Sunshine by Robin McKinley
Sunshine is an Urban Fantasy that focuses on Rae (AKA Sunshine), a pastry chef/baker for a family run café. Told from her point-of-view, we don’t learn her name until we’re well into the book, and only get a barest hint of her appearance much, much later on. The blurb is somewhat misleading, the way it is written so very different to the style used, it seems to target the wrong crowd.
Those familiar with McKinley’s work will know how to handle her style. Those who don’t – ah. It is gloriously different. Very meandering, very info-heavy, very internal. Sunshine (the character) has a brain and enjoys thinking about EVERYTHING. It was once my most favourite book.
It’s been a while since I had the will, the energy, to pick up a book and get through it. Since finishing The Magician’s Guild I have picked up quite a few different novels, but I kept getting bored and put them down, and lost the energy to read on. It might be because I have been getting more satisfaction from reading fanfic lately, or it could just be another sign of how lazy I truly am (I have been re-listening to the audio-recording of the Harry Potter series) that just moving my eyeballs became too much exercise to manage.
For whatever reason, it has been exactly a month between finishing novels. I have been experiencing a certain lacklustre to published and mass acclaimed books. I had attempted to read The Book Thief prior to Sunshine but I didn’t understand why a Death entity/narrator would be interested in the main character, as I found her excruciatingly dull. I had all sorts of hopes and expectations.
I also got rid of quite a lot of books earlier this month. My Wind Singer series, His Dark Materials, The Edge Chronicles in its glorious, hardback entirety, the last four or five never read. Several other books that had somehow squirmed out of being thrift’d as soon as I read the first page – gifts for the most part that had lived quiet, shameful lives on the bottom shelf, holiday picks that seemed to be okay in the over hot tourist traps yet turned out to have hidden (or not so hidden) clichés, and an odd smattering of literary flotsam that seems to collect in my home – enough books to carve a tree out of, yet not so many to make a dint in my collection.
I love books. I’m addicted to all forms of fiction. Yet… over the years, ever since I started to truly appreciate the power and freedom books could grant, I’ve been feeling an itch. A craving.
A need for something that is just not there.
Once, Sunshine relieved that itch. Oh, in the multitudes of sappy romantic quagmire that had become Urban Fantasy, it was just perfect. Almost. Close enough to it to make me not give up on the genre entirely.
I don’t remember when I first picked it up. My copy is very much dogeared, crumpled and water damaged, more so than nearly any other book in my collection. I’ve not even owned it for ten years.
An old favourite. I feel it no longer makes the cut of ‘most favourite’ after this re-reading. I still adore it and McKinley’s unique style, but damnit all so little actually happens. It’s not over 500 pages long but as a physically large book I feel it is more padding than plot.
Of course, as soon as write that I thinh, ‘Really, it’s not an action.’ It’s a slice-of-life, even thought it’s a slice taken at the very crux of Sunshine’s magical awakening (can you come-of-age at twenty-five? Traditionally ten years too late but it holds that same feel) but full to the brim of homely detail.
All that detail draws some deep, delicious characters you can just sink into. No one is two-dimensional, with the exception of Bo who is the bad-guy and is literally made of evil. Sunshine is, yes, as is typical of Urban Fantasy, high-powered and kickass, but without being arrogant or matter-of-fact about it. She not only yearns to be normal, she is normal, the book showing her struggle to keep her power from interfering with her existence. Unfortunately, after using it to act as a parasol for the vampire, Con, at the start of the novel, the Big Bad is really curious about her.
My favourite characters have got to be Con and Mel. Con is like an ugly Mr Darcy (seriously, he’s ugly as sin) and Mel is a stoic motorbiking sorcerer (okay, the last part is speculation). It is such a treat to read them, and Sunshine’s thoughts about them. I also loved the slow-building relationship between Con and Sunshine. From desperation and mutual disgust at the start, through almost grudging respect, to the utter freak out after the ten second thing between them, to the very, very sweet (non-sexual) relationship they have at the end. It’s done with such a hesitant grace it’s perfect.
And then, oh, the world-building. Just – yes. So very, very yes. A world where magic and science twine and warp, where humans and ‘demons’ live side-by-side and try to stave off the threat of vampires. Vampires who are not just humans with an unfortunate diet.
Aside from the lack of action (or, rather, the large gaps between the action), I’m always petulantly miserable about the lack of sex. Oh, she has it. She just doesn’t think for very long about it. And as the reader is trapped inside Sunshine’s brain for the entirety of the novel, it really isn’t very satisfactory.
I’m trying to think exactly why Sunshine is no longer in my favourites. I think I have simply bored of Urban Fantasy. The idea saddens me as was the genre that first showed me how to drown myself in words, first with Harry Potter, then with LJ Smith’s pre-Twilight Twilight, Vampire Diaries (not as bad but only by virtue that they were shorter) and on to the Anita Blake books that led me to Role-Play, Mnem, and, consequently, E.
Reading Sunshine feels like saying goodbye. I’ve passed being titillated by night-stalking fanged fiends, I’m beyond the thrills of prey-vs-predator. I don’t think there could be a better out-tro. It’s not a forever goodbye, more like a moving-far-away-and-will-see-you-on-special-occasions goodbye.
Of course, it could be just that I hate Halloween and will fully resubmerge myself once the local chavs take out their fake fangs.
Overall: 7.5/10 Author's website