Okay, this is another break from blogging about my own writing to talk about Sookie Stackhouse. The 13th and final book, “Dead Ever After,” came out today, so of course I flew through it as soon as work was over.
And… I don’t know.
I mostly liked it.
WARNING here be SPOILERS and SPOILERS so stop reading if you are trying to avoid
I feel like the series has been lacking something for quite some time. Charlaine Harris’ writing isn’t perfect, and nobody can say it’s high literature or anything–if it was, Sookie wouldn’t describe every little thing as “fire engine red”–but I love Sookie books because they’re quick, light, exciting reads with likable characters in an urban fantasy world. But the first few books had me rooting for Sookie, wondering what new scrape she’d get in to, wondering whether she’d end up with Bill or Sam or Eric.
And then… things got convoluted. She’s part fairy! She likes Alcide! There are demons and elves and they’re torturing her! She likes Quinn! Everyone powerful is her enemy! Let’s invent new things forever and ever! (I never liked the Vampire King and Queen stuff much in the first place, but the fact that they all hated Sookie got old and made it worse).
The simple love of Sookie got lost and weighed it all down. I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed one of the books in a while… there was too much going on that felt unnecessary. I know, it was supposed to be exciting and surprising and we were supposed to feel as confused as Sookie was by all this new information flooding her life.
I just couldn’t buy into all that.
I do think this latest book is an improvement from the last few. However, it would be nice to see more of the “main men”–Eric, Sam, and Bill–but they only pop in briefly. Amelia has more lines than any of them. Sookie gets hurt yet survives, and we think all is well but then (gasp) a new danger pops up and she gets hurt yet survives. The formula worked previously, and formulaic plots work for plenty of other series, so I don’t know why my expectations would be any different here… still, it makes it feel… cheap? Oh, and of course, a mysterious sum of money arrives to help her, as always, which frustrates me. Characters who magically get money to solve their plight (does money count as a deux ex machina, I wonder?), like Lorelai & Rory Gilmore, always kicks me out of the story and reminds me how IMAGINARY it all is. *Sigh* I seriously believe that my husband could secretly be a werewolf more than I believe I’ll ever receive giant sums of money like Sookie does.
I wanted the “final” book to tie things up nicely, and it didn’t. I found out there’s an encyclopedia-type book following up at the end of this year which will describe all the characters’ fates, so I guess that has something to do with it. But what’s going on with Sookie’s new telepathic nephew, Hunter? Why did we only get one steamy scene with the man she chooses–and, despite their perfection for each other (are you trying to avoid spoilers yet still reading this far? Phooey on you. She picks Sam and I called that from the beginning, but not with 100% certainty), no content knowledge of “happily ever after”? Again, I’m sure it’s supposed to feel more realistic this way, but IT’S A WORLD WHERE A GAY FAIRY OWNS A STRIP CLUB AND A DEMON WEARS TUTUS, SO EXCUSE ME IF THE REALISM FELL THROUGH SOMEWHERE.
People are going to hate the fact that she doesn’t end up with one of the vampires. Bill opened up the world to her in a lot of ways, and Eric “got” her (sense of humor, etc.). But she never would have been happy with them in the long-term, because she would have grown old and they wouldn’t have wanted her anymore. She always hinted at having a fondness for Sam and a desire for children, and Sam can give her that peaceful, “normal” life. Sookie was obviously tired of the drama inherent in vampire life; Sam, as a shifter, isn’t even that embroiled in the were-animal politics that also involve drama. Sookie is ready to “retire” and just be happy; I felt like that was clear, and though the lead-up to it could have been stronger, it makes sense as the ending of the series.
Anyway. I’ll definitely reread this one. That had become questionable with the last few, but I’m confident that this is one that will make it into the re-reading habit. That’s a plus.
Overall, I recommend it. I almost always recommend finishing a series that one has devoted time to, rather than never knowing how it all wraps up. It’s the fun, fast-read Sookie we expect with a somewhat-satisfying love story (takes too long to get to!) and a promise that she has friends and security and is going to be happy with her life. Its flaws are all ones readers would already be aware of from reading other books in the series. I still feel Charlaine Harris had room to keep this going a little bit, maybe two or three more books to really wrap things up, but I understand her desire to stop. She was hitting a formula and inventing too many new things instead of delving into the wealth of characters/world/love stories/etc. that she already had.
So… it’s over. Wow.
I’ll miss you, Sookie! (and Sam)!
… perhaps I’ll start watching True Blood ;)