Having already been introduced to the werewolf and shapeshifter community, it was time for [[Charlaine Harris]] to introduce the magical community to the Southern Vampire Mysteries. And for her fourth Sookie Stackhouse book, that’s what she does.
Dead To The World sees roguish Shreveport vampire Eric Northman being blackmailed by a group of witches. They’re witches with a difference though – not only are they addicted to vampire blood (which is used by humans as a drug in the series), but they’re also weres as well. It’s a dangerous combination, and it would have to be to pose a serious threat to Eric and his nest of vampires.
At the point where we meet up with Eric, he’s running down a road near to Sookie Stackhouse’s place. And he’s naked. Close your eyes and think of Alexander Skarsgard, ladies. Sookie, of course, discovers him and realises quickly that he’s had his memory wiped. He has no idea who he is, and seems frightened and vulnerable – a complete contradiction to the normal Eric.
And while Eric has lost his memory and personality, Sookie manages to inconveniently lose her brother Jason just after this. Harris does this a lot in her books. She throws in a secondary plot that appears to be mixed up with the main one, effectively leading Sookie down a blind alley. Naturally, because Jason’s disappearance co-incides with Eric’s troubles, Sookie’s never quite sure whether the witches who are searching for Eric are responsible or the Shreveport vampires themselves, trying to eliminate a witness to Eric’s current location.
So, Sookie takes Eric into her house, hiding him from the witches who are still looking for him in order to demand a share of his business. Now, it strikes me as a bit dumb of the witches to enchant Eric in this way – after all, if he’s still alive, but incapable of making decisions, does Pam have authority to negotiate with the witches? Why don’t the witches press their advantage with Eric out of the way? There are a few inconsistencies that make these adversaries seem very disorganised and not as ruthless as they seem at first.
Either way, the crucial thing for the readers is the romance that blossoms between Sookie and Eric. With Eric’s personality fundamentally altered, he’s not the mercenary, frightening career vamp that Sookie first knew. She responds to his vulnerability and it’s not long before they’re sizzling between Miss Stackhouse’s cotton sheets. I was cheering the new Eric on, because even in his mentally impaired state, he was still more charismatic and interesting than dowdy Bill Compton. Bill’s thankfully absent for most of this book though. He’s sulking in Peru or something like that.
The mission for most of Dead To The World is to keep Eric out of sight while trying to find a way to capture the witches and get them to reverse their spells. And of course, Sookie has the added aggro of having a missing brother. She finds herself trying to track him down through ex-girlfriends, which is just hilarious given Jason’s status as a male slut.
I won’t spoil the conclusion of the book for you. Needless to say, by the time you’ve read the fourth book, there’s a certain satisfaction in watching the characters develop. Harris takes her time with this and paces character development over a number of books, so you can see Sookie’s attitude to her adversaries changing and her relationships to those around her moving in different directions. And of course, there’s the introduction of the Hotshot pack of werepanthers and Calvin and Crystal Norris who have a part to play in this novel. As readers of the whole series know, these characters become important in subsequent books.
Sookie ends the story no closer to finding a normal relationship, and she now has the added problem that Eric knows something happened between them, but he doesn’t know exactly what. Again, the big payoff with the Southern Vampire Mysteries is in the continuation of the story between books.
Spoilerific last words: I was totally satisfied whenever Sookie finally shot Debbie Pelt. What a bitch. Note how Sookie becomes less worried about the deaths of her enemies as the books progress.