By Robin McKinley
Jove, 2003. 405 pgs. Sci-Fi
Sunshine only wanted some peace and quiet, some time away from her life as the early morning cinnamon roll baker at Charlie’s, her stepfather’s bakery. The lake out in the country where her grandmother used to live seemed like a good choice. Since the VooDoo Wars devastated New Arcadia, there hadn’t been trouble out there in years. But before it would be possible for human ears to hear, Sunshine is abducted. Her drawn out captivity with one vampire Constantine as well as her unprecedented escape means she returns forever changed, forced to accept her experience and her new self.
Most read Sunshine because they are either Robin McKinley fans or fans of urban fantasy; for some, it’s both. For me, I’ve been an indifferent reader of McKinley for years. Her trademark character-driven fantasy novels full of internal monologue and description have never won me over. And it’s not like there is anything different about Sunshine. She is perhaps more tangential than many of her protagonists. I was joking with a co-worker that you know it’s a McKinley by glancing at just one page of any of her novels. Almost always you will see one or two long paragraphs. My eyes hurt just thinking about it. But that is her style. Go to McKinley’s blog and you will find in her long posts and use of asterisks, parentheses, and post scripts a reflection of her characters.
So what made the reading experience of this McKinley different for me? I finally connected big-time with the characters. Sunshine, in all her stubborn, loquacious glory and Con in his stoic, silent, complete vampire otherness felt real. Similarly, New Arcadia felt like a strange place which exists in another part of the world. Together, Sunshine and Con are something special. While the plot was still slow and meandering for my taste at times and there was some brief sexuality that felt out of place, I loved Sunshine immediately, just as I savored any interaction between her and Con. There were also unforgettable lines and an ending that exceeded my expectations. I agree with Neil Gaiman: Sunshine is “pretty much perfect.”
I read parts of Sunshine via audio book and it is an excellent way to listen to Sunshine’s internal musings.