Sunshine by Robin McKinley
Mental note: no matter how good a book is, and how cold you are, do not spend six hours on a hard as nuts wooden chair just because it is next to the heater. You'll pay for it, oh boy will you pay for it.
I first encountered Sunshine through Mabs, who said quite truthfully that it would leave me with a craving for cinnamon rolls, and that it was wuuuuuunderful. That's how he said it, "wUUUUUUUUNderful" packed with glee.
I popped out the end of the book and thought, "That was wUUUUUUUUUNderful, and NOW I WANT CAKE."
Alas, there was no cake.
Sunshine is a twenty-something year old baker, who works horrendous hours at her family coffee shop. Horrendous hours. It's a good thing she loves her job, the shop, and the people there, and it sounds like she does her job very well. I can't help but wonder exactly what Bitter Chocolate Death tastes like, or the Death of Marat for that matter.
As the story progresses, the layers of normality slowly peel back, and what I had originally thought was this world I sit in, turns out to contain large differences. Primarily the existence of the Others; vampires, weres, demons, angels and the like. That said, they're treated with normality, they're just a fact of life.
Until some vampires get their paws on Sunshine, and her life does what the lives of young and gifted heroines do in these sorts of stories. They get busy.
Intially, my inner editor had a screaming fit when I first started chewing on this book. I don't mind first person narratives, but this was so heavily entrenched in voice, in the speaking voice at that, that sentence structure was an optional extra. Oh, you can hear my hackles raise. On top of that, apparently commas are an endangered species, and we can't use them or we will run out. Forever. These two issues combined together meant that there was at least one sentence a paragraph that I had to read more than once, simply to figure out what was being said. As much as I grew quite fond of the individuality of Sunshine's voice, that isn't cool. I shouldn't get to a point in any book where I skim over any sentence that doesn't make immediate sence and hope it wasn't important. I reached that point pretty early on.
Something as basic as word arrangement is pretty hard to get by, so the story must have rockethed muchly for me to soldier on quite as fanatically as I did. There was a large amount of empathy with Sunshine. Although I'm hardly from an important family and have no amazing talents, I recognised her mindset as being very similar to where I am now. A strong sense of being terratorial.
The Other were fascinating, as all things mysteries tend to be. It was interesting to see the impact on society such beings had, and how predictable society's reactions are. The vampires, however, were somewhat lacking. Constantine was quite enthralling, a well drawn vampire as far as vampires go. I think he's what we wish all creatures of the dark were; scary, but essentially honourable good people deep down. Ahem. But the rest? It didn't feel as though anything new had been tried with them at all. The arch-antagonist, Bo, was one of the most Evil For Evil's Sake villains I've come across in a long time. What his motivations and intentions were, I have no idea. He wasn't a character at all, he was merely a decidedly uninteresting and thus unthreatening plot device. Unthreatening antagonists aren't good things to have.
The final confrontation left a lot to be desired. Unclear, blurry, no real idea exactly what was going on, or where for that matter. I hazard a guess that this is primarily to do with riding in Sunshine's head - she probably had as little idea as the rest of us - but it was very unsatisfying for me. It felt as though McKinley wanted to do horror, lots of dripping splashing splatting horror, and coudln't quite bring herself to. The violence was extreme, but only implied.
But mostly, I think what really glued me to the book was love. The book is packed to the gills with it. I don't mean romantic love, I mean people who look out for each other, take care of each other, give each other muffins fresh out of the oven. It's a wUNderful, warm and embracing book.
Bit like sunshine.
Verdict: a really nice read, with some fantastic URST and brilliant baking goods. Definitely worth hunting out, especially if your inner editor isn't as anal retentive as mine.