Sonderbooks Book Review of Sunshine

Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations

cover

****Sunshine

by Robin McKinley

Reviewed October 20, 2003.
Berkley Books, New York, 2003.  389 pages.
A Sonderbooks’ Stand-out of 2003:  #3, Science Fiction and Fantasy

I don’t normally read books about vampires.  I like fantasy, but stories about vampires tend to be darker fantasy than the kind I like.  However, I have called Robin McKinley my favorite living author, so when I heard she had a new book, I ordered it immediately, despite the fact that it is about vampires.

And Robin McKinley didn’t disappoint me.  She makes us examine prejudice in a whole new light by asking:  What if there were such a thing as a good vampire?

Sunshine never heard them coming.  Of course you don’t, when they’re vampires.

This book opens as Sunshine is captured by vampires.  Then she’s taken captive and left to be eaten by another captive, a vampire himself.  Sunshine gains a strange sympathy for this vampire, who is trying to resist giving in to his captors and killing her.

No one has ever escaped from vampires and lived to tell about it.  We aren’t surprised when Sunshine manages it (since otherwise the book would be much shorter than it is), but she does add a surprise to her escape, and her life begins to change.

At first, I thought this was some other world where vampires and demons and magic exists.  Then Robin McKinley disturbed that view by bringing up books that have been written in our world, like Alice in Wonderland and Dracula.  Perhaps it is an alternate universe or perhaps the distant future after the world is devastated by war.

My favorites of Robin McKinley’s books are her books for young adults, like The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown.  This book is definitely for adults and gets earthy in spots.  Since Sunshine, the narrator is from a poor lower-class background, her language borders on vulgar in a couple of spots, but that’s only in a couple of spots and not the general tone of the book.

The ending is very open-ended.  She could definitely write a sequel about all that Sunshine will face after it closes.  However, the main conflict has been resolved.  Sunshine has learned much about herself and her own magical abilities, and she’s also learned that good and evil can hide behind exteriors that look exactly the opposite.

Sunshine is a captivating book that was responsible for my having a very late night and another day late to work as I simply had to finish it.  If you haven’t read any Robin McKinley books, I probably wouldn’t recommend starting with this one, since it is quite different from the rest.  All the same, this is a powerful, mesmerizing book that looks at vampires in a whole new light.

Reviews of other books by Robin McKinley:
Chalice
The Hero and the Crown
The Blue Sword
Pegasus
Shadows
Water
Fire

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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