From Dead to Worse is the eighth book in Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire series. This review assumes you've read the other books in the series or at least know the premise (perhaps from the True Blood television show). There are no spoilers for this book or for any other.
Let me start by saying how much I love Sookie Stackhouse. Yes, she always seems to be getting herself in the middle of some kind of pickle with the supernatural beings that inhabit our world. And yes, it does seem odd that a waitress from a small town would be the center of so much political and emotional strife. But I can't help it, I want to know what happens next.
That said, I admit the last couple of books seemed to lack some of the freshness of the earlier ones, but I stuck with the series because I love the characters. For those in the same boat: From Dead to Worse will get you right back to Bon Temps.
From Dead to Worse is clearly a transition book, and that's a good thing. Harris did a masterful job of cleaning up and concluding some old plot lines and removing some characters from the series altogether. At the same time, she created new political tensions, new love interests, and new characters, and has left the future of many of our favorite people (creatures?) wide open.
The book takes place after two great tragedies, making the changes believable and necessary. The first tragedy takes place in book seven, and the shock waves of that are still being felt in book eight. Second, this novel addresses the effects of Katrina on New Orleans in particular and on Louisiana and the Gulf Coast in general. Few people in the area--supernatural or fully human--were left unscathed, and some of the changing relationships among the characters and factions are the result of the natural disaster.
From Dead to Worse deals with three principal themes. First is politics--not U.S. politics but the structure of the vampire kingdoms and the configuration of the werewolf packs. The weres, especially, are at a crisis point, and some pack leaders are contemplating revealing themselves in a similar way as did the vampires. Another theme is personal relationships of all types--friends, family, marriages, and lovers. There are a lot of changes in these areas, and not all of them were predictable. Finally, the novel pushed most of the characters into the next level in terms of personal growth. Some characters took a hard look at themselves and made difficult decisions, others are learning to adapt to changing circumstances, and some are succumbing to their baser natures. Bon Temps will never be the same.
With this novel, Harris revived and refreshed her Southern Vampire series. There are so many directions the books can go now, and I love all the possibilities. In fact, I bet I read the next in the series before the end of the year.
As I have done for this entire series, I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Recorded Books, 10 hr, 3 min) read by Johanna Parker. Parker does her usually excellent job. Her voice is Sookie's in my mind.
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