Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

a review by Nalini Haynes

Dead Ever After is the latest and last of the Sookie Stackhouse series upon which the True Blood TV series was based. Sookie Stackhouse, a young woman waiting tables in Ben Temps, a town not so far from New Orleans, met her first vampire in the first book of this series. Now, some years and some failed relationships later – not to mention more than a few murders and scandals – Sookie’s life starts to look like it might start to settle into some semblance of normality.

Except that in the prologue an anonymous businessman and his chauffeur sold their souls to the devil. The reader knows this transaction with the devil will bring no good to anyone, but the anonymous businessman’s personal grievance against Sookie brings him to Ben Temps.

The plot in Dead Ever After is a bit like chunky custard in that it comes in lumps floating in a custard sauce. The prologue introduces a villain then chapter one launches in Ben Temps, enabling the reader to meet up with old friends. Later there are a couple of sets of bad guys, deal with in ‘lumps,’ one of which arrived after I thought that plot-line had been forgotten.

The real value of this novel is the fanservice: cameos abound, featuring many of Sookie’s friends and even a few foes. Harris shows us what they’re doing, giving many a ‘happy ever after’ feel, while having the gumption not to wrap up all the loose ends, leaving some imaginative paths for the reader to develop later.

Charlaine Harris seems to play with critics in this last instalment. Previously Harris was criticised for a sex scene in which breasts were puppies sitting up. In this novel there is only one sex scene vicariously viewed by the reader, and that described in individual words almost randomly juxtaposed.

At one point Sookie reveals a much darker side, quick-thinking and absolutely ruthless. This is almost brushed over, only barely acknowledged within the story. This troubled me somewhat: originally I wondered if this was a little “puppet master” but I concluded that it was, in fact, clever storytelling. Sookie has travelled a difficult and dangerous road to reach Dead Ever After; she will never be the same sweet, innocent girl again. This brief revelation of Sookie’s darker side shows the changes she’s been through, emphasising her capability and strength.

Dead Ever After is a must-read for Sookie fans; even if you’ve fallen off the bandwagon, this novel will give closure. If you haven’t read any of this series, then I doubt you’ll get much out of this final novel because there are too many references to previous novels, too much backstory necessary to appreciate this story. If you’re into vampire romances series with lots of blood and sex, whodunnits interspersed with drama, then give this series a go. The True Blood TV series is only loosely based on the novels, so even if you’ve watched the TV series, you’re in for a surprise. I recommend chocolate and wine to go with the novels for a pure indulgence.