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Sunday, April 13, 2008


Author: Robin McKinley
Rating 2.5/5
Reason for Reading: Once Upon a Time Challenge, Mythopoeic Award Challenge

Sunshine lives a normal life in a normal city. She spends most of her time at the family cafe baking cinnamon rolls and creating new recipes. One night she drives out to the lake, where her normal life takes a sudden turn.

"I never heard them coming. Of course you don't, when they're vampires."

She is taken to a lake house and chained up in the ballroom next to another vampire. Certain she will never see the light of day again, she is shocked when she sees that he is chained to the wall as well.

He tells her: "Speak. Remind me that you are a rational creature."

Frightened beyond belief, she obeys. When he doesn't harm her after a full day together, she plans an escape attempt, and impulsively includes him. Once back to her real life, she struggles to reconcile her act of compassion to Con, the vampire, with the fact that humans are mortal enemies of vampires.

I've posted before about my love-hate relationship with McKinley's works. You can read my full sob story here, but to sum it up, some of her books rank in my top all-time favorites, but a few others have really disappointed me. So for my reading challenges, I decided to try one more of McKinley's works to see I could fall in love all over again. I was very excited at first about this book, because it started off solidly with an interesting premise. Sunshine is a smart, feisty character, and the development of the relationship between her and the vampire was very fascinating. The world Sunshine lives in is practically identical to our own except for the fact that vampire, demons, angels, pixies, and other fantastic creatures share it.

I was really hoping the rest of the book would include more action and adventure, but instead, it spent a lot of time giving us Sunshine's long, rambling thoughts, revealing details about the extensive cast of supporting characters, and building up to a conclusion that I thought left too many loose ends. I personally wanted to know more about Con, the vampire, because he was the most interesting character in the book. I thought there were too many characters, and I kept getting them confused. In addition, Sunshine had so many metaphysical revelations about the people, objects and relationships in her life that took pages to explain that I lost track of the storyline at some points.

Other fans of McKinley's work or of the vampire genre might disagree with my criticisms and find this book enjoyable.


Chris said...

I haven't read any McKinley before and I really need to remedy that! People have been reading more and more of her stuff lately it seems. This one sounds like it has a really cool's too bad that it fell short for you :(

Andi said...

An in-the-flesh (sounds so much better than "real life") friend of mine really enjoyed this one, but I've never had too much urge to pick it up. I've never read any McKinley, in fact. Hmm. I surprise myself with the things I haven't read sometimes. Wasn't there one about Beauty and the Beast? Just title "Beauty" maybe? Or am I thinking of another author?

Rhinoa said...

I hope to read Beauty this year which will be my first book by McKinley and I am looking forward to it. I like vampires and will see how I like Beauty before giving this a go. I am sorry you were let down by it.

Nymeth said...

Having this kind of love-hate relationship with an author sounds so incredibly never know what to expected. I haven't read this one, but it's too bad it let you down.

Susan said...

I loved Sunshine! Though you're right in that the slowest bits were in her head, and oh yes, I wanted much much more of Con, the parts I loved best were her baking (my brother works in a bakery so I could relate to this part) and how the vampires moved - that was creepy, and very well-done and thought out. I really enjoyed this book. But hardly anyone I know did, so you're not alone....I am!! I hope you give some of her other books a try (they are not horror but fantasy), she really is good and one of my favourite authors.

Kim L said...

chris-yeah she has got some really great books. Try The Blue Sword. Awesome, awesome book.

andi-She did write Beauty, which is one of her really good ones. I highly recommend it.

rhinoa-Oh I bet you will love Beauty. It is a really awesome book. If you like vampires, maybe you'll like this book more than I did!

nymeth-it is frustrating, because I want to like her books since there were those few that I really liked. Sigh.

susan-I do like Beauty and The Blue Sword by her. Great books! I agree with you, those parts you described were my favorite parts. I liked the description of baking, and yeah, the vampires were kind of awesome.

Debi said...

Sorry, this one let you down! Sounds like it really could have been a great story if written a bit differently, huh? Next up on my pile is Beauty...and if I remember correctly, you really liked that one, right?

Kim L said...

debi-I loved, loved, loved Beauty, and I hope you love it too. And yes, I think Sunshine could have been better if certain things had been done slightly differently. It was a really great premise.

Meiran said...

I felt very similarly about this book! There were so many times that after she would finish going on about something (So Mel has tattoos...and?) that when the plot resumed I couldn't remember what they were talking about.

It reminds me of some of the things I've been reading in Ebert's Bigger Little Movie Glossary, like the Law of Economy of Characters: if a character appears they are important to the plot, and if they don't appear to be they are the killer.

McKinley really loses sight of that sometimes. She throws in characters who never really amount to anything. There's more room for that in books than films, but really.