Archive Reviews Series Reviews

Archive Series Review: The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris

Set in a small Lousiana town, Sookie Stackhouse is a mind reader. She’s always been a little weird, but when she becomes fascinated with a vampire who comes into the restaurant she works at that takes her life to a whole new level. There are more than just the recently “out of the coffin” vampires in Sookie’s world, though.

What is the series, The Southern Vampire Mysteries, about?

These books are all from the perspective of Sookie Stackhouse living in Bon Temps, Louisiana. Two years prior to the first book a synthetic blood substitute was developed in Japan resulting in the vampire community “coming out of the coffin” to the whole world. Vampires have begun to integrate into regular society, and are recognized as citizens and taxpayers, slowly being given more and more rights to property and civil liberties. Sookie herself is a telepath, something she’s worked very hard her whole life to control and keep quiet to avoid being seen as more weird or crazy than she’s already labeled.

One night, a vampire named Bill Compton arrives at the restaurant and bar that Sookie works at. She discovers she can’t read his mind, but also finds herself thrust into the world of supernaturals and their own politics. Throughout the course of the series, she encounters werewolves and other shapeshifters, as well as fairies and witches among other creatures. With her life tied up with the vampires of Louisiana and the other creatures interested in her, Sookie develops her gift and grows into herself.

Genre: Vampire Fiction

Okay so this series is really more of a mix between urban fantasy and paranormal romance, but vampires are a huge part of the story! Most of Sookie’s friends, love interests, and interactions are with vampires for much of the series–though shapeshifters certainly get their spotlight as well.

Series Installments

  1. Dead Until Dark
  2. Living Dead in Dallas
  3. Club Dead
  4. Dead to the World
  5. Dead as a Doornail
  6. Definitely Dead
  7. All Together Dead
  8. From Dead to Worse
  9. Dead and Gone
  10. Dead in the Family
  11. Dead Reckoning
  12. Deadlocked
  13. Dead Ever After

There’s also a collection of short stories and novellas associated with the series, but as I did not read any of these I won’t be including them in this review.

Main Recurring Characters

  • Sookie Stackhouse – Sookie is the main protagonist, and POV, for the series. When the series begins, she is young and beautiful but considered “crazy” by many of the residents of Bon Temps. She’s been unable to hold down many jobs, and only made it through high school, largely due to her ability to read minds and her inexperience controlling that as a youth. She lives with her grandmother and works at a restaurant/bar, and happens to be intrigued by vampires.
  • Bill Compton – Bill is the first vampire Sookie meets, after he moves into the Compton property across the woods from Sookie’s own home. Bill was turned during the Civil War and returns to Bon Temps following the outing of vampires to claim a piece of property he owned before he left.
  • Eric Northman – Eric is the Sheriff of a district of vampires in Louisiana, left over from the political structures vampires utilized before “coming out of the coffin.” Eric quickly realizes the useful nature of Sookie’s gift and begins to vie for her attentions against Bill and other supernatural creatures.
  • Sam Merlot – Sam is Sookie’s boss and owner of the restaurant/bar, Merlot’s. He has his own secrets that quickly come out when Sookie is introduced to the supernatural world as a whole, and always carries a torch for her.
  • Jason Stackhouse – Jason is Sookie’s brother, living in their childhood home which he inherited after their parents’ deaths. Jason is a bit of a womanizer, infamous but also well liked in Bon Temps.
  • Pam – Pam is Eric’s right hand woman, a powerful vampire in her own right. She’s beautiful and sarcastic, and strangely seems to befriend Sookie.
  • Angela – Introduced after Sookie spends some more time in with other supernaturals, Angela is a witch from New Orleans who leaves the city during the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. Angela is bisexual, a little careless with her lovers, but still a reasonably talented witch.
  • Quinn – Quinn is a weretiger, introduced midway through the series, and a recurring side character.
  • Alcide – Alcide is a werewolf and love interest who introduces Sookie to the world of weres and shapeshifters, giving her greater insight into their own politics and social status.
  • Claude and Claudine – These two are two thirds of a set of triplets, fairies, who introduce themselves to Sookie in one of the short stories outside of the series and are integrated into the books as a result.

The Good

This series can be genuinely funny and insightful at times. There’s a smattering of representation–more for BIPOC rep than any other group–and for the most part what is there seems to be genuine and well portrayed. Personally as a bisexual witch I was a big fan of the bisexual witch introduced partway through. Occasionally some interesting social commentary is given, especially considering that Sookie herself lives in the lower class, works as a waitress happily, and completed her high school diploma without intention to move on to college. Discussions of wealth stratification, class lines, and gender roles do come up on occasion. If you’re looking for a protagonist who’s not “not like the other girls” then Sookie is for you; she embraces her femininity and certain choices in her life that aren’t entirely “mainstream.”

I also found the way supernatural creatures were presented to be very interesting. From the way vampires choose to out themselves, but other supers do not, to the fanatics that try to wipe out vampires upon their discovery there’s a lot of interesting discussion going on. Many shapeshifter communities also tend to be indigenous, BIPOC, impoverished, or some combination of the three. Then there’s additional politics involved in the way supernaturals relate to one another and to humans, as well as the introduction of witches, telepaths, fairies, etc. The world feels genuine and introduced slowly enough to never quite catch you off guard.

The Okay

Sometimes the romances are questionable. Something I admire about Sookie is that she recognizes when a relationship begins to turn sour, and she gets out when she can. Still, there are times in her relationships (a notable few moments with Bill and Eric come to mind) as well as in other female characters’ relationships that are creepy, toxic, and questionable. I don’t think Harris intends any of these relationships to be idealized, but it’s still something to consider especially if reading such things can be triggering for you. Following that line of thinking, there is a considerable amount of violence and gore in these books–though not a gratuitous amount.

The Bad

Like any lengthy series, there are the occasional problem. Especially concerning the short stories, sometimes it feels as though the plot has skipped over something when the novels begin. Some of them do the obligatory “reminding who the characters” are, and before I knew this was a series I accidentally read the seventh one on its own! But there was the occasional introduction to a novel that threw some new characters at me that I didn’t expect. There are also absolutely some problematic moments and difficult scenes to read. Many of the main characters are white, and violence does target some of the characters of color. There are also disturbing sexual moments of assault, including a heavy amount of this in the first book as part of the mysterious murders taking place. Like most vampire media, some of the struggle between vampires and humans stems from the portrayal of vampires as vicious, uncaring, lusty, bloodlusty creatures that don’t see the point in controlling their impulses. This naturally leads to uncomfortable moments both to read and contemplate.

Final Thoughts

This series is one of my favorite supernatural fantasy series of all time. I can’t speak too much to the television adaptation, as I only watched a few seasons, but I can say that this book series pays homage to the fundamentals of supernatural fantasy while also introducing some new and fun ideas. The decision to slowly introduce supernatural creatures a few at a time was definitely a smart one that allowed for a better expansion of the fantasy world Harris was creating. I found the idea that the series begins with the revelation that vampires are real to the entire world an interesting way to integrate the “human” world and the supernatural one. The series also has a lot of re-readability as well as stand alone nature for the books–if you don’t have time to roar through them all at once you can absolutely take brief breaks between books.

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By Catherine

I'm a lover of books, coffee, wine, and bees. Happy to join the ranks of book bloggers everywhere!

2 replies on “Archive Series Review: The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris”

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