Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Book Review: Sunshine, by Robin McKinley

One night Rae feels like she needs to get away from everyone, including her family and boyfriend, and have some space to think, so she goes out for a drive by the lake. There she is kidnapped by a group of vampires. They take her to a heavily guarded house by the lake and put her in a room with another vampire, who is chained to the wall, yet able to reach her. Rae is clearly meant to be food, so she is surprised when the vampire doesn't devour her immediately, and instead asks her to talk to him. But he isn't like other vampires, and, it turns out, Rae isn't like other humans either.
Sunshine is a very strange book to review. I enjoyed it immensely but was also really annoyed by it! The plot is quite an unusual one as the bulk of the story takes place after Rae escapes the vampires and explores the effect this has on her life. Though she claims that she can't remember anything, and tries to convince herself that life will continue as normal, supernatural law enforcement officials that she has known all her life start turning their attention to her, eager to find out what happened that night. Her mother starts leaving protection charms around. And the vampire that she was held prisoner with hasn't disappeared either.

There's a lot of detail in this book. Rae goes off on a lot of tangents, which some readers don't like, but I loved it. I really enjoyed all the different elements that were brought into the story. The world building and characterisation was excellent and I was desperate to find out what Rae would do and what would be revealed about each character in the end.

And then it just stops.

And not in the first-book-in-a-series cliffhanger kind of way.

At The End of the story, almost nothing has been explained, let alone resolved. The one major relationship has developed, but that's it.

It's extremely frustrating. It seems like there is so much interesting material left to explore, but to the author, the most interesting part, that relationship, has developed, so that's the end of the book. To her it's a love story, but to me, it could have been a lot of other things as well. It could have been an epic about the end of the world. It could have been the best urban fantasy series I'd ever had the privilege of reading.

I respect the right of the author, who is extremely talented, to tell the story she wants to tell. But at the same time I can emphasise with all those people who find Sunshine annoyingly long-winded. I loved the detail, but when most of it turns out to have no bearing on the ending, it seems unnecessary. 

Would I recommend Sunshine? Yes, if you love urban fantasy and like vampires to be properly terrifying, and if you want to see some really interesting ideas, or if you enjoy reading about unusual romantic relationships. But if you like to have mysteries explained, don't get your hopes up about the ending.

I would more broadly recommend Robin McKinley's Spindle's End, which is also full of interesting characters but has a much tighter ending. I've also read Beauty, which is extremely popular, but I didn't like it as much as Spindle's End.

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