Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1)

Author: Charlaine Harris
326 pages

“That is what we are. Death.”
Bill Compton, Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Dead Until Dark is the first book in the Sookie Stackhouse series. The series is about Sookie, surprise, surprise. Sookie is a waitress in a small town called Bon Temps in Louisiana, not too far from New Orleans. Sookie’s not your average waitress though, she can read minds. That’ not all, in this alternate universe, Vampires have recently “come out of the coffin”, as Sookie puts it. At the beginning of Dead Until Dark, Sookie is ecstatic when a Vampire comes into the bar and sits in her area. She is awed to find that she cannot hear his thoughts, something which she describes as:

Not one man in a million would have allowed me the time without speaking. I opened my mind, let my gaurd down completely, relaxed. His silence washed over me. I stood, closed my eyes, breathed out the relief that was too profound for words.”

Bill is as curious about Sookie as she is about him. She’s opened minded about Vampires and because of her “disability” as she calls it, he cannot influence her like other humans. Things aren’t all rosy for Sookie though. She quickly learns Vampires are more dangerous that she thought. She’s attacked by a vampire, coerced into working for a century old vampire, and is simultaneously attracted to and fearful of Bill. Then, there’s the series of women murdered in Bon Temps, all of who have Vampire bite marks. Could Bill be the culprit or perhaps one of his dangerous friends?

I have a love/hate relationship with this book. There are aspects of the book that I absolutely love and aspects that I really don’t enjoy. Overall, I like this book more than I dislike it.

I really like Sookie’s character. She’s not afraid to stand up for herself by outsmarting opponents and physically fighting back. She’s sassy and not afraid to speak her mind. For example, here’s a snippet of conversation between Bill and Sookie:

“But there’s a juicy artery in your groin,” he said after a pause to regroup, his voice as slithery as a snake on a slide.
“Don’t you talk dirty,” I told him. “I won’t listen to that.”

Part of what I like most about Sookie is that she’s flawed and hence, a more realistic character. She has weak moments where she’s paralysed by fear and avoids her problems. She has fits of rage where she rubs everyone up the wrong way. She’s judgemental at times and she has thoughts that she shouldn’t, but that’s what makes her a real person.

Bill’s character was so dull, and the romance was so blah. Bill was so stiff throughout the entire book. Often, Sookie describes him at different stages of cold (e.g., “cold, colder, coldest“). There is one part where Sookie says she and Bill watches movies and played games etc… I couldn’t imagine him doing that based on the actual dialogue that passes between them. I also found that the romance between Bill and Sookie was pretty flat. Everything that happened between Sookie and Bill was so fast that there wasn’t any time to build tension. As a result, I didn’t really become invested in the romance. I couldn’t necessarily see why Sookie liked him except that she couldn’t hear his thoughts. Plus, most of what Bill said and did involved sex, which might help Sookie connect with Bill but it doesn’t help the reader connect with the relationship all too well. The chemistry between Sam (owner of Merlotte’s where Sookie works) and Sookie was better. I actually rooted for them over Sookie and Bill. I think this has to be one of the worse male leads and one of the worst romances that I’ve read in a book for a long while.

I’ll admit that Bill’s aloofness might have been intentional due to the era that lived in (1835–1865) before becoming a vampire though. He makes a comment that he’s not used to the equal status between men and women now. However, that seemed odd to me because it’s not like he slept since turning into a Vampire. I know that Bill spent a lot of time with other vampires, but when he drank from women, wouldn’t he have noticed the change in dress, for example?

Aside from the characters, there is a LOT of detailed sex and gore in this book. I was surprised by the amount of sex and the level of detail considering that this is a YA book. As a result, I’d definitely recommend this book for minimum age of 16, but better if 18 and above. I wasn’t a fan of the level of detail in the sex scenes. I’d rather more of it been implied rather than so explicit. There is also a fair amount of gore, which I don’t mind because I felt this added to the drama and the action. For example, at one point, a Vampire who tackles Sookie to the ground is staked while on top of her. She gets drenched in his blood and even swallows some of it (blanch). Younger, young adults might not like such gore, however.

A large proportion of the plot in Dead Until Dark revolves around the mysterious murders in Bon Temps. I really enjoyed this plot and I felt it brought a lot of action to the storyline. Plus, Harris writes a mean mystery (as I found out when reading the Harper Connelly Mysteries). Harris kept me guessing throughout the story and I didn’t figure it out until the end. What is nice is that after reading the book for a second time, I could spot the clues as to who the killer was and the answer became obvious.

As Harris has finished writing the last book in the Sookie Stackhouse series, she has released a video where she returns to the first book Dead Until Dark. She reads a passage and then talks about her memories and thoughts about writing the book.

Final Verdict: If you like Vampires and you don’t mind a lot of sex and gore, this may be the series for you.

SECRET CONTENT: Who is Bubba really?

SECRET CONTENT: If Sam isn’t a Vampire, what is he?

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