Well, the time has come. After 10 years and a whopping 13 books, Charlaine Harris last week released the final novel in the long-running Sookie Stackhouse series, the literary impetus for hit HBO show True Blood.
People always ask me if they should bother reading these books, and the answer is: It depends. Do you like absurd plots and a murder-to-novel ratio of approximately 24:1? Do you enjoy a narration style that feels only a few degrees shy of a fifth-grade diary? Do you like sexy vampires? If the answer to any of the above is yes, then by all means, read the Sookie books. They’re like cotton candy–saccharine, fluffy, and delicious.
But if you’ve got something pesky like “standards,” or simply don’t have the time, worry not: I’ve got you covered. Here’s everything that happens in the Sookie Stackhouse world. [SPOILERS SPOILERS LIKE LITERALLY A BILLION SPOILERS]:
Sookie Stackhouse is an obnoxiously perky telepathic waitress who has a hot brother named Jason and a grandmother that gets violently murdered in their kitchen. People are constantly getting murdered around Sookie, who always endeavors to solve these murders, even when they aren’t inflicted upon her immediate family. Early in DUD, Sookie meets Bill, a sexy vampire. They fall in love, a love that lasts through roughly six other attempted murders. Also of note: 1) Eric, the sexy (everyone is incredibly sexy) proprietor of local vampire bar Fangtasia, and regional vampire sheriff (yup). 2) Sam, the sexy owner of Merlotte’s, where Sookie works. Entrepreneur, gentleman, shapeshifter.
The book opens with a murder, because of course (I would really like to know the per capita murder rate in Bon Temps, Louisiana.) Then Sookie is attacked by a maenad — like a mythical pig-woman — who’s actually pissed at Eric, who can’t be bothered because he already signed Sookie up to use her mind-reading to help some other vampires in Dallas. That investigation leads to Godrick, a really old – but also sexy – vampire who’s been hanging out with The Fellowship of the Sun, a “church” that’s more like the gay conversion therapy of the vampire world. There’s an infiltration of the fellowship, and a culminating battle royale. Also a maenad-induced orgy.
3. CLUB DEAD
Bill disappears, and Eric enlists hunky werewolf Alcide to accompany Sookie to a vampire bar so they can troll for information. While there, she meets Russell Edgington, the vampire king of Mississippi, and Debbie Pelt, Alcide’s jealous ex (Alcide is interested in Sookie; for reasons that escape me, all men usually are). After a big bar fight, Sookie ends up recuperating in Russell’s mansion, where she and Eric find and rescue an imprisoned Bill. In a bit of classic bad luck, Sookie and Bill end up in the trunk of a car together and when he wakes up from his torture-induced vampire blackout, Bill almost kills her in a hungry blood rage. Perhaps fairly, Sookie dumps him.
Three weeks after the Bill breakup, Sookie runs into a confused Eric, who’s lost his entire memory. Eric’s right-hand vamp Pam explains that a coven of witches is responsible for the amnesia, but who really cares because memory-less Eric is now sensitive and vulnerable and therefore even hotter and Sookie, well, get it gurl. She takes Eric in “for protection” and they protect each other pretty often, sometimes in the shower. Finally, some vampires, other witches and Alcide’s werewolves band together to fight the coven. Eric gets his memory back, and Sookie is bummed to lose their slow-jams lovemaking. In other news, Jason becomes a werepanther.
Someone is going around town shooting shifters, including Sam, who’s forced to borrow a bartender from Eric while he recuperates from the wound. Eric sends Charles Twining, who turns out to be a hitman actually sent by another vampire to kill Sookie. This other vampire — who I feel compelled to mention is named Hot Rain — has a vendetta against Eric, who he believes was inadequately punished for killing a different vampire in defense of Sookie way back in book 1 or 2. Meanwhile, Eric helps Sookie get Tara out of a weird situation in exchange for Sookie telling him about all of their sensitive lovemaking. Because of course post-amnesia Eric has amnesia of his amnesia. Charlaine Harris don’t play.
Sookie has a new boyfriend, a weretiger (yup) named Quinn. They go to New Orleans to settle the affairs of Sookie’s recently murdered vampire cousin and while there, Sookie meets Sophie-Ann, the (vampire) queen of Louisiana. There is some central plot involving a murder attempt and its thwarting, but most importantly Sookie discovers that Bill has been lying to her (vampires, they’re just like us!) He did not just so happen to wander into Merlotte’s all those books ago, but was in fact sent there to glean information on Sookie. In other “WTF” news, Sookie finds out she’s part-fairy, and the irresistible nature of fairy blood at last (finally, thank god) explains why men are drawn to her despite the fact that she’s patently annoying.
Sophie-Ann is accused of murdering her husband, the (vampire) king of Arkansas. Sookie knows she’s innocent, and so agrees to attend some sort of vampire leadership summit and mind-eavesdrop on people to see if she can suss out the culprit. Because when a vampire says “Hey, do you want to come to a big vampire meeting and use your invasive super power to implicate another vampire in a royal murder?” the answer is always “Most def.” Sophie is ultimately let off the hook, just in time for the summit hotel to explode because the Fellowship of the Sun planted a bunch of bombs. Sookie manages to save her vampire buddies, though Sophie-Ann loses her legs in the blast. Her probable ability to push a wheelchair at vampire superspeed goes unaddressed.
Sookie helps Alcide’s werewolf pack sort out some werewolf politics, as Eric surrenders to Felipe de Castro, the (vampire) king of Nevada, who is angling for Arkansas and Louisiana now that Sophie-Ann is weak and legless. Also Quinn disappears to handle some family business — just know that a “were sanatorium” is a place — and his absence/baggage nudge Sookie back into the [strong, chiseled] arms of Eric. After a brief subplot involving Jason’s failing relationship with his cheating werepanther wife Crystal, Sookie rescues Felipe de Castro from a would-be assassin and earns his respect, and interest. Because who couldn’t use a good vampire king in their corner?
Since it worked out soooo well for the vampires, shifters and werewolves decide to go public. After Sam makes the rather melodramatic decision to reveal his true nature by changing in the bar, Merlotte’s waitress Arlene quits. Also a membership of the Fellowship of the Sun, Arlene later tries to kill Sookie via crucifixion (ambitious, I’ll give her that), but fails and is arrested. Meanwhile, Eric tricks Sookie into vampire-marrying him to keep her from being snatched up by Felipe de Castro. Meanwhile meanwhile, a fairy war is afoot! Fighting breaks out between warring factions of the fairy race, who have differing opinions about the existence of half-breeds (like Sookie). After being tortured for information on her fairy great-great-grandfather, Sookie is rescued by Bill and Eric. Shockingly, no one has yet decided that she’s simply more trouble than she’s worth.
Just when Sookie and Eric are finally getting the hang of their relationship, Eric is visited by his maker Appius, who drops off his “brother” Alexei for Eric to talk some sense into. (Alexei has problematic hobbies, like murdering people). Meanwhile, Sookie’s [hot gay stripper] fairy cousin Claude comes to stay with her, and she tracks down Bill’s vampire sister to give him blood so he can recuperate from silver poisoning he got at the end of Book 9. A bunch of different plots (generally murderous in nature, mostly directed at Sookie) converge at the Stackhouse …house, where basically everyone is killed except the people (and vampires and werewolves) we care about.
11. DEAD RECKONING
Being Sookie Stackhouse means having at least three grudges held against you at any given time, and so Sookie spends the novel settlings scores with Sandra Pelt (jealous ex-girlfriend of Alcide) and Victor Madden (representative of Felipe de Castro/general asshole). She also learns a bunch of stuff about her fairy-ness, as Bill proclaims his undying love (see what I did there?)
Felipe de Castro comes to town to see WTF happened to his boy Victor, who Sookie, Pam, Eric and Bill killed. Eric throws Felipe a party by way of distraction, and Sookie catches Eric feeding on a human who later ends up dead on his lawn. On top of the alleged murder, Sookie discovers that Eric was commanded by Appius to marry the (beautiful, rich) vampire queen of Oklahoma, and that he hasn’t exactly jumped through hoops to rid himself of the decree. She (Sookie) also finds out that she’s in possession of a cluviel door, a bit o’ fairy magic that basically give her one free wish. Whilst vaguely debating using the door to save Eric from his “arrangement”, Sookie gets caught up in a werewolf fight, during which Sam is mortally injured. She uses the door to save his life, and Eric storms off. Or like..glides off really quickly, but you know what I mean.
13. DEAD EVER AFTER
And that brings us here, to the end of a decade-long series whose ridiculousness is matched only by its author’s refusal to limit herself to one, three or even ten types of supernatural beings.
At the beginning of novel #13, Arlene is killed, and Sookie must a) go about being Sookie and discover who did it, at least in part because otherwise she’s the prime suspect and b) contend with Eric’s impending marriage, and his general grumpiness over Sookie’s cluviel door decision.
The final chapter in the Sookie saga is formulaic, a predictable conclusion that wants for a bit of general closure (even Harry Potter gave us a 19 Years Later, Charlaine). And yet, Harris does answer the only question we ever really cared about, and the ultimate romantic fate of our plucky heroine is the one spoiler I won’t give away.
Charlaine Harris is no Lionel Shriver; she’s barely a J.K. Rowling. But with the writing abilities of an imaginative 18-year-old, and the vocabulary of a gifted fifth-grader, Harris still manages to create a world — a world where vampires and werewolves are integrated into modern politics; where thwarted murder plots occur as frequently as thunderstorms; and where attractive, powerful and self-sufficient men fall head over heels for a perky waitress with a ponytail. True Blood only taps into half of the zany off-the-wall and utterly ridiculous plot lines that populate the Sookie books, and for that reason alone, the woman deserves mad props.