I’ve read and liked Robin McKinley, but somehow I managed to miss this one. Then a bunch of Cannonballers were commenting on another McKinley review that Sunshine was the best vampire book they’d ever read. When I found it at a library book sale, I was super psyched, and I was not disappointed.
Rae Seddon (get it? Rae of Sunshine?) is a baker at a coffee shop. (So many descriptions of baked goods in this book. Drool.) Her stepfather owns the coffee shop, her mother keeps the books, and the regulars are basically family. Rae doesn’t know much about her biological father, but her paternal grandmother taught her some interesting tricks when she was a child. Like, magic tricks. For really real – turning a flower into a feather and back. There are magic-handlers in her family.
In Rae’s world, the Others are out of the closet. Weres, vampires, demons, succubi and incubi, and more. Almost everybody gets along fairly well, except for the vampires. There are special cops assigned to deal with Other issues, and a suspicious number of them hang out at the coffee shop. When Rae disappears for two days and then shows up battered and bloody, claiming she doesn’t remember anything, these cops are all over the mystery.
What Rae can’t tell anybody is that she escaped from the vampires who had kidnapped her, while helping another vampire escape. No human has ever escaped from vampires before, and no human has ever befriended or helped a vampire. But what if Rae…isn’t quite human herself?
Rae, her vampire friend, and the other characters are great, and the world-building is wonderful, but I think my favorite part was the pacing of the book. Rae is a very introspective character, and whenever something new and astounding happens to her, she kind of slows down and processes it for herself (and helpfully, for the reader). She reminisces about her grandmother, she stews over news about vampire gangs, she frets about her semi-boyfriend. Rather than throwing the pacing off by slowing down the action or the story, these interludes really help fill in the background of the world and Rae as a person. Almost all of her deep dives into her thoughts or history bring up a clue or a helpful tidbit, and it all helps put the story together for Rae and the reader. Skillfully, beautifully done.