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Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris
Genre: Vampire
Publisher: ACE TRADE
Published: 2010
Review Posted: 10/13/2013
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated

Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris

Book Review by Joshua Palmatier

Have you read this book?

First off, I have not seen "True Blood" so I read this without any possible coloration from having viewed that first.

As everyone probably already knows, this is the first book in the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris. The basic premise is that vampires have been legally recognized and so are now part of the world. Sookie, a waitress in the small town of Bon Temps, has been desperate to see one, so when one shows up in her town, she's instantly drawn to him, mostly out of curiosity. But when young women--all with jobs like Sookie's, and all who associate with vampires--begin turning up strangled to death, suspicions turn on this new vampire, who Sookie has now befriended. The rest of the book revolves around Sookie finding out more about the vampire world while attempting to figure out who is killing these young women, since she is obviously a potential target.

I can see why this book became so popular. It was one of the first forays into the field of urban fantasy, and it definitely has an interesting set-up and flavor. In fact, I generally don't like urban fantasy novels as they are written now, but I certainly enjoyed this book.

It wasn't until chapter 2 when the book really took off for me though, when the other vampires were introduced. The first chapter felt like a regular old mystery novel with a vampire thrown in (not surprising since Charlaine Harris was more known for mysteries before this book was published), but when the additional vampires were introduced the book shifted from being a standard mystery to something very different. It introduced a darker element to the novel, one of violence and sex that wasn't present even with the first strangulation appearing in chapter 1. From that point on, the tone of the book changed and became darker and more sexual than I expected from that first chapter.

That said, I did have some issues with Sookie as a character. Occasionally, her emotional reactions to me didn't ring true. In some situations, she'd react far too strongly to something that, in comparison with some of the other stuff going on, was just over the top. And then when something truly bizarre happened, something totally outside of Sookie's experience up to that point, she wouldn't react much at all, just take it in stride. So the emotional balance threw me off a few times. Much of this imbalance came about when she was dealing with Bill, the main vampire, and their burgeoning relationship. Some of the "drama" in that relationship just felt forced.

In terms of the mystery . . . well that almost felt tacked on. The main focus for most of the book in Sookie and Bill, with the deaths and whodunit left off to the side. The ending was thus a little bizarre because so much time was spent on getting to know Bill, but he ends up not even being there when everything hits the fan. But the mystery isn't why the book is interesting and entertaining.

So, a good read, with an interesting set-up and an interesting world to explore. I'll probably go on and read the next few to see what happens, and I can certainly see why this caught the attention of readers when it first hit the shelves.
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