but she still cares deeply for him. She asks Sookie to have mercy on him because he is so frustrated and confused about his feelings for her. I really enjoyed this scene. We’ve known these characters for so long that it’s intriguing to finally learn about Pam’s human past.
Bits and pieces:
– The action in this book takes place in September, the same year as the previous book.
– The summit involves sixteen central states. We meet (or meet again) several vampire kings (Stan Davis of Texas, Isaiah of Kentucky, Bartlett Crowe of Indiana, Russell Edgington of Mississippi) as well as the Queen of Alabama.
– Barry the telepathic bellboy is working for Stan Davis. Kentucky has hired interdimensional bodyguards called Britlingens.
– The Kings of Indiana and Mississippi get married in a traditional vampire ceremony, which involves a ceremonial knife and a blood exchange. Eric, who is a priest of the Church of the Loving Spirit, performs the ceremony.
– Jake Purifoy, the vampire who was once a werewolf, is still working for Quinn.
– Selah Pumphrey accuses Sookie of trying to steal Bill back, and Sam throws Selah out of Merlotte’s. Bill is barely in this book, and I don’t miss him.
– Tara and JB DuRone suddenly get married. There’s a lot of that going around.
– Sookie again buys new clothes (actually, Eric pays for them since they’re a business expense) and again, they are totally ruined.
Television series notes
In the series, fairies are telepathic, which explains where Sookie got her talent, and Barry the bellboy, who is also a telepath, is also part fairy. In the books, fairies are not telepathic, and Sookie’s gift really is inexplicable. And there is no mention of Barry having fairy blood. The vamps don’t seem to be attracted to him, either.
We get vampire justice proceedings during the summit. Not a magister in sight.
– “Pam loved ‘Dear Abby.’ Lots of vampires scrutinized the column daily. Their solutions to some of the writers’ problems would just make you scream. Literally.”
– (Amelia is talking about turning Bob into a cat because they were “experimenting” sexually.) “I nodded, tried to look understanding. To me, experimenting was, well, licking a place you’d never licked before, or trying a position that gave you a cramp in your thigh. Like that. It did not involve turning your partner into an animal.”
– “I was stuck with Jake. This was too much like grade school for my taste. Jake was the kid who’d come to school wearing the wrong clothes and packing a weird lunch. Being a combo vamp-were had ruined his chances with either crowd. It was like trying to be a Goth jock.”
In Closing …
This installment isn’t a super fave but it’s definitely one that I’ve enjoyed re-reading quite a bit.
My next book review will be posted in about two weeks.
Important notice! After eleven books and four seasons of the series, I have no idea what kind of spoiler limitations to put on the comments section under these circumstances — so I’m not going to put any. It’s a spoiler free for all! If you’re new to the books and haven’t seen all of the television series True Blood, reading the comments may, and probably will, spoil you. Read on at your own risk!
(Billie Doux and her contributing writers review science fiction, fantasy and cult television shows at BillieDoux.com.)