Review: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Posted March 25, 2014 by Jessica in Jessica, Reviews, Urban Fantasy / 77 Comments

Review: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
Series: Sookie Stackhouse #1
Published by ACE
Published on: May 1 2001
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 332
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
One StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star
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Sookie Stackhouse is a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. She's quiet, keeps to herself, and doesn't get out much. Not because she's not pretty. She is. It's just that, well, Sookie has this sort of "disability." She can read minds. And that doesn't make her too dateable. And then along comes Bill. He's tall, dark, handsome--and Sookie can't hear a word he's thinking. He's exactly the type of guy she's been waiting for all her life....

But Bill has a disability of his own: He's a vampire with a bad reputation. He hangs with a seriously creepy crowd, all suspected of--big surprise--murder. And when one of Sookie's coworkers is killed, she fears she's next....


I basically had two separate lives growing up. My main life involved my nurse mother, my pharmacist (legal) father, and two of my three sisters, all living a suburban life just outside of Charlotte, NC. My secondary life involved my biological father and his entire family which was (they’ve since departed) headquartered in Bon Aqua (pronounced “ACK-qua”), TN. Bon Aqua, thusly named for the water that locals lineup in their pickup-trucks to collect, with their empty milk jugs, flowing out of a rusted pipe in the ground. True story.

I think that’s one of the reasons I like Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series so much—b/c I can relate. I grew up hearing people say things like, “Sure enough, some sumbitch, scuse me, was sneaking around the house,” which is what Bubba (and by “Bubba” I mean ELVIS) said after he scared away the creeper from Sookie’s house. And I am intimately acquainted with the small-minded prejudices that seem to thrive in small towns. My family, for the most part, isn’t like that, but you can’t grow up in that kind of place without hearing some very politically incorrect terms and phrases tossed around. The kind of place where if you take issue with said politically incorrect terms and phrases, you’re either “uppity” if you’re a woman, or a “woman” if you’re a man.

So it’s nice to see someone like Sookie—a college degree-less, “barmaid” who has been whispered and gossiped about her entire life b/c of her “disability”, come out ahead of her “betters.”

Better than nice. I bloody LOVE it.

No, Sookie didn’t go to college. Kind of hard to continue her education when she’s a telepath who can’t keep everyone else’s thoughts out of her head without extreme effort. So much effort that she has nothing left to devote to things like paying attention in class. And yes, Sookie is a SERVER (fortheloveofgod). I was too when I was in school. But Sookie is not an idiot, and though she does admittedly have her less-than-stellar moments, Harris ultimately creates a highly capable woman in her.

So for the three (or so) of you that haven’t read the books or watched True Blood yet, Dead Until Dark takes place in a world just like ours. With one exception—the Japanese have created and patented synthetic blood, ending blood shortages for medical facilities, AND prompting vampires to come out of the coffin, so to speak.


The vampires took this action b/c they felt they would be well-received now that humans no longer had to fear for their lives (in regards to vampires). Vampires could subsist on the manufactured blood, protecting humans from their thirst.

Things are rarely so simple.

Incidentally, the vampires’ party-line is that they are the victims of a virus that gives them the appearance of being dead for three(ish) days, after which they rise with allergies to things like garlic and sunlight, silver and . . . holy water . . .


They are received with equal parts fear and awe.

So Sookie is thrilled when a vampire walks into Merlotte’s, the bar where she works, and sits in her section. And when she realizes that she can’t hear the vampire’s thoughts she is shocked and delighted. But just b/c she can’t hear the vampire’s thoughts, doesn’t mean she can’t hear the thoughts of two bar patrons intent on draining the vampire for his blood. When she follows the three of them out to the parking lot and rescues Bill (the vampire), she begins the series of events that lead to her romantic involvement a vampire.

And the timing couldn’t be worse b/c someone is strangling women in Bon Temps (where Sookie lives) who are known to associate with vampires . . .

The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris was one of the first Urban Fantasy series I ever read, and no matter how disappointed I was with how it ended last year, I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving Sookie. Dead Until Dark was the beginning of that love, and up until book 10 or 11 that love only grew (and 10 or 11 out of 13 ain’t bad). This series is one that every lover of Urban Fantasy should have under their belt, so if you haven’t already, what are you waiting for? You’ve got nearly a dozen books before you need to be worried about anything, and if you simply can’t accept the ending, I’m sure you can find a fanfic somewhere that will do your dreams justice. Don’t miss out on Sookie altogether just b/c she doesn’t live HEA with the crowd favorite. ALSO–by the time you get to book 13, the “crowd favorite” could be one of a couple different characters b/c one of them turned into such an a**hole! So, if you didn’t read that far, don’t automatically make assumptions (like I did when I assumed everyone knew this already)!

Jessica Signature

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My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.


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77 responses to “Review: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

    • HA! My shelves are beautiful with my unread books too, LOL. I hope you do try it out b/c trust me—True Blood Eric Northman pales in comparison to Sookie Stackhouse Eric Northman (but you can still picture Alexander Skarsgard while you read it!).

  1. I didn’t love the ending but the series as a whole is fantastic. I love that Sookie really is so much more, so much better than her “betters”. There were so many times I wanted to high-five her because she didn’t take any crap from anyone.

    • It’s really good. And since you know going into it that there will be no HEA with the crowd favorite, you wouldn’t be filled with horror, contempt, disappointment, pick and adjective 😉

  2. I so loved the beginning of this series as well Jessica! Like you, I was disappointed in some of the later books and how things ended, but I will always be a fan of Sookie and all the trouble she gets herself into and out of. This series is definitely one I will continuously re-read, I just never tire of it:)

  3. Great review Jessica! I did rated this a little higher, cuz the audiobooks ROCKED. I totally agree. People’s feelings about the ending shouldn’t stop anybody for getting on this fabulous ride, I loved every book until book 10 same as

    • Yeah, that’s actually my biggest problem with the whole book 13 debacle—people who hadn’t started reading the series, wrote them off entirely, but there’s SO much good there. And I should’ve found some way to work it into the review, but it was already pretty long, so I didn’t, but the reason I only gave it 3 1/2 stars was all the relationship drama. I get that it was supposed to be realistic and real couples have problems, but a lot of it was just aggravating. To me anyway. Book 3, is where they REALLY started picking up for me 😉

      Glad you loved them too!

  4. I really loved this series too up until around book 10 I think and then something happened and it just wasn’t as great as it use to be. I still have the last books to read (sadly) and I really do need to read them and just get it over. I know that sounds horrible but it is sad to see a series you love go down hill but I agree that this is a series every lover of UF should at least try because those first books are fab.

    • What was happening was that youknowwho was turning into a grade-A jerk! I don’t blame you for not keeping up with the series at that point. If I was less stubborn and hopeful, I probably would have too. But I don’t regret finishing them b/c when you invest that much time in a series, you just HAVE to know how it ends, even if you know you won’t like it. Well, I do anyway. I think I owed it to those first few fabulous books to ride it out 😉

  5. I love Sookie so much that I could read about her all day long. Even if nothing happens. Like her normal life is just entertaining for me. Though I suppose her ‘normal’ is far from actual ‘normal’. I even liked the last book, though I’m just not exactly sure how I feel about the romance. It really took me by surprise anyway!
    I really want to do a re-read of the series. It’s been years since I read the first few.

    • That’s why I’m doing a re-read. I needed some distance after book 13, and even before that, it had been a couple of years since I’d done a full read-through. I could read about Sookie all day long too. I love how ruthlessly pragmatic she is 😉

  6. I’m one of the few readers who really didn’t enjoy this series and quit reading after book 3. I think it was Sookie’s personality that annoyed me a little, she reminded me of Mac from Fever before the 2.0. I might pick it up again someday and give it a second chance. Great review Jessica!

    • Thanks, Lori! It makes me sad that you quit at book 3 b/c book 4 is my favorite, LOL. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. And it’s not like there’s a lack of other good books out there 😉

  7. I never finished reading this series way back when and then I found out True Blood was coming to HBO, I read a few more. Oddly enough this series didn’t rock my world…I liked the first 3 or 4 books and I found the show to be more appealing. Shocking I know! But your review makes me want to finish reading it!!! Fabulous post! 😉

  8. O dear, I am in the minority again I believe. I did read the first book, and I really, really did not like it. There is just no humor in it. And I do need at least a litte of it in my books, preferably snarky heroines. I have never watched the tv series either, though it has been on tv here in Holland as well.

    • No, LOL. You aren’t the only one. Although, I wonder if something gets lost in the translation b/c Sookie is funny (to me anyway). It’s just a very cynical dry humor. Or maybe you read it in English and just didn’t find it to be funny. I wouldn’t be the first I thought something was funnier than everybody else. I like puns too 😉

  9. Oh the early days of Sookie…I so adored them and it’s always been a must read series for me. I was even find with how it all ended…I just thought it actually went on for just a few books too many. But those first books??? They were terrific and yes, really reminded me of my small-town Southern upbringing too 😀

  10. I used to love this series. I have the 8 books box and read them couple of times. I have also lent it to almost all my friends. Books 9 to 12 I have on ebook and have only read them once, that doesn’t mean I didn’t like them because I did. But, here comes the big “but”, I haven’t read nor do I plan to read book 13. After reading some reviews and seeing how Charlaine Harris ended the series I decided not to read it. In my mind is over and with the HEA I wanted.

    • Good for you, LOL. I might have made that decision myself if I’d waited to read the book. But when the hullabaloo started making waves, I completely and deliberately tuned out, and then read 13 on release day. It never occurred to me that she would end things the way that she did, so I never considered not finishing it. More fool me, right?

  11. I’m glad you liked it, it’s a really nice series until book 12 I think… And I was sad about it, sad about the reviews about book 13 so I won’t finish the series. But you’ll see the others are really nice.

  12. I know I have many of the earlier books in this series waiting to be read, but I have hesitated because I don’t know it is hard to jump in so late in the game and I fear disappointment at the end. Still one of these days, I want to try them as I have heard such great things.

    • A lot of people seem to think that. I think that if Harris had gone a different route, she could STILL be writing them and we’d be happy. But it’s her story so she can do what she wants with it.

  13. I genuinely believe that this is one of the series which time I missed. I remember it being really popular but I wasn’t interested in it and now I think some of those things would annoy me too much. I’m so glad you were able to connect with some aspects of the story. Great review, Jessica 🙂

  14. I love superhero books…and it’s a mashup with vampires??! AWESOME. I love urban fantasy, but I don’t read a lot (I’m a bit of a sucker for dystopians and contemporaries). This sounds fantastic. 🙂

  15. Oooh….this sounds great! I haven’t heard of this series yet, but it sounds AMAZING! It’s always great when you have that extra special connection to a book, because it makes it seem so much more realistic! Definitely going to have to pick this up! Thanks so much for sharing Jessica, and, as always, brilliant review! 😀

    • YOU HAVEN’T HEARD OF SOOKIE?! Are you sure . . . ? True Blood? Nothing? It really is an amazing series. I can’t rightfully call it proto-UF, but it’s still one of the really good new series to crawl out of the Anne Rice/Laurell K. Hamilton muck. And thanks, Zoe! I hope you like it 🙂

  16. Ooh, an “urban fantasy classic”! I remember reading this a long time ago, because I was really curious about the hype and even though I hadn’t even watched True Blood yet, I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. I ended up liking it, decided to put the second book on my list but years later I still haven’t gotten around to it yet. One day! As you said though, every UF fan should strive to have this one under their belt, and I’m glad did 🙂

  17. Christy

    I remember buying the first 3 books in one of those 3 in 1 books before they announce the TV show. Then when they did, I wanted to hurry and read the 1st book. I got about 1/4 way in before the book disappeared. I never replaced it and decided to just watch the show, but only watched maybe 5-6 episode before I drifted from it. I do want to eventually read the series, no matter how it turns out.

    • That is a plan I can totally support 😉 And I don’t know how you did it—if one of my books disappears, whether I’m loving it or not, I lose my friggin’ mind. I would have had a replacement copy so fast, LOL. I hope you do eventually work your way back to it b/c it really is a great series.

  18. That’s how I always felt about True Blood anyway! 🙂 Gorgeous review, Jessica! This was one of the first UF series I read, and although my ardour dwindled down lately (I still have the latest book left on my shelves to read) Charlaine Harris created a very atmospheric unique series, and I like her book Sookie much more than the annoying version on TV 🙂 Skarsgard, though… Niiiice! :)))

    • Yeah, you will never hear me complain about the male casting of that show 😉 And I agree that toward the end the books did dwindle enjoyment-wise, but the series as a whole is still excellent (IMO). Mostly, like you said, b/c of how unique it is. I’ve read some of the author’s mysteries, and the Sookie books combine the cleverness of her mysteries with the supernatural elements that have become so popular—BRILLIANT. I’m glad you liked them too 🙂

  19. Ohhhh. I’ve heard fabulous things about Charlaine Harris, but have yet to read an actual review on one of her books. This sounds great and I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it – all the way up to 10 or 11!

  20. I read the first two books of the series and was just “eh”. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t great and I had others on my list that I wanted to read more. They then completely fell off the radar after a year or so.

    I know what you mean about reading about small southern towns. I’m from a small town in south Georgia, so I understand completely. I tried one out and couldn’t stand it because it made Southerns out to be stupid, which pissed me off, but the Sookie books are not like that at all. Maybe one day I’ll give it another go, maybe try on audio. I never watched True Blood either. I know, I live under a rock. 🙂

    • I still live in the South, so sometimes I feel like I live under a rock regardless of whether or not I’ve seen True Blood, LOL. And I’m sorry you gave up at book 2, but if you ever decide to go back to them, I’ve heard great things about the audio versions, AND book 3 is really where the series starts to pick up for me *snickers* Isn’t that always the way?

  21. Faye M.  

    Even though I’ve seen it mentioned only a handful of times, I’ve read so many people complain about the ending that I thought this one would be something to avoid. Silly me for not looking beyond! The premise here sounds fantastic. I’m adding this to my TBR list right away.

    And I know what you feel about small town prejudices. That’s inevitable in places where everyone knows each other and their secrets. Having grown in a small-town environment, words always go fast, and gossips arise. I hated it a lot. I love the province, the serenity of my town, the beautiful landscape, but if it’s obvious you’ve got something to hide, you betcha some prying noses would try to investigate discreetly.

    In any case, I love this review. Sookie, here I come!

    Faye at The Social Potato Reviews

    • MOST of these books really are fantastic. I think the people that will be reading them after the blow-out can potentially like them even more b/c you already know what’s coming. And even if you still hate the way it ends the first 10 books are so good that it’s worth it. ESPECIALLY the middle(ish) books like 3 or 4-9.

      And yeah, I do see the value of small town life as well as the detractions 😉 Bon Aqua was quiet and peaceful and lovely, really, in addition to all the nastiness. I’m sure it’s the same anywhere you go, but Sookie’s world just felt more familiar.

      And thanks, Faye! Go get Sookie!

    • i watched the first four(I think) seasons of True Blood before I tired of the story line(the cult thing with Christopher Meloni) and quit watching.Never read the series because it had so many bad reviews. Of course I discovered True Blood before the books so maybe that’s why. Maybe I should try one. Good review Jessica,

  22. It’s been a while since I visited with Sookie, but I am woefully behind. One day I’m going to have to reread these too. Oh now I want to go and read these again! 🙂

  23. Pabkins  

    Hah, love the personal anecdote at the beginning. But hey didn’t you JUST tell me the other day that 3 star ones for you aren’t safe bets…or am I living in an alternate dimension here?

    • I think my 3.5 stars are the equivalent of your 3 stars. And first books are RARELY my favorite (unless it’s Bitten 😉 ). This series doesn’t get really good for me until book 3, then it’s downright awesome up to book 10. Rocky start, rocky finish, but the middle is pure gold!

  24. Oh, I remember back when I read this series – that was before TV show. It was completely different from anything I’ve ever read. And I loved it.
    I don’t think I’d be that much impressed now.
    Great review, Jessica.

  25. I loved this series so much! And especially the first few books are outstanding! True Blood hadn’t started yet when I read the first books, but I was fairly quick to fantasize about ASkars as Eric as soon as it did. That man is YUMMY!
    And your review is golden, Jessica! Because you’re right about Sookie, she’s smart, she’s funny, and her life hasn’t been a dance or easy on any counts. She soldiers on, though.
    I also love that Sookie loves to read – mostly lying out in her back-yard while tanning 🙂
    I hope you’re having a great week 🙂

    • Thanks, Lexxie! I hope you’re having a great week too! And yes, Sookie keeps doing what needs to be done no matter how much she might want to just retreat to her home, lock the door behind her, and never come back out. I love that about her too (and that she loves to read while tanning 😉 ). And, YES! Alexander Skarsgard is de-lish!

  26. Oh man you’re making me want to reread this series – actually confession: I didn’t read past book like 9 or 10. I guess it goes pretty downhill eh? From what I hear anyways. But I Looooved the first 5-6 books or so. I love Sookie hard and Eric! Eek! So happy to see fellow fans of this world! The show is also good and for some reason I only watched 2 seasons. I suck I know! Lol

    • No way! After season 2 it went seriously downhill, LOL. And book 9 or 10 is the perfect place to stop if you want to keep liking Eric. After that he goes to schmoe-town BIG time. And I don’t even know if I’ll reread past 9 or 10 myself b/c I completely agree—the middle books are the best 😉

  27. Michele

    As a small-town southern girl myself, I’m sitting here nodding my head at the first three paragraphs of this awesome review. While I haven’t read the last two books in the series due to lack of time and mostly fear, this series is near and dear to my heart. I adored Dead Until Dark and became easily obsessed with the books that followed, as well as the TV show. I promise to make no assumptions with your conclusion; but you certainly have me curious, and I think it may be time to clear the schedule, be brave, and finish those last two books. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and for stopping by.

    • I don’t know what it will be like going straight to the last two, but I can tell you that rereading the whole series (I’m 1/2way through book 5) has certainly been eye-opening since the shock of my initial reaction to 13 has had some time to where off. I’m starting to think that Harris was pointing us in the direction she ended with all along, and we didn’t want to see it 😉 Anyway, I hope you do find the time b/c if nothing else, you’ll get Sookie closure—I hate not knowing how a series ends. And thank YOU, Michele!

  28. This book is so full of prejudiced thoughts so totally agree–this is relatable. I adore Sookie! She’s so kick-a and her little quirks make her a fantastic heroine to follow. I do think that the world is a little insane, but which vampire world isn’t, eh? I’m sorry the ending of this series isn’t your cup of tea, but it’s still fun to watch these characters grow and I’m glad to hear that you still love this series despite the way it ended:)

    • Yeah, vampire worlds are usually pretty weird, huh? But yes, I do still love Sookie, and I loved all the characters and how they evolved as the series went on. I’m glad you like Sookie too, Siiri 😉

  29. I’m so guilty of having not read this yet. I own book one on audio now and keep thinking it’s time to start it. Problem is – I saw the first few seasons of True Blood and I have a really hard time reading books after I’ve seen there transition to film/tv. And since I’m not in love with True Blood, I’m hesitant. But I’ve read several great reviews of this series lately – this book actually – so I think I’m going to take the plunge soon… I mean, I’m all about UF. It’s MY GENRE! So I need to read this book!