Berkley Trade, October 2008.
It’s not that any of the Others are really popular, or that it had only been the vampires against us during the Wars. But a big point about vampires is that they are the only ones that can’t hide what they are: let a little sunlight touch them and they burst into flames. Very final flames. Exposure and destruction in one neat package. Weres are only in danger once a month, and there are drugs that will hold the Change from happening. The drugs are illegal, but then so are coke and horse and hypes and rats’ brains and trippers. If you want the anti-Change drugs you can get them. (And most Weres do. Being a Were isn’t as bad as being a vampire, but it’s bad enough.) And a lot of demons look perfectly normal. Most demons have some funny habit or other but unless you live with one and catch it eating garden fertilizer or old combox components or growing scaly wings and floating six inches above the bed after it falls asleep, you’d never know. And some demons are pretty nice, although it’s not something you want to count on. (I’m talking about the Big Three, which everyone does, but “demon” is a pretty catch-all term really, and it can often turn out to mean what the law enforcement official on the other end of it wants it to mean at the time.)
Robin McKinley. Sunshine.
She is also the only person known to have survived a vampire abduction, not to mention having escaped with the aid of another abduction victim, also a vampire. In the middle of the day.
So yes, Sunshine’s unusual. To those more familiar with McKinley’s juveniles, this isn’t a juvenile. This is not your standard vampire book. Sunshine is a fully realized character without being truly like anyone else. She’s no Buffy, no Sookie Stackhouse and no Anita Blake clone. She’s completely herself. That said, well, yes, this is an “urban vampire” novel, and yes, I suspect “Buffy, Vampire Slayer” was an influence, but so were Bram Stoker’s Dracula and “Beauty and the Beast.” In Sunshine McKinley has, again, taken old myths and reshaped them. The vampires, and Sunshine’s world, are different from other vampires and not-quite-this-universe worlds. In addition to McKinley’s gift for story and character, we have her flexible prose, which is fully exploited to give Sunshine her own voice. It’s an interesting voice, and a very real voice, though not always an easy one to listen to.
One of the things I love about Robin McKinley’s books is that I can count on her to surprise me, and she did with this book. I’ve read Sunshine twice, and am looking forward to a third reading. This may be my favorite of McKinley’s books, (so far) but I really wish she’d included recipes for some of Sunshine’s bakery creations. Especially the cinnamon rolls.