Shelf Life: Fangs for the memories

"Dead Ever After" by Charlaine Harris

BY VANESSA PEARSON

 

The story of Sookie Stackhouse is over — in book form, at least — and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

Why would I think a series I adore would be bad? Because when a German reader got a copy of "Dead Ever After" early and leaked the ending, I couldn't stop myself from reading it. (I'm a journalist, and if I can get my hands on information before anyone else, I will.)

While I really wasn't surprised about Sookie's happily-ever-after man, I'm not enthusiastic about how we got there.

It's been clear to me that fang fans would be upset in the end because author Charlaine Harris has been insistent Sookie wouldn't live beyond a human lifespan nor would she ever become a vampire. And the telepathic barmaid from rural Louisiana has been pining over everyone else's babies and regular, boring human activities for several books now.

Plus Harris said in a Wall Street Journal story she's known what the end was since the second book, long before a sizable stake of the fan base went gooey for larger-than-death Eric Northman. The 1,000-year-old vampire's popularity vexed the mystery author, but she's said in several interviews the series was going the way she wanted regardless of popularity.

 

THE ACTION

"Dead Ever After" picks up where "Deadlocked" left off. It's the morning after Sookie unleashed a superdose of magic on longtime friend and boss Sam Merlotte to save his life.

That's when his weird behavior starts: He skedaddles out of her house, then spends the next 18 chapters ignoring and avoiding her even when she's arrested for a foe's murder.

The book feels like a slog through the mundane — shopping, cooking, sitting in chairs talking. Even the end of Sookie's marriage to Eric and his subsequent second marriage seems like it's not that big of a deal to her.

And when the big action happens, it feels rushed, almost like Harris said, "Oops, I only have 30 pages left. Better hurry up."

A chunk of the book seems like people come over to Sookie's house, she gives them a drink, then they tell her something. Sookie seems detached from her traumas, like it's no big thing to escape her latest brush with death. Maybe it's not. Maybe that's how we got to the end Harris brought us to.

And I'm not sure why after 12 books only in Sookie's voice, why Harris added a third-person perspective.

 

LASTING IMPRESSIONS

Overall, "Dead Ever After" spent too much time telling Sookie and me (the reader) what happened instead of letting us experience it as we went.

I'm glad the series has the last nail in its coffin. I wish Sookie died at the end because I was sick of her moping around, wanting to be a regular human. Sure, hearing every thought in every head is annoying and burdensome, but she could use it to help people, like in "All Together Dead." She spends enough time moaning about all the people/creatures she either killed or whose deaths she was party to in kill-or-be-killed mode. Frankly, it would have been more spectacular than the ho-hum fade-out Harris wrote.

Still, if you've been reading all along, you have to read it. And if you're a fan of HBO's "True Blood" and haven't picked the books up, it's a good time to start with "Dead Until Dark."

I look forward to the tie-up book, "After Dead," wrapping up the storylines of her other characters. (I hope Pam gets her own advice column.) It's due out in October.

 

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