They took her clothes and sneakers. They dressed her in a long red gown. And they shackled her to the wall of an abandoned mansion -within easy reach of a figure stirring in the moonlight.
She knows that he is a vampire. She knows that she's to be his dinner and that when he is finished with her, she will be dead. Yet, as dawn breaks, she finds that he has not attempted to harm her. And now it is he who needs her to help him survive the day.
©2003 Robin McKinley; (P)2008 Tantor
"A gripping, funny, page-turning, pretty much perfect work of magical literature." (Neil Gaiman, New York Times best-selling author of Anansi Boys)
"McKinley knows very well - and makes her [audience] believe - that 'the insides of our own minds are the scariest things there are.'" (Publishers Weekly Starred Review)
First time reading Robin McKinley. I have heard good things about her, but she struck me as a bit of a fanta-twee author. Anyway, this was on sale at Audible, and I like a good vampire story, so decided to check it out.
First, if I'd known about the romantic undercurrents, I'd have run screaming. Another vampire romance? Oh, hell no.
So this is another book that got to pleasantly surprise me because I didn't know enough to reject it outright.
"Sunshine" (the main character's nickname, and guess what, it's not meaningless) is just an ordinary 20-something slacker who works at a bakery. She decides to go down by the lake one evening, just to get away from it all, and is immediately captured by vampires.
Wait, what? Like, she knows about vampires? Yes. The details of the setting are not dumped on you all at once, or in expository prologues. Instead, we learn things a little at a time. This is not our world. This is an alternate world where magical creatures are real. Demons, weres, genies, angels, leprechauns, phoenixes, dragons, pretty much everything — and vampires.
The world avoids become Harry Potterish or silly because most of those creatures are only mentioned. Vampires are the only ones who figure into the plot. But we also learn that magic is real, and coexists with modern society, and this will become very significant.
So, Sunshine wakes up chained to a wall, with another vampire chained to a wall with her. Obviously she has been caught in the middle of some kind of vampire feud, and she's being dangled in front of the winning gang's captive as a snack. So she knows she's dead, because no one ever escapes from vampires.
And yet she does. And goes on to spend much of the book talking about baking and cinnamon rolls. Which was actually kind of neat, and made me hungry while listening.
This was actually a pretty good story, worldbuilding and vampires and all. The vamps are nasty critters, like vampires should be. Sunshine of course is special, and so is her vampire hottie, but it's a decent tale that seems to subvert a lot of the tropes you'd be expecting in this post-Twilight genre. Sunshine is actually pre-Twilight, which is too bad, since Sunshine, unlike Bella Swan, actually has a personality and does things.
Now, mind you, the book is still half contemporary fantasy/vampire story and half dark-undercurrents-of-hawt-brooding-sexuality between Broody McBiterperson and the ordinary young female protagonist.
Stripping away the unconsummated sexing (the most graphic the book gets is when bad boy Constantine gives our heroine a serious case of blue... ladybits), the story is only okay, the worldbuilding interesting if unexceptional, and the writing decent.
So, this is a nice solid 3.5 star book. Which is pretty darn high for me to rate a vampire romance.
Now, in fairness, it's not so much a romance. Constantine is still a vampire. McKinley does a good job of making him enigmatic and mysterious. It seems he's an "ethical" vampire — the conflict that sparks the plot is between him and a more traditional "master vampire" who's of the pure dark and evil recreational torture and slaughter variety. But does Constantine still kill humans? It's definite that he has in the past, and it's not clear whether he now manages to feed without killing. So he's kind of like Dexter, an improbably moral sociopath who couldn't exist in real life. (I mean, aside from being a vampire...)
But he's sure got more going for him than Edward Cullen.
The target audience for this book is unquestionably the same target audience as Twilight, girls who get hot at the thought of a good-looking but super-dangerous predatory monster who only she in all the world is safe to be with.
However, I repeat: Sunshine actually does stuff. And she bakes a mean cinnamon roll.
Narrator Laural Merlington was at her best narrating Sunshine. She captured Sunshine's emotions, from angry to terrified to frustrated, very well. Unfortunately, for all the male characters and most of the other women, she tended to use the same flat near-monotone.
Robin has created a wonderful and annoying main character in Sunshine. She's not your typical hero (she whines a lot and is extremely reluctant to step out of her simple life). She is a lot like us normal folks who don't want to stretch too much and grow into who we CAN be. Even if you don't like stories that include vampires, this one will surprise you. Very unique and engaging story. Bravo for another triumph for Robin McKinley who is one of the very best writers in the business. Now if she would just give us the sequel for the pegasus book!
I have both the print and audible versions of this book. I am a huge McKinley fan, and wish that more of her books were available on audible. Her skill at world-building is second to none. Definitely a keeper, and each time I read this I notice something new that makes the story even richer.
The story is written from the first person perspective, and Sunshine just starts talking to you like you live in her world an know what she knows. At first it is a little disconcerting, because she makes references to unfamiliar places, people and events. But there's no question from the first chapter that this is her story, and as a result you become really invested in each and every one of her experiences, thoughts and fears...and even come to be amused by her frequent rambling digressions.
Every scene with Con. I wish we'd seen more of him.
Every time Sunshine made a decision that took her further and further into conflict, or further divided her allegiance. That's the mark of a good story--nothing is cut and dry, lack and white.
Sunshine is an old favorite; the kind of book you can read over and over again. I wanted to have it on audio, but the narration turned me off even in the sample. I downloaded it anyway, and am still disappointed in the narration. Admittedly, this is a pretty difficult book to have to narrate! But her voice distracted me from the story, making Sunshine sound kind of whiny and a bit dumb (as other reviewers have mentioned). The vampires' voices just made me laugh--which is not what she was going for, I think. I think Sunshine is really best read in print, not listened to. There's too much you can miss if your mind wanders! I do wish other McKinley audiobooks would appear on Audible!
Audiobooks are great tool in dealing with my ADHD. They limit distractions while listening and I don't have to sit still. PS. I can't spell
Yes, The story was rich and the characters were engaging
Yes, It is a very engaging story that quickly draws the reader in.
The main character Sunshine was my favorite
I felt the ending was aburpt. The ending seemed to be setup for a series but everything I could find suggests there won't be another book
life long beatles/lennon fan
no, the print version is better, for me, and i would rather read it in an ebook edition. i hope that happens soon! however, not being able to
constantine, of course! the mysterious vampire who is an anomaly among vampires: a kind vampire, a vampire who is not evil.
to an extent, not all that well.
it brings chills at some points....
i would like to listen to an audiobook of this book with all the voices more accurately portrayed....i would like voices that sounded more male for the male voices, and a different voice for sunshine.
The actual meat of this story was great; but the filler was horrible! The relationship between Sunshine and Conn was intriguing and should have been further developed. But what really lost me was all the trivial "commentary." I had to listen to this one in double time to get thru it. This really could have been a great story, if it weren't for so much filler. AND, the narrator did NOT match the character at all.
I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book as it was so much different than my normal reads. The author does a great job with the world building of an alternate reality. I really hope she decides to make a sequel to this.
The narrator does a good job although Sunshine is supposed to be in her mid twenties and the narrator sounds like she is in her mid fifties.
I've always enjoyed Robin McKinley's work. This is not my favorite, but Sunshine is still a good read (listen). McKinley creates an interesting world and I think she could have easily extended the concept into a series.
The audiobook narration is good. It doesn't detract from the story. The one flaw is the all too monotone voice of Con...a little bit of inflection, if not emotion would have been nice.
Perhaps it's because I read this book years ago when it was originally published but I feel like the narrator's voice is wrong for it. She made Sunshine sound more whining teen than just a serious young lady. Which is too bad, because I love the story.
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