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So here we are again, book 5 in the Sookie Stackhouse series.  There are two threads to this storyline.  The first is that shape shifters are being shot and Jason, who has recently been bitten, is considered the main suspect supposedly wanting revenge.  Of course, this is completely wrong as Jason is having fun with his were-pantherism, so Sookie takes it upon herself to go searching for the culprit.  In the course of the story, both Sam and Sookie get shot, but what is frustrating is that the perpetrator(s) were so easy to pick out.

The second thread is based on werewolf politics, which is just as brutal as vampire politics.  Alcide wants Sookie’s help, but doesn’t want to ask for it (more about that in a bit).  She is forced to see the real nature of the people around her when her house is burnt down and who would be prepared to help her and more importantly, who wouldn’t.

So what is happening to the main characters?

Alcide is now obsessed with manipulating Sookie.  He asks her to come to the funeral of the head wolf as she is “friend of the pack”; but what he really wants is for her to read the minds of the pack as his Dad wants to run for head wolf position.  When he tells her his plan minutes before the ceremony, he adds that he knows that Debbie had been at her house and guesses (rightly) that she murdered her.  Sookie tells him that he doesn’t have to resort to blackmail as she’s happy to help, but that doesn’t stop him.  Throughout the book, he just gets worse, I am surprised that he didn’t walk up to her and pull her pigtails to show that he likes her as he’s resorting to such playground tactics.  Clearly on the rebound, he invites Sookie to live with him after her house burns down and seems to think that because he fancies her (get in line, pal) that her gifts are his to use as he wishes.  Big mistake.  Not even the vampires blackmail Sookie to get her to do stuff (yet).  She attends the wolf leader battle for him and didn’t leave when she found out just how brutal it would be (although some warning would have been nice, what with the whole fighting until the death and celebratory public sex, ick).  Given his personality change, of course he will blame her for not saving his Dad and will go back to dating insane were-ladies in the next book.

He is almost like a male version of Sookie, he has terrible taste in women and keeps on returning to them, only to be manipulated by them again.  He’s also fickle with his affections.  Sure, he’s attractive and you know, alive, but he’s also a supernatural being.  I think that part of this book is showing Sookie that there’s more to weres than them being in touch with their fuzzy side every month.  Their animal side is always there and their brutality is on a par with vampires, maybe even more so as their leadership battle and ‘celebrations’ show.

Jason is getting used to being a were-panther and as he has fewer brains than a panther, he seems to enjoy this side of him.   The Hotshot crowd are willing to keep an eye on him thanks to his relationship with Crystal and her Uncle Calvin’s crush on Sookie.  It’s clear to everyone but Sookie that Hotshot is rife with inbreeding and Calvin is mating with any pure blood to try and stop the genetic faults like some kind of Hapsburg King, clutching at straws.  He really wants to mate with Sookie so she can dilute the bloodline too and he’s not afraid to use Jason as leverage.  He gets shot and spends most of the book in hospital, so initially Sookie visits him to keep on his good side, but then continues more than necessary and even kisses him.  With the naivety of someone blessed with good looks, great tan, big boobs and short skirts, she muses how nice it was to bring pleasure to him just because she was pretty.  Agggh, this is what makes me so furious with these books.  Just when I think that she finally starts to get a grip and she’s not completely brain dead something like this happens, showing that she has as much depth as a puddle. Of course, Calvin won’t be impressed when he realises that all the ‘affection’ is just the Sookie brand of friendliness.

Tara has landed herself with a dodgy vampire thanks to her boyfriend, allowing another vampire, Mickey, “use” her.  Sookie, asks Eric (who is still in the dark as to what happened when he was cursed) to sort it as a favour to her.  This is an easy fix for him and after a quick phone call and some fisticuffs, Mickey is sorted out.  Now Sookie has to explain what happened to Eric and makes a big deal about the amazing sex, as well as how he wanted to run away with her, which shocks Eric.  It turns out that part of the curse was that he was to be near the person that he loves, but not know her.  The aim of the showdown with Mickey was to show the power that sires have over their creations and how they can’t fight it (take note for further books)

Bill’s back and is displaying his true colours with pride.  Even when he hurts Sookie (again) she still believes that ‘he doesn’t really mean it’, not wanting to accept how horrible he is because she loved him.  At some point, she  is going to have to face up to that.  He’s a vampire. Duh.  He walks in on her and Sam kissing (which doesn’t mean that much as she seems to be kissing everyone), causing another fight.  Regardless of all the kissing, neither man seems to realise that they are both in the friendzone.

We have a new character too, Quinn the were-tiger who was MC/referee in charge of the werewolf battle for leadership.  Of course he immediately has lusty feelings towards Sookie (which is getting so boring now) and I expect that we’ll see him again.  There’s also a new vampire, Charles who is a pirate bartender on loan to Sam from Fangtasia when he got shot (really? Couldn’t the author think of anything better than a Jack Sparrow clone?)

The storylines were ropey and full of holes, I think (I hope) that the author was establishing some groundwork for future books with the complexities of the werewolf /shapeshifter communities, and showing that the vampires don’t have the monopoly on being a vicious breed.  If this book was to have a theme, it would be loyalties.  Sookie is still naïve enough to think that she can go along and do ‘good deeds’ to all and sundry and people will return the favour.  It doesn’t work that way.  No matter how she acts, the supernaturals will always want her to join their gang because of her talents and because they want to get into her knickers.  At some point, she will have to pin her colours to the mast and have done with it.  It is almost as if this book is a watershed, things just can’t carry on any longer.

I wish that I liked Sookie more, but she continually does things that negate any kind of personal growth.  On one hand she is wittering on about how she wasn’t going to rebound, but then she’s kissing every supernatural being she meets.  There are constant references to her reading books and that sodding word of the day calendar as if that in itself indicates her intelligence and common sense, but based on her actions she comes off as a brainless idiot, never mind the fact that she can use a new word.  I want her to become more savvy and aware of what is going on.  She chose to immerse herself in this life, yet she is unwilling to truly appreciate the laws and regulations and instead she is insisting on applying human rules to them which just doesn’t work.

After a good book in Book 4, this one was a disappointment I really hope that the next one will be better.

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