Review – Sunshine

Posted August 5, 2016 by Nicky in Reviews / 1 Comment

Cover of Sunshine by Robin McKinleySunshine, Robin McKinley

Originally reviewed 1st May, 2009

Sunshine was a reread, but it’s been a while and some things were a surprise to me all over again. I was worried it wouldn’t stand up to a reread: I skimmed a couple of other reviews and saw that people had some pretty negative things to say about it. And I certainly saw the truth in the things that were said, but I also enjoyed reading the book again. It helps that it’s an incredibly rich experience. The writing appeals a lot to my synaesthesia. It’s pretty sensual writing as it is: there’s a lot of detail, a lot of talk about cooking, and also a lot of feeling. Descriptions of sight and smell and hearing.

The whole book is written in first person POV. The main character is Sunshine, and she’s “not your average heroine”, as they say. She has no ambition, she’s not all that smart, she’s not that brave, and she’d quite happily live in her bakery all her life. Some people find her hard to like, but I think she’s quite human and although she does get a lot of power, eventually able to kill vampires with her bare hands, she doesn’t want it and she’s scared of it. I find the writing interesting and absorbing, but I’m sure for some people it’s too rambling and/or dense. It does take her an awful long time to do something as simple as log onto the internet equivalent.

The book is set in a post-apocalyptic world where magic, vampires, demons and succubi — to name a few — exist. All those kinds of things are for real. This could be ‘our world in the future’ given the references to Bram Stoker, or an alternate reality. It’s never made exactly clear, but I suspect the latter because of the slang words the characters use — “carthaginian hell”, “spartan”, “sheer”. I like that there’s no explanation of the slang, given that the book is narrated by someone who is a part of that world. You just don’t really think about that kind of thing in normal life: why would you? Sometimes Sunshine explains things that shouldn’t need explaining, like how to kill vampires, but you can’t avoid doing exposition entirely!

The thing that really impresses me about this is that the vampires aren’t overly sexualised, and while Constantine is still an ally, he remains unsettling. Okay, there are a couple of scenes in which Sunshine has chemistry with him, but she’s also more often than not aware that there’s something vastly different about him. He moves differently, he looks different, there’s no heartbeat… I like the way it ends on an awkward note, with them not quite sure what’s going to happen now but not wanting to lose contact with each other.

A lot of the more minor characters are completely fascinating and have big backstories that we clearly barely glimpse — Mel, Yolande, Sunshine’s grandmother, the goddess of pain, the SOFs in general… There’s a lot to work with in this world, and I’d really love to see a sequel.

My main problem with this book is how it made me crave cinnamon rolls. Argh!

Rating: 5/5

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