|2008 Paperback. Chained to the wall where it all starts.|
by Robin McKinley
Robin McKinley's writing style is a little tricky to read quickly, anyway, but her stories are complicated enough and the danger is so real and BIG that I always want to. (Read quickly.) Even this pass, my 4th or 5th re-read of Sunshine, found me squirming to skip ahead a paragraph or two in places. Sometimes I went back to enjoy every delicious word and sometimes I shrugged and leaped ahead further.
One of the items I love in this story is how Rae has two loves, maybe a little like Aerin in The Hero and the Crown. She has one love that grounds her and is too nice to not love and one love that is completely impossible, incompatible. She dedicated this book:
my Mel and my Con wrapped up in one (slightly untidy) package.
Hey, am I lucky or what?"
When Rae loves Constantine, it's a Beauty-and-the-Beast scenario at its finest. The beast, in this case, is not lovable and often Rae/Sunshine startles when she sees him do something very vampire-like. It creeps her out and it's so realistic. I love every scene between the two of them most. The push-pull dynamic of how they learn about each other and accept each other (or are repelled by each other) is amazing.
I should say something about Mel, I suppose. He's a cool "bad boy" biker with wizard-y tattoos and secrets he never shares. He's far from boring, but next to Con, he's a cute bunny rabbit.
Rae Seddon, known to all as "Sunshine", is all kinds of complicated. Her passage to self-discovery starts in Sunshine and is quite harrowing. She has so much more to learn about herself and her family and all her acquaintances, family and friends. Maybe that is what makes this book so awesome... 400 pages is an introduction to a whole new world with a lifetime left to the imagination. It ends satisfyingly like only Robin McKinley can do it, a colossal grand finale. But the end is not The End... it's more like "And that is how this super-famous person you've heard so much about had her beginning", or something.
This is partly because so many things are left unfinished. Maybe they're little things, but still. Does her eyesight settle? Does she learn to use her new vision or does she figure out how to tune it out? I say she learns to use it, like recognizing demons and everything else, 'cause that's so cool. There's her job at Charlie's and everyone she'll see in the morning. How much will she share and how much will she not share? I say she finds some way to share a little extra with Mel and the weres that regularly eat there, like Maud! And she works with the SOFs more and learns how to coordinate with Pat and the other good (blue) guys. I'm not sure whether I want the goddess of pain to be promoted out of town or not, she's so deliciously rotten. I think Con should remain a secret, though. Maybe they could use Sunshine's magical inheritance as a cover for Con's help in finding and destroying the darkness that will take over the world in less than 100 years.
One thing I never accepted in the first 4 times I read the book is that Sunshine is not just the ante-vampire, she acquires darkness, a dark-self. I love it when she describes her self-awareness moments:
My sunshine self, my tree self, my deer self.... my dark self.I accepted how wrong and twisted "dark" is, how vampire-ish and how anti-human-ish, but I somehow missed how Sunshine recognized a dark aspect of herself that was wrong to that same degree. *shiver* The idea is so big, really. The concept of seeing myself and the parts of me that are NOT OK and recognize them as my own without being able to make them Ok.
I can just feel the deep breath, inner-alignment of multiple aspects of self. It makes me want to know what bits would be me and wonder whether I could accept darkness in myself as part of what makes me... me and able to do everything I need to do. The question is a big one after reading Sunshine and feeling how dark and wrong the darkness is. I'm not sure I'm grown up enough to do that, yet.
|Paperback 2003 showing THE house at the lake. Yikes!|
Of course, all of these covers fit the story very well, but my favorite is the paperback listed first. That's what my well-worn copy that I keep as a treasure on my shelf looks like. And I don't wait for sick days to re-read it, like Rae saves her favorite worn paperbacks.
This re-read was prompted by Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani. The scene where Hitomi is chained inside a tower room with a Breather (who is worse than a vampire or almost as bad as Robin McKinley's vampires) and how she discovers her own magic to escape and how the Breather reacts to being rescued... oh yes, it was sweet enough and close enough to Sunshine to have to stop everything and go back to where I felt that way first.