I have read this book easily over ten times over the course of the last eight or so years- but this is my first time reviewing it, after the most recent reread, so I am going to take the opportunity to worship the ground Charlaine Harris walks on and tell you all how much I love this book. My goal: Get you all to go read this entire series, because it changed my life. “Dead Until Dark” was my first real venture into dark paranormal writing, but it was also my first real thriller/murder mystery read ever, when I was but a tween. This is a heavy comfort read for me, one that I go back to in times where the world doesn’t make sense- because I relate to the main heroine, Sookie Stackhouse, potentially more than I’ve ever related to a character before.
In her early twenties, living with her grandmother, known for her unshakable moral code and honesty and- perhaps- her naivety. Doesn’t date, hasn’t had much experience, is often a little bit looked down on. Sweet and kind, but doesn’t put up with people’s nonsense. All of this, I relate to, and it makes me root for her so dearly throughout the novel- and the entire series, really.
This entire novel, and all books by Charlaine Harris, really, have this charming Southern style to them. I really felt like I was in Louisiana, part of Bon Temps and the whole cast of characters. It was beyond comforting to read scenes between Sookie and her relationships with other people: From her darling gran, to her ruckus-raising brother Jason, to her respectable boss Sam. As a writer myself, I analysed the characters, and I fell in love with every one of them. They feel realistic and varied, their reactions perfect for each character. I loved moments of Bill’s old fashioned viewpoints, showing the age he had come from- and the stark difference of other vampires’ more daring, wild lifestyles. I loved the prejudice featured by characters like Arlene and Rene, and the sass coming from Lafayette or Andy Bellefleur. Each scene felt carefully crafted, and the pacing, for me, was perfect.
I wish that I knew what the word counts of each individual chapter were, or how long Mrs. Harris worked on writing this first novel. She is in my top three most favored authors, one of the few I would do just about anything to meet and learn from. My writing style is heavily in line with hers; influenced, inspired, revered, and I can only hope to have someone love my books even half as much as I love the Sookie Stackhouse series.
Dead Until Dark has a brilliant, unexpected plot, with only the softest hints that you would only really spot on a reread- if you were looking. It has dear references to real life that I am still discovering now, and probably ones I never will connect. The story is contained within the novel, but there’s so many ties to carry on with, natural cliffhangers that leaves me reaching for the sequel. For new readers, I have to warn you: You will be sucked into the lives of these characters, and you will want to read on. It’s a hell of a journey, a clever and shocking murder mystery while surrounded by the supernatural, all while juggling Sookie Stackhouse’s unusual life. There’s tricky romances, hilarious funny moments, witty dialogue, heartfelt losses, and so much more. I couldn’t recommend a book more.