Surprise! We’ve reached reading challenge time again already! We’re up to #92, Sunshine by Robin McKinley. It’s one of the more recently published novels on the list, from 2003. This one left me confused on a couple fronts, not the least of which was how the hell it ended up on this list.
When I started reading this book I was a bit surprised it was on this “best of” list. For the most part it looks like not a lot of “horror” or horror-adjacent novels made it. The usual vampire novel suspects like Dracula or anything by Anne Rice are nowhere to be found. I do enjoy some urban fantasy so I don’t object to the genre being represented, but I could definitely think of some better choices than this one.
The novel follows Rae, aka “Sunshine”, a coffeeshop baker with a family history of magic who very quickly gets tangled up with vampires. The world building here is a bit different from the norm in urban fantasy, since “Others”, the catch-all term for demons, angels, weres, vampires, etc., are all out in the open and well known to exist and participate in society. The world is in the aftermath of a large-scale magical war, so there is also a small post-apocalypse element too.
Sunshine has magical powers but she had been largely ignoring them because she didn’t need them in her day to day life. When she gets abducted by vampires at the start of the book she’s forced to use them or end up dead. The blurbs I read about this book described it as a fresh spin on the genre but it didn’t feel that way to me. Perhaps if I had read it when it was released I’d feel differently. The story is pretty straightforward. Girl gets abducted by vampires, rediscovers her latent magical powers, reluctantly teams up with a mysterious vampire who doesn’t want to drink her blood for some reason, ~obligatory vampire-human sexual tension~, something something the human and the good vampire triumph over the evil vampires. There’s nothing horrible here, but nothing exciting or new either.
The biggest things which made it hard for me to enjoy this book were the point of view and style. We get the constant internal monologue thing which is so common, but every once in a while there’s a weird fourth-wall breaking moment thrown in too. It is definitely a style thing that didn’t work for me. Some of my favorite urban fantasy novels are my favorites because I enjoy the main character’s personality and point of view, but that was not the case here. I get the reluctant heroine thing, but it wasn’t fun reading an entire book where the main character is constantly complaining that they wish they were anywhere else. By the end I was wishing that too.
If I was feeling a bit more charitable I would give this one a 3/5, because it really is not in the same class of terrible as A Spell for Chameleon. It would make a fine throwaway beach novel. However I do think it was below average, so I can’t quite bring myself to give it an average rating. If I could assign half points this one would be a 2.5/5. Not awful but not really good either.
TL;DR: Middling to below-average vampire novel.
Sunshine by Robin McKinley
Rating: 2/5 stars
Verdict: If you love the southern vampire (True Blood) books you might find something to like here, otherwise this one is a safe skip.
Next up: The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury