I’ve been steadfastly avoiding the Sookie Stackhouse novels ever since I first heard of them–which was when I started watching TrueBlood, the HBO series based on Charlaine Harris’s wildly successful series of supernatural mysteries. Maybe I was cranky the one day I was in the bookstore flipping through Dead Until Dark, but I was turned off by the first few pages and didn’t bother to buy the book. Maybe I was disappointed because the books are exclusively narrated in the first person from Sookie’s point-of-view and I felt I was missing out on hearing from the other quirky, damaged, all too human characters Harris has created. I’m not sure why I ended up reading Dead Until Dark, but I’m glad I did (although my wallet is pretty sad now that I’m six books into the series).
At first, Dead Until Dark seems like your average girl-meets-vampire story, which could be tedious in the wrong author’s hands, but Harris manages to make this concept feel fresh and engaging. Although I was initially put off by the first-person POV, I have to admit that Sookie grew on me very quickly. I love reading about characters I connect with and root for, and you can’t help doing this for Sookie. She’s quirky enough to stand out among all the buxom blond heroines like herself, thanks to her telepathic disability (which really isn’t) yet she’s still relateable and likable because she’s just trying to make a living and do a bit of good in an increasingly hostile world. That Sookie views her telepathy is the real catalyst to her relationship with Bill Compton–he’s the first person she can’t “hear” and she now feels free to simply be herself.
All isn’t well, however. Even though vampires have recently “come out of the coffin” and are recognized as legal entities, not everyone is so accepting of them. Of course, vampires do have their groupies, known as fang-bangers, who shirk convention and shack up with the undead, consequences be damned. For the most part, this is enough to earn these women sad looks and snickers of derision, but soon these women are being picked off one by one and Sookie suspects she’s next.
If you’re familiar with TrueBlood, much of the book’s action follows a similar thread, so there is very little new here (but look for a hilarious and wrong cameo by an entertainment icon). For me, the mystery was secondary because I so enjoyed being immersed in Harris’s world, although she continuously raised the stakes (har har) as the action progressed toward the nail-biting climax. I wish the book was a bit longer, and told from multiple view points, because Harris’s characters are distinct enough to add many interesting layers of story (also, I’m a sucker for an unreliable narrator). Still, Sookie is three-dimensional enough to carry the entire series on her tanned shoulders. I only wish the author didn’t have every male character fall madly in love with her, or beat her up so much, but that isn’t enough to stop me from reading the rest.
The last word: Dead Until Dark is a bloody good read. If you love your vampires with a side of mystery and romanced, you’ll dig this.