Friday, May 10, 2013

Dead Ever After

Author: Charlaine Harris
Genre: Mystery/Urban fantasy
Original Pub. Date: 2013

Spoiler Alert. Spoiler Alert. This is not a test of the Emergency Spoiler Alert System.

Through the miracle efficiency of Amazon's fulfillment services, I got this book in the mail the day before it was officially released, and yet I missed every book reviewer's happiest moment: panning a book before most readers even have it in their hot little hands.

That just goes to show you how utterly unexcited I was by the thirteenth and final installment in Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire Mysteries series. The biggest moment for me was opening the box a day early; it was all downhill from there.

Anyone wanting a summary of the previous books can refer to last year's review of book twelve, Deadlocked. Back? Good, because I hardly need to add anything to that review to cover the events of Dead Ever After. My complaints still stand, my predictions were accurate, and I'm trying not to regret the time I invested in this series over the last few years.

Even if I devoted another few years to the effort, I'm not sure I could wrap my head around what in God's name Harris was thinking. She's said somewhere -- I'm too lazy to find a link -- that this is the series ending she had in mind from the beginning. Okay, I get having a plan, because otherwise you end up with Lost*, but there's a reason so many authors bemoan their characters doing things they didn't intend. It sounds silly, but it's actually true: once you've developed a character well, he takes on a life of his own, and if you're writing a story with any kind of skill you'll know when you're trying to force a character into doing something that just doesn't make sense for that person. At that point, you either have to force it -- which ruins characters, kills puppies, and leaves the reader boggling in confusion and disgust -- or you have to revise your original plan.

Charlaine Harris chose to force it with this book, and that was a big, big mistake. If her plan from the beginning was to have Sookie end up with her dull friend Sam, why did Harris give so much page-time to much more charismatic love interests? Why bother with thirteen books? There was never any sexual chemistry between Sookie and Sam, and even their friendship -- yes, this book is up to the hilt in ye olde "I never realized I was in love with my best friend" trope** -- didn't seem all that exciting.

Since there weren't really any reasons for Sookie to go for Sam, the only way to get to this pointless, non sequitur ending was to give her reasons not to go for anyone else. To achieve this, Harris took the remains of the Eric character, whom she assassinated in the previous two books, and jumped on them a few times prior to setting them on fire.

In a plot contrivance that seems to tacitly acknowledge what nearly every reader could have told her, Harris uses a lame, deus ex machina "magic made us more attracted to each other" justification based on the fact that Sookie saved Sam's life with a fairy MacGuffin at the end of the last book. It, like, connected them, or something. 'Kay. There was no reason for Sookie and Sam to fall in love, so Harris was compelled to invent one that doesn't make very much sense.

Let's break this down. Harris either made a bad plan and stuck with it out of sheer cussedness (knowing full well that at least 90% of her readers wanted Sookie and Eric to have a happily ever after), or she made a good plan and then executed it with stunning incompetence.

Either way, this book is a pathetic and disappointing ending to what was, up until book ten or so, a solidly re-readable series. I can't even enjoy the earlier books now, so off they go to Goodwill with Dead Ever After. Two stars.

* And I don't care what the show's final resolution was, the only thing that could explain the entire "plot" is time-traveling body-snatcher government agent shapeshifting polar bears from outer space -- as the writers.

** Only, sadly, here it's more of an anemic, fizzling "I never realized I was kind of sort of okay with the idea of dating my best friend, since he's the only romantic option left in my small town."

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