McKinley, R. (2003) Sunshine
389 pages – 0425191788
Thirty Second Summary: Rae “Sunshine” Seddon, working as a baker at her family’s restaurant, knows that out of all the demons and creatures that plague the world, vampires are the worst. But when she finds herself trapped with Constantine, a powerful but imprisoned vampire, she must choose – allow Con to die, or risk her own life to save him?
Robin McKinley has the honor of being one of only two authors whose book my mother forbade me to read. (Apparently she objected to her nine-year-old daughter reading Deerskin. Evil rapist fathers what?) She has the second, and perhaps even more impressive, honor of being the only author whose book I stealthily checked out and read, secretly under the covers, despite not being permitted to by my mother. Oh, Robin McKinley. How I love you.
But anyway! On to the review! Of the book!
I want to throw in a bit of a warning right off the bat for anyone under the age of fourteen – there’s some sex in Sunshine (but not too graphic) and a modest amount of crazy, vampire-squishing violence. Oh, and a scene where an emergency magical medical session goes *so* wiggy and blood-splattered that Rae is forced to shriek that “this cannot be healing.” End warning.
I thought Sunshine was a ridiculously enjoyable read – and not just because of my aforementioned love o’ the author. The sense of “place” grabs you right off the bat. The characters inhabit a futuristic post-apocalyptic America which never existed, filled with zombies and incubi and wizards, where people tattoo themselves with protective charms and hang wards from the rear view mirrors of their cars. It’s the sort of world you’d want to visit, as long as you could get home safely afterward.
“You are not afraid of everything,” he said.
“Nearly,” I said. “I am afraid of you. I am afraid of me.” (P. 373)
This pretty much sums up Rae’s attitude throughout the book. There is never a moment when she is not completely and utterly aware of the danger she’s facing. Unlike some OMG VAMPIRE novels, she’s not blissfully unconcerned about Constantine and his eating habits. She recognizes him for the killer he is. Constantine, for his part, makes no attempt to cover up his own nature. Heck, he flat out tells her he’s going to eat her, the day they meet. “It is not hunger that will break me. It is the daylight. The daylight is driving me mad. Some sunset soon I will no longer be myself.” To be fair, he’d rather not, but you never know how far that willingness to not devour Rae is going to last.
As an unrelated aside, if you ignore the Vampires Eating People details, this book was *yummy*! I blame a decade of Redwall for embedding in me a mad love of food porn – curse you, page-long soliloquies of summer nut ale and giant wheels of cheddar cheeses – and Sunshine doesn’t disappoint, with its wild descriptions of chocolate chip hazelnut cookies, butterscotch brownies, Jamdandies, butter-soaked maple cornbread, muffins… I mean, listen to this! “I’d made my special cream-cheese sauce to go with the triple-ginger gingerbread. I’d long felt that gingerbread, while excellent in itself, was still essentially an excuse to eat the sauce, so I’d always made twice as much per portion as the original recipe called for. Then it turned out that some of our customers were even more crazed than I was, so I’d started making three times as much, and we served it in little sauceboats.” Honestly, friends, I never wanted a cinnamon roll more in my life than when I finished reading Sunshine.
Although a highly enjoyable and well-written read, it is the kind of novel that’s just screaming out for a sequel to explain the few but fairly important plot holes. Who, exactly, was Onyx Blaise? Why is Con so much younger-seeming than the rest of his vampirey brethren? The final few pages, however, are so enjoyable that I suppose it’s better if the story ends as it ends.
ROBIN MCKINLEY PLEASE WRITE A SEQUEL!!!
Quotes of Note:
June Yanovsky had tangled with the school board because she chose to teach a section of classic vampire literature to her junior elective. She said that denying kids the opportunity to discuss Dracula and Carmilla and Immortal Death was in the same category of muddleheaded misguided protectiveness that left them to believe that they couldn’t get pregnant if they did it standing up with their shoes on. She won her case. (p. 39)
I didn’t think there was a word for a human so sicko as to rescue a vampire, so he could go on being a vampire, because no one had ever done it. Before. (p. 97)
The reason why, when you were thirteen or fourteen, you outgrew our fascination with the idea that a vampire couldn’t do you unless you let him is that you began to take in the fact that shortly after you said “Come and get me big boy,” you died. (p. 243)
”There are different ways of being what we are....” Something to talk to the academics about. Variability of Aging Among Vampires. Usage of Certain Words Pertaining to Daylight by Aged Vampires. Maybe I could get my pass into the Other Museum’s library after all. No, wait. I was about to die. (p. 332)
Tasty Rating: !!!!!
If you thought this was delicious, try:
Darkangel by Meredith Ann Pierce.
It’s all the delicious Moody Guy Who Can Kill You drama, with half the graphic violence!