Dead Ever After: A Sookie Stackhouse Novel (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood)

Dead Ever After - Charlaine Harris On the cover it announces, "The Final Sookie Stackhouse novel." If you don't know Sookie, well, when we first meet her in Dead After Dark she's a young waitress at Merlotte's Bar in the small Louisiana town of Bon Temps, coping with what she sees as a disability: she can read minds. This has kept her lonely and isolated since she knows too well what is going through the minds of potential dates. And into that bar comes in her first vampire--they've just "come out of the coffin" in this alternate universe USA, and to Sookie's delight she finds out she can't read Vampire Bill's mind. So soon she's involved with all sorts of supernaturals--vampires, weres, shapeshifters, fairies, demons. Harris does a good job of worldbuilding, with a whimsical touch, humor and charm. (Something I found missing from True Blood, the HBO series based on the books.) Not just good worldbuilding in terms of a supernatural world, but the world of that small Louisiana town, and I grew fond of everyone from the town drunk Jane to the crazy bartender Terry to the police officers Kevin and Kenya to, well, Elvis. I really enjoyed getting to know that community, but I especially loved Sookie's voice, given the books up to this one were told first person. This last one largely is, although the Prologue and parts interspersed throughout are third person, and I didn't much like that. Partly because it was jarring to break the pattern in the final book, and because I thought it didn't add anything, but also because to be honest I don't think Harris is a strong prose writer. Her narrative sounds clunky to me, but when it was supposed to be in Sookie's voice, it fit her, so I was fine, and I liked Sookie's down-to-earth voice, which was a relief after so many smart aleck paranormal heroines. But that's one reason I'm unlikely to seek out more of Harris' books, which I understand are otherwise straight mystery fiction. That's related to the other reason I'm unlikely to seek them out, since it sounds like they're unlikely to have the quirky charm the paranormal setting gives to the Southern Vampire Mystery series. And I don't consider Harris really strong on the mystery side. That aspect doesn't have the twists or brilliant plotting or deductions of an Agatha Christie by any means, and this final story is no exception. But it is fun, and I was sorry to see the series come to an end--and was entirely satisfied with the direction Harris took. There's a scene early in this book where Sookie confronts a former friend, and if I can be proud of a fictional character, I was proud of Sookie at that moment. That scene seemed to epitomize how far Sookie had come from the more insecure woman she started out in the series. The series isn't consistent in quality, and I do think the best novels were the first seven. Those I rated between four and five stars, the ones after that until this one three and three and a half. But if the series had declined somewhat (ironically I think after True Blood debuted), neither did it ever truly jump the shark--I never found them less than fun, even if they lacked moments that made me go Woot! I actually think the last two books before this were the weakest, and that if Harris didn't wholly recapture the charm of the earlier books here, this one feels less routine, less rushed, and I liked how she used the plot to gather together old characters to give us a sense of resolution. I liked seeing Quinn, Amelia, and a whole passel of other characters again. And now: S P O I L E R S I still want to be a little cagey and not spell it all out, but I also didn't want to give any hints above where people might bump into them, and for me the jig was up when I saw all the one star ratings on GoodReads. I was pretty sure then what Harris had done that would get so many fans upset. She said in her Acknowledgements page that "I've followed my own plan, the one I've had all along." And you know, I think it fits, and I don't think she twisted or trashed any character to do it. This isn't like Spike and the Damned Bathroom Floor Scene (tm) on Buffy or the ardeur in LK Hamilton's Anita Blake series that shifted things irrevocably (and disastrously in my opinion). It probably helped that I wasn't invested in any ship for Sookie. I heartily agree with a review by Felicia (thehistorychic) I thumbed up on Goodreads and Librarything: "[Sookie] dated far to many men in 13 books for me to ever think of this as an Urban Fantasy with a romance end game." Exactly. I do get being disappointed when you have your heart set on a certain outcome. And if not getting the ending you wanted makes you hate the book, I think you're right to give it one star--that's just honest. I just hate seeing all those one stars though pull down the rating of the book on GoodReads and Amazon, and I admit that even pushed up my own rating a bit in reaction. No, this isn't a five star book. It's not amazing, it wasn't an incredible climax or particularly clever or surprising or moving. But it's a better book than its ratings (at least right now) suggest with all the rabid disappointed shippers chiming in who bought it as soon as it came out. Although in its way it's a tribute to the series it could evoke such a passionate--even if negative--response.