When Neil Gaiman, author of many things that I love, proclaims a book to be, “Pretty much perfect,” it sets an expectation that is hard to live up to. And based off of reviews on Amazon, Neil Gaiman’s opinion is shared shared by many. Yet I find myself among the minority that had some frustrations with Sunshine, by Robin McKinley.
The novel is set in a world recovering from a war with the supernatural. The protagonist, Rae “Sunshine” Seddon is a baker in a coffeeshop and she has unusual powers. When she is captured by vampires for political purposes, and escapes through her own ability, she becomes enmeshed in their schemes and must partner up with another vampire to survive.
The parts I enjoyed, I absolutely loved. I would clench the book white knuckled, wanting to find out what happens next. McKinley creates a rich and deep world. Her vampires were horrible and fascinating, utterly disconnected from the human experience. Even then, she crafted a believable reason for a bond to form between a human and a vampire. I read with bated breath to see if something deeper formed between the two. The plot in the story was compelling enough to drag me through the rough parts.
The rough parts, for me, were very rough. McKinley had a tendency to veer away from the action, often in very tense moments, to spend pages explaining a background detail relevant to the scene. Along those same lines, there were a few times where she would introduce a plot element out of the blue just as it became relevant.
Finding such disparity between myself and people who loved this book, including Neil Gaiman, it begs one to wonder what they saw differently. The best I can guess, based off of reviews, was that those who love it enjoyed the voice of the character Rae as presented by McKinley. At least one reviewer said they would read the dictionary if it was written by McKinley. And it is a very authentic voice, written as though someone really were telling you this.
For me, I was hooked by the plot. The meandering narrative, though accurate to how people really would tell a story, got in the way of the plot that I enjoyed. It made sense that the narrator, as a resident of this world, would not bother explaining the fundamentals of it. But it made it more difficult to approach the world.
Long story short: If you hook into McKinley’s writing style this may be the book for you. Those you love her writing love her writing. If you prefer tightly crafted fiction, then this may be a good book for you to skip.