Dead Ever After is the final entry in Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries series, otherwise known as the Sookie Stackhouse series on which the HBO show “True Blood” is based. Since this is the thirteenth book, I am going to proceed under the assumption that if you’re reading this review, you know the gist of what’s gone down in Bon Temps, LA, and you don’t need me to tell you. Also, I imagine some of the review may spoil earlier books, so read at your own risk.
Dead Ever After finds Sookie still reeling from the events that forced her to use her prized ‘cluviel dor’ in order to bring Sam back to life. Since she could have used this magic lamp-like fairy tool to save her boyfriend Eric from an arranged marriage to the vampire queen of Oklahoma and chose to save Sam instead, Eric’s a little distant, to say the least. To top off all the awkwardness she now feels at work with Sam and in life with Eric (when she actually gets to see him), her former frenemy Arlene walks back into Merlotte’s – looking for a job. Naturally Sookie refuses – Arlene DID try to have her killed – and Arlene storms out. As is typical in Bon Temps, nothing is as it seems and when Arlene is discovered dead in the Merlotte’s dumpster the following morning (with Sookie’s scarf tied around her neck), no one is particularly surprised. Sookie must strive to prove she’s innocent of this crime she’s admittedly not sorry happened, all the while managing Sam’s recent weirdness and her quickly-dissolving love affair with Eric.
I’ve been a fan of the Southern Vampire Mysteries since the first season of True Blood made me pick them up. Some of the early entries are really entertaining; they have humor, mystery, romance, supernatural creatures, and a hot and steamy Louisiana setting. I think it’s common in long-running series, however, that at some point, the material begins to feel repetitive. I’ve felt that way over the last few books. We’ve seen quite a bit of Sookie’s runs to the library, cleaning her house, making dinner, or lying out in her backyard with a tiny bikini and some country music blasting. It often fills like Harris is trying to just fill pages so her books meet a minimum word requirement in her contract. This isn’t to say I haven’t really liked the books. They’re ok. I enjoy the world and I’ve loved the vampire genre long before Twilight came along.
I had really low expectations for the final book in the series simply because I’ve not loved the last few. Harris has made it clear in recent entries with whom she intends to have Sookie paired come the end of the series. I was correct in my suspicion, and though it wasn’t my first choice I’m ok with it. Harris wraps Sookie’s love life up nicely in that her choice feels like it’s first and foremost Sookie choosing Sookie, and then agreeing to the possibility of another person later. Since almost the whole series has paired her with one supernatural creature or another it’s nice to think she might take some time out. With her telepathic ability you know that she’s never going to be able to settle down with a normal human being of course, so no matter what her future partner will definitely keep her life interesting.
All the novels in the series have been from Sookie’s point of view. This has its drawbacks in that you don’t become as familiar with some of the other characters as you would like. Some of the most fascinating characters in Bon Temps are the supernatural creatures to which Sookie is so attracted, especially Eric, Pam, and Sam. Having chapters from their point of view or even an omniscient narrator might have added some zest to really fun characters. In Dead Ever After, Harris rejects her normal style and mixes Sookie’s first-person narratives in with an omniscient narrator. Though I did enjoy knowing things that Sookie doesn’t, I feel like mixing person is confusing and takes you out of the story. Either use all first-person or all third, but not both. It might have worked better if this had been the way she’d written the whole series, I’m not sure.
I’ve been displeased with the changes to Eric’s character over the last two books. Eric is the best character in the whole series, IMHO, so alterations to him are always a little unwelcome. In the beginning he’s the ideal love interest for Sookie: she hates him, he’s ruthless but brutally honest about his attraction to her, and the longer you get to know him the more you realize he’s the Bad Boy with a Heart of Gold. Who doesn’t love that guy? In the final novel you don’t get to see Eric more than a couple lines and when you do he’s not really talking. He’s bowing down to pressure and doesn’t include Sookie in anything. This isn’t out of character for him – he DID trick her into marrying him – but something feels off about it. He lacks the joie de vivre he normally has and perhaps that’s Harris’ intent. If he was the same old Eric we all know and love, we’d probably not buy some of what goes on in this last book. He does redeem himself a little, but I can’t go into details without spoiling.
The villains in the novel, Arlene’s real killers, seem to come out of nowhere; it has admittedly been awhile since I read any other of the books. I found myself coming to storylines whose background I didn’t remember. I didn’t care enough to go back and read the old books prior to starting this one. It might behoove someone thinking of picking this up to find good summaries of the series before doing so. Overall as a series finale I found the book a little disappointing, but it was better than some of the more recent entries and wrapped up Sookie’s story in a nice way.