Author: Robin McKinley
Publisher: Berkley/Jove Hardback October 2003, Paperback December 2004

I saw this was out a while ago, but forced myself to wait for paperback. It was entirely worth the wait.

Robin McKinley is one of those few, great authors that I love to read who only grows better with age, and whose every work is a blessing to read.

So be blessed, and read this. In any case.

Sunshine is a vampire novel, and certainly falls within the bounds of urban fantasy. It's the kind of book that is why you originally read the Anita Blake books, before the sex took over. It's why you love to read books by Emma Bull, like War For The Oaks or Finder. It's the kind of book that makes you remember when this sort of thing was original, and everybody wasn't doing it, and when you could read this sort of thing and go "wow" and want more.

Of course, McKinley has only done one sequel so far, and it was actually a prequel, so we're unlikely to see it. But I can hope for that, along with a book entirely about Luthe.

McKinley doesn't generally do modern age books. The most technological of any of her books previously was The Blue Sword, which was really only victorian era, with guns and trains in the background, but mostly swords and sorcery to the fore. But she does it extremely well when she does. This is also the, wait, this is the second book she's done that is in first person perspective. It makes me want more. But then, the whole book does.

Enough of the pining, eh? Sunshine is a book about a baker (much after my own heart) who has grown up with a life of extreme normalcy, and expresses herself mostly through 'cinammon rolls the size of your head' and other wonders of baking goodness. I need the recipe book from this novel. One day out of a need to get away from everybody, she goes out to the lake, where her family used to spend summers, and is promptly kidnapped by vampires and left as food for a strange member of their species, who is chained to the wall in a ballroom. Here Sunshine (our protagonist) a. remembers that one side of her family, the forgotten side, were magicians, b. learns that not all vampires are evil, and c. finds that she can be a great deal more than she ever believed possible of herself.

The novel has entirely its own mythos of vampires and magic, and does them well and believably. You don't (or at least I didn't) spend a lot of time comparing the vampires to other novels, or the magicians, or what have you. It's done neatly enough that you just accept it and move on...but that's one of the great things about McKinley's style, you're happy to be along for the ride, and are assured of a great experience, which is entirely delivered.

A word of warning: This book is billed repeatedly as being like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but that would generally lead you to expect ass kicking, lots of spiffy one-liners, and general post-modernistic fluff. It ain't there. Mind you, you'd also expect the sarcasm and one-liners from the comparisons to Anita Blake. Once again. There also isn't a red-headed occult hacker in the background...unless you count the main character, and she surfs more than hacks. Which all goes to say, don't let your expectations ruin your enjoyment.

Buy this book. Buy it for a friend and read it first. But as with everything else of quality, this is the sort of thing that makes the genre worthwhile, rather than trashy, the sort of gem that quietly finds its way into the hands of those who need it and warms their hearts.

Not a horror novel, not truly. Far more the urban fantasy. But definitely its own novel, its own voice. Please share it with me.