Book seven, All Together Dead, of the Southern Vampire Mystery novels by Charlaine Harris, is centered around one of the most anticipated events that book six readers were left awaiting for: the Rhodes summit and trial of Louisiana vampire queen, Sophie Ann LeClerq. While the events of the past book place us at our primary setting, it is the underlying plot that carries the weight of the adventure. In this book, readers are placed face-to-face with the horrific prejudices of the anti-vampire hate group, The Fellowship of the Sun, and just how far they will go in their attempts to eradicate vampires. Charlaine takes us on a ride that gives us an inside look at some of the inner-workings of vampire hierarchy, political situations and outcomes, and the motivations behind vampires and their society that is hidden from humans. However, Sookie has other things to deal with besides reading human minds for the queen during the summit at Rhodes. She is also battling the stresses of relationships past, present, and future; while relationships of her kin and friends move forward and start creating families of their own, Sookie’s run stagnant. With that being said, you can break this book apart as pre-Rhodes, Rhodes, and following Rhodes.
In Preparation for Rhodes...
Our story begins with a ‘roll call’ of Area 5’s most popular vamps, one human telepath named Sookie Stackhouse, and the queen’s child and second in command, Andre, discussing preparations for attending the eastern vampire summit in Rhodes. Vampire Sheriff of Area 5, Eric Northman, is in charge of gathering his underlings, and it is here at is bar, Fangtasia, that instructions and plans are handed out. It is, also, during this assembly that Sookie realizes just how perilous her position in being a key member of Sophie Ann’s trial she is. She, and only two others, know that Sookie witnessed the ‘death’ of the queen’s new husband; one being Sookie herself, and the queen and Andre as the others.
Despite Sookie’s feeling of anticipation for the summit, friends continue to warn her of her safety and the feelings of danger surrounding it. But, Sookie waves a hand at the warnings claiming that she wants a little slice of adventure that she can call her own. In a scene where her and her boss, Sam Merlotte are speaking about Sookie attending the summit, Sam warns her -- as usual (rolls eyes) to not go because she’s putting herself in danger. Sookie comments back,
“What a world this is Sam. It’s wonderful and it’s scary. Each day is different. I never thought I would have any kind of life for myself, and now I do.”
Could Sookie be finally accepting the supernatural world and *gasps* her place in it? Could this be foreshadowing? Maybe. Maybe not. But, whatever it is, this is the first time that Sookie has ever stated something out loud about her ‘position’ in the supernatural world. And I’m pretty sure we will be left chasing the carrot until the end of the series before we find our answer.
But, the Rhodes summit is not the only plot line in this book of the series. We begin to see Sookie struggling to find contentment in relationships with men, family, and friends; None of which are going well for her. The first ninety pages, or so, deal with many of these relationship type issues, that leave you wondering ‘why now’ are they being brought up when she is preparing to travel for a trial? Will they impact the story line or the outcome? What ever the answer may be doesn’t negate the fact that Charlaine spends these short pages feeding the reader with the ins-and-outs of Sookie’s personal life.
Sookie has finally slept with her kind-of boyfriend Quinn and is hoping that it will lead to something more. He’s making promises, but so far, all we’ve seen of him is his tail in coming and going. It’s one of those moments, that you’ll believe it when you see it. A serious strain has been put upon her longtime friendship (through events from the previous book) with Tara Thorton, while learning the pros and cons of her new found friend, and roommate, Amelia Broadway. Her brother Jason (part Were panther) is getting married to Crystal (another Were panther), who is also pregnant again, after loosing their first in a miscarriage. And, like all things surrounding Jason, more drama is associated with this instantaneous union that pulls Sookie into additional Supe politics.
Sam, is still, well, Sam, just like in all the books previously -- playing the role of protective fatherly/brotherly figure while pining for Sookie. Does he ever give up you ask? Um, No! And while the learning curve of ups and downs continue to happen within her immediate relationships, there is still one major player in her life that has not been thrown to list of the abjured (i.e.. Bill): Eric.
Pam plays a major, yet short, role in trying to convince Sookie that Eric is not so bad and that he really does care for her. Of course, Sookie, puts on her pouty face and stomping foot, that accompanies her usual annoying and stubborn excuses, denials, and misunderstandings. And just when Pam is trying to explain things further, Eric enters the scene, sending Pam off. Eric, being the man that takes the saying ‘actions speak louder than words’ to heart, starts off their brief conversation with a little heat. But, does Sookie welcome the warmth like a coat she should have brought with her to work on that cool September night? Well, you already know the answer don’t you? It’s the same answer that’s been given since the end of book four (what I coin as the end of all that is yummy), a big fat ‘no’ that you have to pull from the pile of excuses she surrounds it in. Her mouth eventually sends Eric zooming off in to the night. That would be the last time she sees him until later in Rhodes.
What Happens in Rhodes…Does Not Stay in Rhodes
Upon the arrival at the Pyramid of Gizah -- the vamp friendly hotel and host to the summit -- Sookie seeks out Barry the Bellboy, who plays one of the main characters of this book. Right away, you almost feel like you are watching Sookie attend a supe reunion of characters past and present of her life. There’s also a healthy mixing of some new characters, including a couple of my favorites: Batanya and Clovache, the King of Kentucky’s other-dimension bodyguards. Yes, someone else must be watching Sy-Fy Saturday as well!
But, our reunion of friends and foes, is only the gathering of the primary and secondary characters that make up the Nancy Drew-ish feel of the main plot and chunk of the book. In fact, the intermixing of two telepaths, other dimension beings, demons, vampires, humans, and Weres (oh-my), almost give you the feeling that you - the reader- did not follow Sookie to Rhodes via Annubis Air, but rather as a passenger in the large psychedelic Mystery Machine with smoke rolling out of the windows and a talking dog at your side!
A murder starts off the air of mystery, shortly after Sookie checks in to her room -- even before she and the others of Sophie Anne’s entourage make it to the convention hall. However, the seriousness of the event is lightened when the group finally makes their way to the gathering. It is here that Mrs. Harris is full of witty remarks and peculiar lines that leave you giggling. One instance is when Sookie is taking in her surroundings and analyzing the other guests, she thinks,
“Then I happened upon a whore.”Really. How can you read this line and not giggle!? OR the line,
“...she had plum-like boobs that jiggled in an eye-catching way.”
GAH! Does this bring back memories of the “quivering puppies” boob remark from book four or what?! This type of language makes me want to never look at myself in the mirror after getting out of the shower again, while at the same time making me want to send Mrs. Harris an erotica book for suggestions!
The setting only gets funnier as we watch Sookie take in the vampire consumer booths on display, including the one of Sookie’s abjured ex, Bill. The thought alone of deadly vampires selling vampiric goods, such as prosthetic fangs and CD’s, to one another is amusing to me.
During Sookie’s observations of the convention, she is interrupted by Russell Edgington, King of Mississippi and his husband-to-be, Bartlett Crowe, King of Indiana. What? You couldn’t possibly think that a summit could stand alone when a murder trial, marriage, and black-tie gala could take place all at the same time could you? Oh, and add the fact that Eric is a priest officiating the marriage ceremony? Now what kind of summit would that be if these events didn’t come together? Geez!
The ink is barely dry on the marriage license before the next major event, that will leave us still talking and speculating in further series books takes place; the forced ‘blood bond’ between Sookie and Eric. While I would love to spend time sharing my own musings on the topic *coughs ‘finally’*, I’ll only mention that it is here -- whether Harris wanted to, or meant for it to happen or not -- that a shift in the dynamics between Eric and Sookie has been forged that will follow them throughout subsequent books.
Eric and Sookie soon find out what some of the ramifications of this blood exchange are when we are tossed in to the next intertwining plot. Instead of Sookie, ‘happening upon a whore’, she happens upon a bomb which pulls an anxious Eric to her aid -- and Quinn *rolls eyes*. While the situation is diffused (pun intended), the reader must don a pair of mental roller skates, because things start to move pretty quickly from here.
We are whisked away to annoyingly trudge through the turmoil of the ‘triangle’ between Quinn, Sookie, and Eric (as if it’s a trivial question who she should be with, imo), a ball, trial, and an attempted assassination that puts us back into the mystery and plot of the book. This is also where we see some of the key players come together. Eric has Sookie, who ropes in Barry, try to find out some information that may lead us to who’s behind the murders taking place at the Pyramid of Gizah. Unfortunately, the deadly wheels of unfolding events have already been placed in motion. Before we know it, a tragedy is upon us causing certain someone’s to come out alive -- barely, while others, sadly, do not. And not everyone is who they seem.
Without saying to much about the actual events of the bombing that takes place at the hotel, I will say that there were some surprises that come about following it. I especially appreciated that fact that Sookie really seemed to ‘step up to the plate’ in helping to rescue her vamps Eric and Pam *le sigh*, as well as, she and Barry join forces in locating other survivors --human and vampire alike -- in the aftermath. This, of course, draws the attention of the human rescue staff which leads us to surmise that we will see the results of their helpfulness come back around in a future book.
After the Damage is Done…
The main plot -- for the most part -- is wrapped up, but there will definitely be residual effects from aftermath brought on by the Fellowship of the Sun and the awareness of her and Barry’s ‘gift’ in the presence of others. We are also left with the question of what will become of Sookie and Eric’s new ‘tie’. Will she accept it or won’t she? Let’s see, a stubborn, willful, naive girl who is in complete and total denial...yup! I think we can speculate the answer.
Sookie and Quinn tentatively agree to contact one another in a couple of weeks after he heals and helps his sister. But, ever since the blood bond between Eric and Sookie, their relationship (if you can even call it that) sits on a foundation as shaky as the hotel’s -- nothing solid what’s-so-ever.
The story ends with Sookie arriving home to find Tara and JB married, and trying desperately to get over the horrors of the events that haunt her. I found myself feeling sorry for her over her distress. Once again Sookie is left feeling like she is part of two worlds, but belonging to neither. And the new blood tie that she now has with Eric only solidifies her position of limbo. We can only hope that one day she finds whatever it is that makes her feel the acceptance she deserves. And, yes, I really, really hope it is with Eric!
Being an avid lover of the SVM world and strong supporter of E/S, I have to say that this book was one of my favorites. And, no. I’m shameless in my feelings that I don’t care how they were tied together, just that they were. Anyone else believe in fate?
Throughout the books, we have seen Sookie in different relationships -- both romantically and not, including both Supe and human. But, in this book of the series, we almost get a glimpse in to the loneliness and sense of difference she feels when viewing her place in the human world and the ‘other’ world. It is the ultimate battle of knowing ones self, yet Sookie is no closer to an answer to her identity than she was in book one. She’s just part of a larger world and is wondering what her role in it is.
Charlaine also shares with us a side of the vampire world. We’ve seen bits and pieces of the inner workings of the vampire society, but never in the context, or amount, as we do in book seven. It is also in this book that you see a different, maybe more upfront?, side of Eric. And as much as Sookie still tries to deny it, she does start to become aware of it as well.
And, please! Someone send Sookie an effing Vogue or Cosmo!!! One word to sum up everyone’s outfit in the book: SILK! How in the hell Bon Temps has such an extensive selection is beyond me! Apparently someone stocked up on it during the 70s. Hey! Maybe that’s what’s in Sookie’s attic! lol
Overall, this book really did keep you on your toes, had ups and downs, twists you weren’t really expecting, most of the main characters, and the of course the cherry on top… Eric!