Charlaine Harris,
Dead to the World
(Ace, 2004)

It's bad enough that Sookie Stackhouse's world is peopled with vampires and shapeshifters who keep thrusting her into danger, getting her beaten up or trying to seduce her. It's worse that her natural gift for telepathy gives her a nonstop broadcast of thoughts of everyone (of the unsupernatural sort, at least) around her. But now, witches have come to Bon Temps, La., and Sookie's life has gone to hell.

Oh sure, Bon Temps already had witches of its own -- nature-loving, harm-none sorts who rarely flaunted their power or attracted notice of any kind. But these out-of-town witches have a purpose, an agenda that includes the usurping of power from Eric Northman, the head honcho among local vampires, and they have the power and lack of scruples necessary to do the job.

Sookie has always kept the randy Eric at a distance, but when she finds him running along the road, lacking both clothes and memories, she is compelled to lend a hand. Eric, always arrogant and self-serving in the past, is actually kind of sweet and vulnerable with amnesia, and Sookie finds herself heading down a road she swore she'd never take with him ... despite his impressive stature and dashing good looks.

But the timing couldn't be worse; Sookie's brother Jason has vanished, and no one seems certain whether or not his disappearance is related to the attempted coup against Eric.

Everything seems to be heading towards a supernatural war. Sookie is right in the middle of the fracas. Oh, did I mention she also just lost her vampire boyfriend?

Charlaine Harris has a true gift for vampire fiction. Her novels are warmly funny, without slipping into realms of self-caricature a la Buffy or self-aggrandizement a la Anita Blake. The plot lines are original and suspenseful, artfully blending mystery and adventure with a real human (or inhuman, as the case may be) story. And, while Sookie certainly has her share of offers from the undead and animalistic men in her life, she's never so frisky as the infamous Anita.

Perhaps what makes Sookie such an appealing protagonist is her very normalcy; despite her telepathic abilities, she is still just your average waitress in a small-town bar, she has boyfriend troubles and financial worries, and she has no aspirations to superheroics. Put Sookie in the midst of a brawl and she'll crawl for the door; hand her a wooden stake and she'll get a splinter in her finger. And yet, she always comes through for someone in need, does the right thing and muddles through to the end.

Personally, I can't wait for the next book in this series.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 26 March 2005

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