Note: This is the final novel in the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire series. If you’re not a fan of spoilers or haven’t read all of the books in this series, you might want to look away.
Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris (2013)
I am only just now realizing that I didn’t write any other reviews of the books in this series, which is surprising on one hand and not so much on the other. When I first started reading this series at the end of 2013, I blew through the first eight (of thirteen) books in less than thirty days. At that pace there wasn’t much time to sit and reflect on what I’d read (or rather, inhaled). It took a while for me to finally get to Dead Ever After, and I didn’t download it onto my kindle until January 2015, and while I started it soon after, I only got about ninety pages in, and I put the book down for nearly the whole year before picking it back up again. Wanting to complete some books I’d started but not finished was one of the motivating reasons for going back to the book, as was my motivation to finally complete or catch up on some series that I have been reading for a while. The thing about Dead Ever After is that it bugs me and I think that’s why I have this need to write about it here. But where to start?
This is the final novel of a 13-book series. As I started reading the book, I had high expectations for the last book to be epic, to deliver a sense of dramatic finality, to be filled with a high level of tension and conflict as this world of Bon Temps, Louisiana was bid adieu by its author. Instead, the story starts out incredibly slow, so much so that I had no trouble putting it down for nearly a year and when I finally did decide to pick it back up, I had no real interest in re-reading the pages I had already covered. Though it does start to pick up, the plot and story felt like it was plodding along rather than building or even racing to a dramatic conclusion. Let me say again, this is the final book in a series–I was expecting Harris to pull out all of the stops, to weave a story that made me not want to get to the last page because I absolutely did not want and couldn’t imagine having to say goodbye to these characters I’d spent so time with and in whom I’d become totally invested. But the whole book was just lacking in the intensity I thought I was going to get. I can’t help but remember the way that I felt when I was reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. There was a point in that book where I was so overwrought with emotion and really, really didn’t want the story to end that I actually put the book down and walked away for a couple of hours because I wanted to prolong and savor the epic finale. I needed to take a breath and just gather myself to get through the final 100 pages, the epic showdown that the whole series had been moving toward and the revelation of the aftermath. I had no such feeling as I moved through Dead Ever After. So much of this world has been built upon Sookie’s relationship with the supernaturals, particularly the vampires Bill and Eric and even Pam as well as the werewolves, most notably represented by Alcide. Those characters are basically non-existent in Dead Ever After and are in no way pivotal to the story. Instead they are more like afterthoughts, and maybe this is because Harris wanted to keep the focus squarely on Sookie and all the ways she has changed since the first book and all that she has lost or given up. When this is considered in light of the fact that Harris brings back other characters who throughout the series can only be considered minor characters and attempted to make them the primary antagonists only further frustrated me because these characters weren’t ones that I really cared about. Am I wrong in wanting the final book in a series to focus on the characters that have been the most important ones throughout rather than marginalizing them and pushing them into the background?
Which brings me to the next thing about this book that bothered me. All of the books before this one are told strictly from the first-person point of view of Sookie. Yet Harris breaks this pattern in the last book. Why? I have no idea. I hated it when Stephenie Meyer did the same in Breaking Dawn, and I hate it just as much in Dead Ever After. The reason why she breaks away from the first-person narrative style is clear–she wants to be able to fill in some of the holes of what is going on within the story that Sookie’s first-person narrative can’t reveal because she’s not privy to those events. It was jarring the first time it happened, and it continued to happen throughout the story. If the change in narrative point-of-view wasn’t enough, the crisis point of the novel wasn’t so much a crisis but rather just another problem for Sookie to find her way out of, and even that didn’t take that long to happen. The last few pages of the novel give a glimpse of what life (and ever after) might look like for Sookie Stackhouse but again the denouement was all too brief and completely disappointing.
In fact, the whole book itself was disappointing, which is unfortunate because I have really liked several of the other books in this series. I think that if you’ve gotten through the first twelve books, reading Dead Ever After will give you closure in that you can say you’ve read the series from start to finish, but in my mind the finish wasn’t all that satisfying.