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There hadn't been any trouble out at the lake for years, and Sunshine just needed a spot where she could be alone with her thoughts.

Vampires never entered her mind. Until they found her.

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There hadn't been any trouble out at the lake for years, and Sunshine just needed a spot where she could be alone with her thoughts.

Vampires never entered her mind. Until they found her.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Fans of Laurell K. Hamilton's sexy vampire executioner, Anita Blake, are going to devour Robin McKinley's Sunshine, which revolves around the tenuous relationship between Rae "Sunshine" Seddon, a baker obsessed with the dark side, and a centuries-old vampire named Constantine.

Sunshine's mundane existence as the head baker at Charlie's Coffeehouse takes an unexpected turn when she drives to her grandmother's secluded summer camp. While she is taking in the scenic view of the starlit sky reflecting off the lake's calm surface, she is attacked by a gang of vampires and brought to an abandoned mansion on the far side of the lake. They strip her of her shoes, dress her in a blood-red gown, and shackle her to a wall. In the semi-darkness of the moonlit room, she realizes that a vampire is shackled next to her. After some tense moments, the two begin to talk and quickly conclude that if they don't help each other escape, they're both as good as dead…

Sunshine is a dramatic departure for McKinley, who is best known for revisionist folklore works like The Door in the Hedge and The Outlaws of Sherwood, as well as highly acclaimed young adult fantasy like The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown, which won a Newbery Award in 1985. Sunshine, however, is definitely not a young adult novel: It's dark, edgy, sensual, humorous -- and a whole lot of fun. Paul Goat Allen

Publishers Weekly
Buffyesque baker Rae "Sunshine" Seddon meets Count Dracula's hunky Byronic cousin in Newbery-Award-winner McKinley's first adult-and-then-some romp through the darkling streets of a spooky post-Voodoo Wars world. Now that human cities have been decimated, the vampiric elite holds one-fifth of the world's capital, threatening to control all the earth in less than 100 years, unless human SOFs (Special Other Forces) can hold them at bay by recruiting Sunshine, daughter of legendary sorcerer Onyx Blaise. As breathlessly narrated by Sunshine herself, the Cinnamon Roll Queen of Charlie's Coffeehouse, in the inchoate idiom of Britney, J. Lo and the Spice Girls, Sunshine's coming-of-magical-age launches when she is swarmed by noiseless vampires one night and chained in a decrepit ballroom as an entr e for mysterious, magnetic, half-starved Constantine, a powerful vampire whose mortal enemy Bo (short for Beauregard) shackled him there to perish slowly from daylight and deprivation. Most of the charm of this long venture into magic maturation derives from McKinley's keen ear and sensitive atmospherics, deft characterizations and clever juxtapositions of reality and the supernatural that might, just might, be lurking out there in "bad spots" right around a creepy urban corner or next to a deserted lake cabin. McKinley knows very well-and makes her readers believe-that "the insides of our own minds are the scariest things there are." (Oct. 7) Forecast: The 21st-century girl chatter juxtaposed with the book's 19th-century brooding hero should help turn out the Buffy crowd in droves on the national author tour. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
San Francisco Chronicle
A smart, funny tale of suspense and romance.
Time Out
Sunshine takes everything we have always known about the menacing eroticism of pale men with sharp teeth, and throws it up into the air.
Orlando Sentinel
McKinley [balances] the dark drama with light touches of humor. Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will feel at home, but McKinley's novel has its own originality and depth.
Kansas City Star
A good book with some nice little twists on the magic theme.
Rocky Mountain News
Well-written and exciting.
McKinley takes a giant step away from her usual fairy tale fantasy in this dark urban horror/fantasy novel. The eponymously nicknamed heroine lives in a world where vampires wage war on humans and the nice boy next door or cop on the beat just might have a little bit of demon or were-animal in him. Still, the vampires carry the greatest risk, as Sunshine learns when she visits her parents' old lakeside cabin in an attempt to have some time to herself. A vampire gang scoops her up and leaves her as an offering for Constantine, an imprisoned vampire. Rather than kill her, the vampire asks her to talk to him and to keep him sane. She calls up magic power from deep within her that not only allows her to free both of them but also shield Constantine from the sun. As she begins to understand her legacy as the daughter of the powerful sorcerer Oryx Blaise, she allies herself with Constantine in a partnership beyond the comprehension of everyone around her. Well, almost everyone. McKinley's first-person narrative is smooth, even when the action's most pell-mell, and for the most part the characters are well developed, although some leave the reader wanting more. In a few spots, usually where Sunshine and Constantine are making their way somewhere, the pace drags a bit, but otherwise the plot flows well with some nice twists along the way. Sunshine is dark enough for diehard vampire fans but with enough of a fairy tale flair to satisfy fantasy fans. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, Penguin, Berkley, Jove, 405p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Donna Scanlon
Kirkus Reviews
Mild-mannered vampire fantasy from Britisher McKinley, author of whimsical, rather talky rewrites of classic fairytales for young adults. The lurid copy and cover art of this American edition of McKinley's first for grownups (inaccurately described as "A Mesmerizing Novel of Supernatural Desire") are wildly at odds with the story itself: Sunshine, a cheerful chatterbox with a touch of magic in her soul, is very much at home in a near-future that's as cozy as can be, though inhabited by various Other Folk, including werewolves, Supergreens (ecology-minded supernatural beings of ordinary mien), assorted demons, sprites, and fallen angels. It's considered pretty cool to be a fallen angel, but the global council has decreed that Weres must take drugs to control their more beastly behavior, and being a vampire is technically illegal. Yet, after the Voodoo Wars, they all seem to get along well enough. Sunshine makes cinnamon buns for Charlie's Coffeehouse, and her mother (married to Charlie after a difficult divorce from Sunshine's dad) handles the administrative side of things. (Yes, Mum is Mom, and they serve coffee, not tea, but most of the details are recognizably British.) Sunshine is both intrigued and repelled by vampires, so when one abducts her and chains her up in a spooky mansion, she doesn't know what to think. But her vampire, Con, seems not too terribly bloodthirsty and even genuinely interested in a Creature of the Daylight, so Sunshine explains the coffeehouse routine once more, then tells him a fairytale, and, lo and behold, by morning she's escaped her shackles and lived to tell the story-several times (though McKinley has a light touch, everything seems to get repeated, toall and sundry). Will this mortal but magical girl betray the vampire she's befriended to government agents? An intriguing mix of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter-ish characterization. Mostly for teenagers who don't trip over words like "eschatology," and maybe some older fantasy devotees as well. Author tour
From the Publisher
"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
Children's Literature - Justina Engebretson
Kidnapped by vampires! Raised the daughter of a coffee house owner, but secretly the daughter of one the most powerful sorcerers! This is the story of Raven Blaise, or Sunshine, a young woman in her mid twenties who to most of the world appears to be just an ordinary cinnamon role maker but secretly to a select few she is known as the powerful sorcerer she truly is. Sunshine along with the rest of the world has co-existed in a universe with other supernatural beings, though no one ever really knows for sure just who is who or what. Vampires are the ones who possess the greatest threat and one day Sunshine experiences this threat first hand when she is kidnapped by vampires and chained up next to a vampire. Yet, all she thought she knew about vampires is tested when she meets Con, the vampire she finds herself chained beside. Brought together by forces not their own, these two must bring their powers together to defeat the dark enemy. This book appears to be written for adults, though it most likely will appeal to young adults, particularly girls and those who are fans of vampire tales. However, there are a few explicit sexual descriptions that seem highly inappropriate for young teenagers. There are also several swear words. McKinley does well building suspense with each page, while revealing more and more of the mystery; however, on a negative note there are a few questions left unanswered. For example, it is unclear what the relationship between Con and Sunshine is throughout the story and this is still left for the reader's own interpretation at the end. Reviewer: Justina Engebretson
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780515138818
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/28/2004
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 163,074
  • Product dimensions: 4.13 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 1.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Laural Merlington has recorded well over one hundred audiobooks, including works by Margaret Atwood and Alice Hoffman, and is the recipient of several AudioFile Earphones Awards. An Audie Award nominee, she has also directed over one hundred audiobooks.
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Read an Excerpt


Part One

It was a dumb thing to do but it wasn't that dumb. There hadn't been any trouble out at the lake in years. And it was so exquisitely far from the rest of my life.

Monday evening is our movie evening because we are celebrating having lived through another week. Sunday night we lock up at eleven or midnight and crawl home to die, and Monday (barring a few national holidays) is our day off. Ruby comes in on Mondays with her warrior cohort and attacks the coffeehouse with an assortment of high-tech blasting gear that would whack Godzilla into submission: those single-track military minds never think to ask their cleaning staff for help in giant lethal marauding creature matters. Thanks to Ruby, Charlie's Coffeehouse is probably the only place in Old Town where you are safe from the local cockroaches, which are approximately the size of chipmunks. You can hear them clicking when they canter across the cobblestones outside.

We'd begun the tradition of Monday evening movies seven years ago when I started slouching out of bed at four a.m. to get the bread going. Our first customers arrive at six-thirty and they want our Cinnamon Rolls as Big as Your Head and I am the one who makes them. I put the dough on to rise overnight and it is huge and puffy and waiting when I get there at four-thirty. By the time Charlie arrives at six to brew coffee and open the till (and, most of the year, start dragging the outdoor tables down the alley and out to the front), you can smell them baking. One of Ruby's lesser minions arrives at about five (except on Tuesdays, when the coffeehouse is gleaming and I am giving myself tendonitis trying to persuade stiff, surly, thirty-hour-refrigerated dough that it's time to loosen up) for the daily sweep- and mop-up. Ruby told me she has to have a strict rota system for this job. Everyone wants it, in spite of the time of day, because they get a cup of Charlie's coffee and a Charlie's cinnamon roll at the end of it.

Charlie is one of the big good guys in my universe. He gave me enough of a raise when I finished school (high school diploma by the skin of my teeth and the kindly intercession of my subversive English teacher) and began working for him full time that I could afford my own place, and, even more important, he talked Mom into letting me have it. But getting up at four a.m. six days a week does put a cramp on your social life (although as Mom pointed out every time she was in a bad mood, if I still lived at home I could get up at four-twenty). At first Monday evening was just us, Mom and Charlie and Billy and Kenny and me, and sometimes one or two of the stalwarts from the coffeehouse. But over the years Monday evenings had evolved, and now it was pretty much any of the coffeehouse staff who wanted to turn up, plus a few of the customers who had become friends. (As Billy and Kenny got older the standard of movies improved too. The first Monday evening that featured a movie that wasn't rated "suitable for all ages" we opened a bottle of champagne.)

Charlie, who doesn't know how to sit still and likes do-it-yourselfing at home on his days off, had gradually knocked most of the walls down on the ground floor, so the increasing mob could mill around comfortably. But that was just it - my entire life existed in relation to the coffeehouse. My only friends were staff and regulars. I started seeing Mel because he was single and not bad-looking and the weekday assistant cook at the coffeehouse, with that interesting bad-boy aura from driving a motorcycle and having a few too many tattoos, and no known serious drawbacks. (Baz had been single and not bad-looking too, but there'd always been something a little off about him, which resolved itself when Charlie found him with his hand in the till.) I was happy as far as that goes. I was happy in the bakery. I just sometimes felt when I got out of it I would like to get a little farther out.

Mom had been in one of her bad moods that particular week, sharp and short with everyone but the customers, not that she saw them much any more, she was in the office doing the paperwork and giving hell to any of our suppliers who didn't behave. I'd been having car trouble and was complaining about the garage bill to anyone who'd listen. No doubt Mom heard the story more than once, but then I heard her weekly stories about her hairdresser more than once too (she and Mary and Liz all used Lina, I think so they could get together after and discuss her love life, which was pretty fascinating). But Sunday evening she overheard me telling Kyoko, who had been out sick and was catching up after five days away, and Mom lost it. She shouted that if I lived at home I wouldn't need a car at all, and she was worried about me because I looked tired all the time, and when was I going to stop dreaming my life away and marry Mel and have some kids? Supposing that Mel and I wanted to get married, which hadn't been discussed. I wondered how Mom would take the appearance at the wedding of the remnants of Mel's old motorcycle gang - which is to say the ones that were still alive - with their hair and their Rocs and Griffins (even Mel still had an old Griffin for special occasions, although it hemorrhaged oil) and their attitude problems. They never showed up in force at the coffeehouse, but she'd notice them at the kind of wedding she'd expect me to have.

The obvious answer to the question of children was, who was going to look after the baby while I got up at four a.m. to make cinnamon rolls? Mel worked as appalling hours as I did, especially since he'd been promoted to head cook when Charlie had been forced - by a mutiny of all hands - to accept that he could either delegate something or drop dead of exhaustion. So househusbandry wasn't the answer. But in fact I knew my family would have got round this. When one of our waitresses got pregnant and the boyfriend left town and her own family threw her out, Mom and Charlie took her in and we all babysat in shifts, in and out of the coffeehouse. (We'd only just got rid of Mom's sister Evie and her four kids, who'd stayed for almost two years, and one mom and one baby seemed like pie in the sky in comparison. Especially after Evie, who is professionally helpless.) Barry was in second grade now, and Emmy was married to Henry. Henry was one of our regulars, and Emmy still waitressed for us. The coffeehouse is like that. I liked living alone. I liked the silence. Nothing moving but me. I lived upstairs in a big old ex-farmhouse at the edge of a federal park, with my landlady on the ground floor. When I'd gone round to look at the place the old lady - very tall, very straight, and a level stare that went right through you - had looked at me and said she didn't like renting to Young People (she said this like you might say Dog Vomit) because they kept bad hours and made noise. I liked her immediately. I explained humbly that indeed I did keep bad hours because I had to get up at four a.m. to make cinnamon rolls for Charlie's Coffeehouse, whereupon she stopped scowling magisterially and invited me in.

It had taken three months after graduation for Mom to begin to consider my moving out, and that was with Charlie working on her. I was still reading the apartments-for-rent ads in the paper surreptitiously and making the phone calls when Mom was out of earshot. Most of them in my price range were dire. This apartment, up on the third floor at the barn end of the long rambling house, was perfect, and the old lady must have seen I meant it when I said so. I could feel my face light up when she opened the door at the top of the second flight of stairs, and the sun seemed to pour in from every direction. The living room balcony, cut down from the old hayloft platform but now overlooking the garden, still has no curtains.

By the time we signed the lease my future landlady and I were on our way to becoming fast friends, if you can be fast friends with someone who merely by the way she carries herself makes you feel like a troll. Maybe I was just curious: there was so obviously some mystery about her; even her name was odd. I wrote the check to Miss Yolande. No Smith or Jones or Fitzalan-Howard or anything. Just Miss Yolande. But she was always pleasant to me, and she wasn't wholly without human weakness: I brought her stuff from the coffeehouse and she ate it. I have that dominant feed-people gene which I think you have to have to survive in the small-restaurant business. You sure aren't doing it for the money or the hours. At first it was now and then - I didn't want her to notice I was trying to feed her up - but she was always so pleased it got to be a regular thing. Whereupon she lowered the rent - which I have to admit was a godssend, since by then I'd found out what running a car was going to cost - and told me to lose the "Miss".

Yolande had said soon after I moved in that I was welcome in the garden any time I liked too, it was just her and me (and the peanut-butter-baited electric deer fence), and occasionally her niece and the niece's three little girls. The little girls and I got along because they were good eaters and they thought it was the most exciting thing in the world to come in to the coffeehouse and be allowed behind the counter. Well, I could remember what that felt like, when Mom was first working for Charlie. But that's the coffeehouse in action again: it tends to sweep out and engulf people. I think only Yolande has ever held out against this irresistible force, but then I do bring her white bakery bags almost every day.

Usually I could let Mom's temper roll off me. But there'd been too much of it lately. Coffeehouse disasters are often hardest on Mom, because she does the money and the admin, and for example actually follows up people's references when they apply for jobs which Charlie never bothers with, but she isn't one for bearing trials quietly. That spring there'd been expensive repairs when it turned out the roof had been leaking for months and a whole corner of the ceiling in the main kitchen fell down one afternoon, one of our baking-goods suppliers went bust and we hadn't found another one we liked as well, and two of our wait staff and another one of the kitchen staff quit without warning. Plus Kenny had entered high school the previous autumn and he was goofing off and getting high instead of studying. He wasn't goofing off and getting high any more than I had done, but he had no gift for keeping a low profile. He was also very bright - both my half brothers were - and Mom and Charlie had high hopes for them. I'd always suspected that Charlie had pulled me off waitressing, which had bored me silly, and given me a real function in the kitchen to straighten me out. I had been only sixteen, so I was young for it, but he'd been letting me help him from time to time out back so he knew I could do it, the question was whether I would. Sudden scary responsibility had worked with me. But Kenny wasn't going to get a law degree by learning to make cinnamon rolls, and he didn't need to feed people the way Charlie or I did either.

Anyway Kenny hadn't come home till dawn that Sunday morning - his curfew was midnight on Saturday nights - and there had been hell to pay. There had been hell to pay all that day for all of us, and I went home that night smarting and cranky and my one night a week of twelve hours' sleep hadn't worked its usual rehabilitation. I took my tea and toast and Immortal Death (a favorite comfort book since under-the-covers-with-flashlight reading at the age of eleven or twelve) back to bed when I finally woke up at nearly noon and even that really spartan scene when the heroine escapes the Dark Other who's been pursuing her for three hundred pages by calling on her demon heritage (finally) and turning herself into a waterfall didn't cheer me up. I spent most of the afternoon housecleaning, which is my other standard answer to a bad mood, and that didn't work either. Maybe I was worried about Kenny too. I'd been lucky during my brief tearaway spell; he might not be. Also I take the quality of my flour very seriously, and I didn't think much of our latest trial baking-supply company.

When I arrived at Charlie and Mom's house that evening for Monday movies the tension was so thick it was like walking into a blanket. Charlie was popping corn and trying to pretend everything was fine. Kenny was sulking, which probably meant he was still hung over, because Kenny didn't sulk, and Billy was being hyper to make up for it, which of course didn't. Mary and Danny and Liz and Mel were there, and Consuela, hired as a waitress but also shaping up as Mom's latest assistant, who was beginning to look like the best piece of luck we'd had all year, and about half a dozen of our local regulars. Emmy and Barry were there too, as they often were when Henry was away, and Mel was playing with Barry, which gave Mom a chance to roll her eyes at me and glare, which I knew meant "see how good he is with children - it's time he had some of his own." Yes. And in another fourteen years this hypothetical kid would be starting high school and learning better, more advanced, adolescent ways of how to screw up and make grown-ups crazy. I loved every one of these people. They were all my favorite people in the world. And I couldn't take another minute of their company. Popcorn and a movie would make us all feel better, and it was a working day tomorrow, and you have only so much brain left over to worry with if you run a family restaurant. The Kenny crisis would go away like every other crisis had always gone away, worn down and eventually buried by an accumulation of order slips, till receipts, and shared stories of the amazing things the public gets up to.

But the thought of sitting for two hours - even with Mel's arm around me - and a bottomless supply of excellent popcorn (Charlie couldn't stop feeding people just because it was his day off) wasn't enough on that particular Monday. So I said I'd had a headache all day (which was true) and on second thought I would go home to bed, and I was sorry. I was out the door again not five minutes after I'd gone in. Mel followed me. One of the things we'd had almost from the beginning was an ability not to talk about everything. These people who want to talk about their feelings all the time, and want you to talk about yours, make me nuts. Besides, Mel knows my mother. There's nothing to discuss. If my mom is the lightning bolt, I'm the tallest tree on the plain. That's the way it is.

There are two very distinct sides to Mel. There's the wild-boy side, the motorcycle tough. He's cleaned up his act, but it's still there. And then there's this strange vast serenity that seems to come from the fact that he doesn't feel he has to prove anything. The blend of anarchic thug and tranquil self-possession makes him curiously restful to be around, like walking proof that oil and water can mix. It's also great on those days that everyone else in the coffeehouse is screaming.

It was his day off, so he smelled of gasoline and paint rather than garlic and onions. He was absent-mindedly rubbing the oak tree tattoo on his shoulder. He was a tattoo-rubber when he was thinking about something else, which meant that whatever he was cooking or working on could get pretty liberally dispersed about his person on ruminative days.

"She'll sheer, day or so," he said. "I was thinking, maybe I'll talk to Kenny."

"Do it," I said. "It would be nice if he lived long enough to find out he doesn't want to be a lawyer." Kenny wanted to get into Other law, which is the dancing-on-the-edge-of-the-muttering-volcano branch of law, but a lawyer is still a lawyer.

Mel grunted. He probably had more reason than me to believe that lawyers are large botulism bacteria in three-piece suits.

"Enjoy the movie," I said.

"I know the real reason you're blowing, sweetheart," Mel said.

"Billy's turn to rent the movie," I said. "And I hate westerns."

Mel laughed, kissed me, and went back indoors, closing the door gently behind him. I stood restlessly on the sidewalk. I might have tried the library's new-novels shelf, a dependable recourse in times of trouble, but Monday evening was early closing. Alternatively I could go for a walk. I didn't feel like reading: I didn't feel like looking at other people's imaginary lives in flat black and white from out here in my only too unimaginary life. It was getting a little late for solitary walking, even around Old Town, and besides, I didn't want a walk either. I just didn't know what I did want.

I wandered down the block and climbed into my fresh-from-the-mechanics car and turned the key. I listened to the nice healthy purr of the engine and out of nowhere decided it might be fun to go for a drive. I wasn't a going for a drive sort of person usually. But I thought of the lake.

When my mother had still been married to my father we'd had a summer cabin out there, along with hundreds of other people. After my parents split up I used to take the bus out there occasionally to see my gran. I didn't know where my gran lived - it wasn't at the cabin - but I would get a note or a phone call now and then suggesting that she hadn't seen me for a while, and we could meet at the lake. My mother, who would have loved to forbid these visits - when Mom goes off someone, she goes off comprehensively, and when she went off my dad she went off his entire family, excepting me, whom she equally passionately demanded to keep - didn't, but the result of her not-very-successfully restrained unease and disapproval made those trips out to the lake more of an adventure than they might otherwise have been, at least in the beginning. In the beginning I had kept hoping that my gran would do something really dramatic, which I was sure she was capable of, but she never did. It wasn't till after I'd stopped hoping . . . but that was later, and not at all what I had had in mind. And then when I was ten she disappeared.

When I was ten the Voodoo Wars started. They were of course nothing about voodoo, but they were about a lot of bad stuff, and some of the worst of them in our area happened around the lake. A lot of the cabins got burned down or levelled one way or another, and there were a few places around the lake where you still didn't go if you didn't want to have bad dreams or worse for months afterward. Mostly because of those bad spots (although also because there simply weren't as many people to have vacation homes anywhere any more) after the Wars were over and most of the mess cleared up, the lake never really caught on again. The wilderness was taking over - which was a good thing because it meant that it could. There were a lot of places now where nothing was ever going to grow again.

It was pretty funny really, the only people who ever went out there regularly were the Supergreens, to see how the wilderness was getting on, and if as the urban populations of things like raccoons and foxes and rabbits and deer moved back out of town again if they started to look and behave like raccoons and foxes and rabbits and deer had used to look and behave. Supergreens also counted things like osprey and pine marten and some weird marsh grass which was another endangered species although not so interesting to look at, none of which seemed to care about bad human magic, or maybe the bad spots didn't give ospreys and pine martens and marsh grass bad dreams. I went out there occasionally with Mel - we saw ospreys pretty often and pine martens once or twice, but all marsh grass looks like all other marsh grass to me - but I hadn't been there after dark since I was a kid.

The road that went to what had been my parents' cabin was passable, if only just. I got out there and went and sat on the porch and looked at the lake. My parents' cabin was the only one still standing in this area, possibly because it had belonged to my father, whose name meant something even during the Voodoo Wars. There was a bad spot off to the east, but it was far enough away not to trouble me, though I could feel it was there.

I sat on the sagging porch, swinging my legs and feeling the troubles of the day draining out of me like water. The lake was beautiful: almost flat calm, the gentlest lapping against the shore, and silver with moonlight. I'd had many good times here: first with my parents, when they were still happy together, and later on with my gran. As I sat there I began to feel that if I sat there long enough I could get to the bottom of what was making me so cranky lately, find out if it was anything worse than poor quality flour and a somewhat errant little brother.

I never heard them coming. Of course you don't, when they're vampires.

--from Sunshine by Robin McKinley, copyright © 2003 by Robin McKinley, published by The Berkley Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission.

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  • Posted October 23, 2009

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    Just gets better every time I reread it.

    For those readers who have never read McKinley before, who exist on a diet of paranormal romance or Laurell K. Hamilton or Anne Rice or Twilight, I say you must read Sunshine. The world McKinley creates in this novel goes well beyond the edges of the page, and it only gets richer on rereading. The characters have width and depth and color and not a single one is simple or easy to understand. The narrative voice is pitch-perfect, the themes of light and dark and blood and cleanliness always serving the story and adding depth. Best of all, it makes its vampires feel new, not least by avoiding making them sexy and glamorous but rather, well, undead.

    For those who are avid readers of McKinley -- as I am -- Sunshine is on the surface a wild departure from her other works, but in its bones is the culmination of everything that came before. It has the requisite McKinley heroine: mistrusted and awkward, struggling to carve out an unconventional place only to have that place snatched away by events out of her control, but ultimately discovering herself and her past just in time to meet the darkness seeking her. It has the love of myth and fairy tale that led McKinley to retell the Robin Hood myth, retell the story of Sleeping Beauty, and retell Beauty and the Beast not once, but twice. It has the necessity of going on after the climactic battle, starting to put the pieces of a life back together when all has been torn apart multiple times, the sense of hope that it is possible warring with the sense that the person inside has changed too much to fit in any normal happy life from now on.

    Most of all, it has many, many echoes of Deerskin, which I consider to be McKinley's greatest work, from the blood imagery to the rediscovering and reinventing oneself bit by bit to the doubt that ones resources won't be enough to overcome all the evil in the world. Especially affecting and evocative for me was the line "Sun-self, tree-self, deer-self. Don't they outweigh the dark self?" that Sunshine begins to repeat to herself like a mantra. Each time she says it it has a slightly different meaning.

    There are some things McKinley does in this novel better than she has done in any other. The climactic battle scene is her most coherent and cohesive, even when I was tempted to speed through it because I so desperately wanted to reach the end. Sunshine's narrative voice, already mentioned, makes her a more approachable heroine than any of McKinley's other heroines, which makes her peril and her self-doubt all the realer. It is jarring if you go in expecting McKinley's usual high fantasy narration, but it just gets better the deeper into the story you go. There is also more humor in Sunshine than I think there is in any other McKinley novel, and it is always found in the lightest doses when things get blackest.

    All in all, the more times I read Sunshine the more I am convinced that it is a near-perfect book. None of McKinley's novels race along, but I always find the slower parts necessary resting times, times to catch my breath and assimilate all that went on in the last battle (be it internal or external). It is undoubtedly an adult novel like none of McKinley's other novels are -- there is quite a bit of violence and one brief explicitly sexual scene. But it is a rich and worthwhile read that ages well, and I hope it continues to find a wide audience.

    10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2009

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    Not enough Con!

    Over all...The book was okay. After reading some reviews, I thought this was going to be the next great vampire book. Eegad! It had it's moments to be great and then those moments fizzled out. I felt that there were too many darn cinnamon rolls and not enough Constantine! I might as well have read the rundown on Bubba's (Forest Gump) shrimp recipes. A little more interaction with her new Vampire "friend" would have kicked this story up a notch or two.

    7 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2003

    Not an ordinary vampire novel...

    Rae (Sunshine) Seddon has found her place in the post Vodoo Wars world, making cinamon rolls beginning at four a.m. every day. Life is quiet and predictable, until she is kidnapped and thrust into the midst of a vampire feud. Her captors leave her chained beside a vampire who is also bound. She is there as a temptation for the starved Constantine, for her blood has been poisoned. Only by calling on powers she has chosen to ignore can Sunshine free herself and the unexpectedly 'human' vampire with her. ................... Now, Sunshine and Constantine share a bond that makes her a part of the ages old war between Con and Bo. She is also brought under the scrutiny of the secret police, enlisted in the ever present conflict between humans and others. One thing is sure, Sunshine's life will never be quiet and predictable again. ........ ***** Sunshine is at once edgy and haunting. Con moves through his heroine's world in the shadows, much like Vincent in the Beauty and the Beast show. Sunshine is a cross between Stephanie Plum and Anita Blake, fighting to stay ordinary in a world of wonders. However, Sunshine can not be pigeon holed as just another vampire romance. It has it's own flavor, quite unlike any other you have read.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 16, 2010

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    Sunshine: The Anti-Twilight

    I slogged through the Twilight Saga pulling my hair but persisting partly out of wanting to understand the phenomenon and partly out of the same spirit people stare at train-wrecks. A friend recommended this novel as an antidote, and in many ways it proved to be--the contrasts and comparisons reading this novel right after Meyer's series was telling. This too features a first-person story told through a seemingly ordinary heroine, except Sunshine is no Bella, but a woman who takes an active role in saving herself. And Constantine, though a vampire, is no Edward Cullen, is, indeed in many ways his antithesis: this vampire doesn't sparkle--in fact he's described as having the complexion of a mushroom in the refrigerator too long. But I found him all the more compelling and appealing because of it. This is a much more complex and subtle book and romance than the Twilight Saga, often (unlike that series) beautifully written. My one serious criticism of Sunshine is that it took quite a while for me to get into, since the beginning features a lot of narrative rather than scenes. But I warmed to the story the farther I got into it, cared more and more about the characters and found myself caught up in McKinley's imaginative world. My recommendations below are for other "anti-Twilights"--all coming of age books with strong, active heroines in the fantasy/speculative fiction genre.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 16, 2010

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    This book was not what I expected it to be, but I loved it anyway. People who are not used to Mckinley's writing style may be put off by her choice of diction and syntax, but her writing is descriptive and elegent. Most of the action takes place in the mind, in the normal, but that is not to say that there is no action. There is, but most of it is psychological in nature until you reach the last fifty or so pages.

    If you are looking for a typical vampire romance that is popular this is not the book for you. There is understated attraction, but that is what makes this story alluring. Look beyond just the physical and read between the lines. Another reason why this book is unconventionl, to the modern vampire lover, is that McKinley goes for the more "old fashion" traditional vampire type. Con, the main vampire, is describe as almost grotesque yet impressive in nature. Gray skin with a laugh that terrifies is not what one would ever call attractive, yet the reader (and Sunshine) can't help but be drawn to him. McKinley does a great job describing what isn't there more so than what is there.

    For me, this wasn't a book I could sit down and read in one sitting. Her sentence structure is very descriptive in nature, and she makes you think about the problems Sunshine goes through with her uneasy but undeniable attraction and alliance with Constantine and the morale problems that come with it.

    What did bother me about this book, yet at the same time I can't help but admire, was that McKinley did not answer all the questions the book presented. You never really find out if Sunshine's father is dead or her grandmother. You never find out more about her family histories and much more, but in the end it fit.

    I definitly recommend this book for people looking for a different kind of vampire story, a story that doesn't look at magical creatures as all good and kind, but as they truly would probably be: dangerous and unpredictable.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 22, 2009

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    best vamp book

    if you want to step away from the realm of twilight and meet the real vampires, READ THIS. its daring and thrilling, and actually has plot. it is by far my favorite vampire book and third only to dracula and queen of the damned by anne rice. even after the 500 page thriller i was dying to know more. this book is impossible to put down and worth every penny!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2008

    Did not Follow

    I went to B&N and found this book. I looked over the reviews and thought this book seemed to have potential. The synopsis seemed pretty intriguing. However, when I actually started reading it there was a lot of descriptions of cinnamon rolls and bread that the book could have done without. I have to agree with other reviewers, that there could have been more character building and more of a connection building between Rae and Constantine. At times I felt the story had a case of A.D.D. <BR/>This was not one of my favorite books. I'm actually a lot more favorable of books that read like a movie (fast paced, good character building, clear synopsis, straight to the point, etc). I don't recommend.

    4 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 3, 2009

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    I was stereotyping this book as another "twilight" type. But it was NOTHING like that. It was really an amazing read. I suggest this book to any vampire/supernatural lover that doesn't mind seeing a darker side to their precious vampires.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2006

    A very satisfying read!

    I really loved this book. It has very good characters, and the settling was very original. The only reason why I don't give it a 5 star rating were the many irrelevant, boring paragraphs that plague this story. It gets annoying after a while to read about the details of Sunshine's rather boring daily life at the coffeehouse, which only slows the action. This book would have been even better if she just went to the point instead of writing several pages of useless info. McKinley does get very verbose sometimes, which is frustrating. Despite this however, I highly reccommend this book to anybody. I absolutely loved the ending, as well as the blooming relationship between Sunshine and Constantine. Overall, a great read. Hope we get a sequel soon... more Constantine, please!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 25, 2010

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    Two words for this book!

    Sheer garbage!

    2 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 28, 2009

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    This is Not the Vampire Book You Are Looking for, Move Along . . .

    Get up, bake the bread, get on with life and do your best to ignore your past. It's seems to be working for Rae Seddon. She can forget that she's the only daughter of Onyx Blaise famed magic handler. That her boy friend has a dubious past and likely magic imbued tattoos. That the SOF, the police force designed to deal with the dangers of the otherworldly, are keeping a close and personal eye on her. In fact she can be blissfully oblivious to all of that until she's chained to a wall next to a vampire. So what's someone who desperately only wants to be a baker to do? Now Rae, nicknamed Sunshine, finds herself in the thick of it. She needs to draw on those secret classes with her grandmother where she learned to transmute matter; to develop this unexpected skill of vampire destruction; to comprehend how she can find the undead through their email and last but not least to understand how her relationship with the vampire she saved will fit into the life that she so desperately wants to hang on to.

    &lt;Stop - go read The Blue Sword, which contains a strong female lead who actually does things. No really, don't let Twilight decide this for you . . .&gt;

    I pretty sure when I was moaning about wishing that this one was over, that I said to a co-worker-"This is done in first person, and I've never met a more verbose or whiny character. This book would be 150 pages, if Sunshine just shut up and got on with it." Now I'm not saying that occasionally she's not funny but what you have to wade through is mind wearingly unrewarding. Over and over I hear from writers, editors and reviewers - "Show, don't tell". Well Sunshine does nothing but tell, and tell, and tell some more. The action sequences are vague and disconnected and punctuated by - you guessed it - more of that fine vintage of whine that Sunshine has been brewing all of her pitiful life. The only thing that could have surprised me about this book is if it had the recipes for all of the bakery items in the back... My biggest concern is that this lackluster book will turn off readers from some of McKinley's finer works. Sunshine originally was written in 2004, probably the only reason it's on the shelf now is the current Vamp Craze...

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 26, 2009


    I enjoyed this book quite a bit and will read the next one. The writing style is somewhat confusing at times but enjoyable. The story line is solid and has a little different twist on the vampire state of being. All charectors except the main one could be a little more detailed. Well done.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2007

    If you love Twilight (vampires) - you will love this book!

    I have enjoyed reading this book again and again over the years. There is a great sense of humor here and some very interesting characters. I think this would make a great movie but according to the author that will never happen. What a shame!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2010

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    Unique Voice & a Great "Women Who Do Things" Read

    From the first word the author brings you cleanly and clearly into her world. Sunshine's voice is vivid, quirky and highly entertaining, immersing you in the sights and sounds that surround her. The things I love about this book, and most of the others by Robin Mckinley, are the small details she includes to make even the most fantastic of places and situations relatable. Sunshine is a baker and she waxes eloquent on the joys of gingerbread with cream cheese sauce and Charlie's Diner where champagne is served by the glass. Equally as real is her perception of the smell of exploded vampire and the sticky-squishy sound her shoes make as she walks away from it. This is not another vampire book - it's a great read about a woman who comes alive, saves herself, and happens to live in a world where all the scary fairy tales are real.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 2, 2009

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    All over the place

    I found this book at my local Barnes and Noble and liked the synopsis but upon reading, found it to be very disjointed, sometimes confusing and just not realistic at all. Like sci-fi gone wild. As someone else mentioned, it does seem to have ADD and spends much more time talking about baking than about the meat of the story. I would not recommend this book unless you are looking for something to waste time with or to put you to sleep.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 11, 2009

    Another Classic with a Twist from McKinley

    very much a classic vampire novel; however, as usual McKinley adds her own twist to a fairly classic idea. I very much enjoyed this as a pleasure book. If you're looking for deep struggle or something that will forever move you and your way of thinking I would not be looking at this book. If you're looking for a fun read that keeps you captivated, however, I would buy this book. It is well worth the price and keeps one wishing to read more and more. I will reread this book and enjoy it every time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 9, 2009

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    agree with the buns

    I agree with a lot of the comments I've seen here, and I've said it myself in the past when mentioning this book to others... the descriptions of her baked goods becoming droning. I loved the quiet tension between Con and our heroine and it left me wanting more, but I think that makes for a good set up in a very Jane Austen kind of way. Another element that worked well for me was the surreal descriptions of some of the more intangible experiences the main character encountered. How do you describe the indescribable? I think Robin McKinley solved it well.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 1, 2009

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    Well Written, But Occasionally Aggravating

    This vampire tale started out well, but then it seemed to get somewhat lost among Sunshine's internal ramblings on the politics/history of her supernatural world and the minutiae of being a coffee house baker. At first these diversions were interesting, especially as regards Sunshine's supernatural back-history and descriptions of her partially decimated world. But, as they turned more toward her signature recipes, boring day-to-day activities and definitions of various non-human species and their particular political treatment, I lost some interest. Note, the story had a unique sense of reality and immediacy with respect to the heroine's life and frightening (later provocative) confrontations with vampires and Constantine. Further, the characterizations were, for the most part, three or two dimensional. This realism and depth of character was partially due to the heroine's chatterbox antics which lent credibility, humor and atmosphere to the story. But, there was too much rhetoric that took precedence over the plot at times. Near the book's mid-point, I lost patience with the verbal overflow and started to skim over those parts not directly relevant to the linear time line. Not a hard thing to do, but a bit annoying/aggravating. About two-thirds through the book, the pace picked up noticeably as the plot returned in greater force. The ending was just about perfect. I hope there is a sequel minus about half the chatter.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2009

    Sunshine is great!

    I absolutely loved this book.I really loved the twist on vampires.I liked that sunshine still had a connection with them. It was just really good. I was kind of mad about the end because you were expecting something more I guess. I was just left wanting but at the same time it was really different ,in a good way, that you kinda got what you wanted but it wasn't your average ending. I would highly recommend this book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2009

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    Very Much Surprised and can't stop thinking about this book.

    I had read another one of her books as recommended as a book of the month for discussion. I really didn't like that book and forced myself to finish. I always give a second chance. Since this was my favorite genre I gave it a try. Her writing style is still a little chalenging but the story is good. When I finished this book, I wanted more. If she wrote a followup I would definitly buy it. I want to know more. It has been weeks since I finished and I have read another book since and am on another but still think back to this one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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