Saturday, January 03, 2004

Robin McKinley has long been one of my favorite writers, even before I knew fantasy was a genre. I also love fairy tale retellings, of which she has done quite a few, but it's really nice to read something completely new from her talented pen. Sunshine captured me from the first page, and I read it in a fascinated gulp last week, as did Odious this morning. It's funny, however, that what sticks with me the most are the descriptions of Sunshine's life and surroundings, rather than the story itself, although that was very strange and interesting. This is usually the feeling I have with Charles de Lint, where I care less about the story than about wanting to live in his world; but I suppose Robin McKinley has never before written a novel in a contemporary setting, which makes a difference for me at least.

The story is about vampires in the near-future, which seems quite a leap from Beauty and the Beast, Sherwood, and Damar, but McKinley pulls it off with aplomb. Her heroine is a highly talented baker in a small village, in a world where "the Other" (vampires, werefolk, and further demons) are known, accepted as a part of life, and desperately feared. Thus it's never a good idea for humans to roam about on their own, especially deep into the woods, but Sunshine does it anyway--and therein lies the story.

I'll have to read it again to get a full sense of what happens, since like McKinley's other books there are several levels, but already I'd rank it above most of them. The writing is fantastic, the plot dramatic and compelling, and the characters a rich and motley crew.

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