Don’t get it wrong. Dead Ever After is a monumental release—arguably the paranormal fantasy release of the year. It marks the end of an era. For more than a decade—since the release of Dead Until Dark in 2001—Charlaine Harris has ruled the paranormal fantasy roost with her Southern Vampire saga featuring psychic Bon Temps, Louisiana, waitress Sookie Stackhouse. The books are blockbuster bestsellers. The HBO series has a cult following. Sookie, Eric Northman, Bill Compton, Sam Merlotte, and company have become pop culture icons. And let’s not forget Bubba.
And now it’s all over.
The recently released Dead Ever After is the 13th—and final—Sookie Stackhouse novel, and, contrary to what some readers are saying, I thought the conclusion was fitting. In fact, now that I’ve had time to process the ending, I think it was the absolutely perfect way to conclude the series.
(Don’t worry. I’m not going to spoil the ending for anyone who hasn’t yet read this novel.)
What I am going to do is offer up a kind of eulogy for Charlaine Harris’s series and speculate about why the Southern Vampire saga resonated so strongly with so many millions of people.
It’s really quite simple, I think. Sookie is us. She’s an everywoman—our sister, our neighbor, our cousin, ourselves. Sookie isn’t some oversexed, larger-than-life warrioress with a thing for stiletto heels and leather halter vests: she’s a waitress who likes watching Jeopardy. She is funny and compassionate and self-effacing—but I think so many readers love her, and identify with her, because of the way Harris portrays her so brilliantly in everyday life, doing mundane tasks that we all have to do day in and day out: cleaning the bathroom, mowing the lawn, taking out the garbage…
Sookie is a paranormal fantasy superstar—she has dated supernatural hunks, has fae in her bloodline, and possesses an incredibly powerful magic relic. But she is also very much human, very much grounded in her not-so-glamorous human existence.
• “… I cracked the kitchen window over the sink so I’d have a little breeze while I scrubbed the sink with some Bon Ami.” – Deadlocked
• “What did I need to do today? I made a little list after I’d had my coffee and a Pop-Tart.” – Deadlocked
• “I began slicing tomatoes for the hamburgers, and then I cut up a watermelon. Quinn volunteered to make some home fries.” – Dead Ever After
• “I made some coffee. While Sam was carrying the garbage bag outside, I ducked into my room to get ready. I’d showered the evening before, so I only needed to brush my hair and my teeth…” – Dead Reckoning
• “I went to Dairy Queen and got an Oreo Blizzard.” – Deadlocked
Sookie is us.
Just consider the sex scenes in this series—there is undeniable eroticism, yes, but also a very realistic, emotionally complex, and oftentimes laugh-out-loud humorous undertone.
• “…I had my very own orgasm, a moment so explosive it was like I’d been saving up for a holiday.” – Dead in the Family
•”While I stood stock-still, paralyzed by conflicting waves of emotion, Eric took the soap out of my hands and lathered up his own, set the soap back in its little niche, and began to wash my arms, raising each in turn to stroke my armpit, down my side, never touching my breasts, which were practically quivering like puppies who wanted to be petted.” – Dead to the World
The bottom line is this: The Southern Vampire saga is and will always be Charlaine Harris’s magnum opus. The supernatural world she created—through its down-home ambiance and mundane details, drew millions of mainstream readers to the dark side of paranormal fantasy. And kept them there.
The Southern Vampire saga was tremendously significant in the growth and evolution of paranormal fantasy. Harris—and Sookie—were trailblazers right up to the very end.
It is a series that almost single-handedly changed the genre fiction landscape.
At the risk of sounding sappy, I’m really going to miss Bon Temps—and I sincerely hope Sookie finds what she is looking for. She of all people deserves a little peace and happiness. Maybe take a few weeks off from Merlotte’s and spend a few days sunbathing and sipping iced tea. And don’t forget the fried pickles.
Thank you, Charlaine, for everything. It’s been a helluva ride.