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Sunshine by Robin McKinley, Book Review

Rae “Sunshine” Seddon, a baker at a coffee shop, ventures away from the relative safety and gets caught by vampires. They toss her in a room with a chained, starved vampire Constantine, whom they mock and torture at their master’s command. Rae re-discovers her magical talent and frees both herself and her new companion. That is only the beginning, because Bo, Constantine’s arch-enemy, will not give up until he destroys them both.

In the future, there is something called “Voodoo Wars”, a conflict between the humanity and the “Others” (demons, shapeshifters, vampires – vampires are the strongest and the main problem). A lot of humans die in that conflict, and the surviving ones struggle to survive while the powerful vampires try to rule the world.

One of the results of this conflict is that the “bad spots”, places where black magic thrives, appear more and more often, reducing the space inhabitable for humans and making it even more difficult for humans to survive. As one of the characters says, “Others are winning”, they just can’t openly say that to the general human population.

This world isn’t what a reader would usually expect from a place populated by shapeshifters and vampires – and that is where the McKinley’s humor comes into place. For example, the most common shapeshifters aren’t werewolves, but werechicken, making shapeshifters unwilling to admit what they are. As for the vampires, they’re not sexy, they’re physically repulsive to humans. While the vampires have such a control over their bodies they “always can”, Rae asks: “Who would want a boyfriend with a constant erection?”

What I found most captivating in this novel was the relationship between Rae and Constantine. Rae is from the start sympathetic to Constantine’s position, because “nobody likes bullies”, and Constantine is not the usual vampiric murderer. They are puzzled by each other, Rae by a vampire not acting like a monster but as a likable being, and Constantine by having a human ally he needs to protect, something he’s very much not used to.

Their relationship grows, often to the their puzzlement. In spite of Constantine still looking ugly to Rae (we don’t get to know what Rae looks like to him), sexual tension develops between them – and quite a believable one. They keep protecting and helping each other, each having both strengths and weaknesses, and their friendship grows, friendship which doesn’t end when the enemy is defeated – and the reader is left to wonder what happens next between them.

Intelligently written, humorous, sometimes similar to a fairy tale, Sunshine is a beautiful novel jumping out of stereotypes and building the world and the characters of its own. In spite of many readers asking for it, the author haven’t written a sequel yet, but one can always hope.

#Sunshine #Robin #McKinley #Book #Review

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