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Sunshine – Book Review

Written by: Robin McKinley
Published by: Jove

Robin McKinley is known for her fantasies, such as The Blue Sword, and her retellings of the Beauty and the Beast faery tale. In Sunshine, she has crafted her own unique take on the vampire myth, but this is not yet another “gritty” (read: lots of sex), boring take on urban fantasy. She gives us a mystery and a real romance, wrapped in vampire mythos, with flashes of humor illuminating the darkness to make the shadows even darker. No, it’s not earth-shaking, but the philosophical, internal reality of the characters is refreshing in such a saturated, carnal market.

The book’s setting is interesting; the world has been decimated by wars with vampires and other nasties, leaving only the Special Other Forces to hold the darkness at bay and keep humankind safe. SOF recruits Sunshine, the daughter of a famous sorcerer, but she is quickly captured by the bad guys and left, shackled, as a kind of snack for Constantine, a defeated good-guy vampire. The bulk of the novel’s action takes place between these two as Sunshine bargains for her life and Constantine fights his hunger and weakness…as well as the knowledge that sacrificing this one human might enable him to take out a far greater danger to humans. When the two inevitably escape, things start to make a bit more sense, and readers are given more information about the world at large.

[ad#longpost]The richness of the book’s ethical conundra are the key to enjoying this book, but the mystery and character development are also interesting. McKinley’s heroines are always interesting, and Sunshine is as well.

There are some issues with odd pacing that may not trouble some readers, but they bothered me a bit; there are also a few times when Sunshine herself seemed oddly silly, compared to her usual personality. However, these issues are fairly minor, and if you’re expecting a fluffy, somewhat unusual look at vampires in a world soaking in the mediocre (at best!) Twilight and Anita Blake, then this just might refresh you on the mythos.

As a young adult-aimed book, you can’t expect this one to be as deep politically as Anne Rice, though for some reason, some readers seemed to make that connection. The point of the book is much more about introspection and character than action or worldbuilding; if you don’t like that kind of book, then Sunshine isn’t for you. If, on the other hand, you like lightweight but still character-driven books, then give this one a shot.

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