December 29, 2018 6:30 AM - by Robin McKinley - Subscribe

A small-town baker uses her magic to confront a post–vampire apocalypse world in this award-winning urban fantasy Neil Gaiman called “pretty much perfect.” Although it had been mostly deserted since the Voodoo Wars, there hadn’t been any trouble out at the lake for years. Rae Seddon, nicknamed Sunshine, head baker at her family’s busy and popular café in downtown New Arcadia, needed a place to get away from all the noise and confusion—of the clientele and her family. Just for a few hours. Just...
posted by COD (12 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This was a $2.99 Kindle special a few weeks ago and I bought it without even glancing at the summary because Charlie Stross tweeted about on Twitter so I just bought it on his recommendation. Then when I went to read it and realized it was vampire urban fantasy...ugh.

It turned out not nearly as bad as I feared. I did finish the book, and it certainly is no Twilight or Vampire Diaries or whatever - it's much better than that. However, the narrative style of the book is sort of a stream of consciousness from Rae, who is a young 20s woman and not a character I connected with. By the 70% complete mark I just wanted her to shut up and stop telling me everything single thing she was thinking at every moment in the story.

The ending, which I won't spoil, was better than I expected, so there is that.
posted by COD at 6:43 AM on December 29, 2018


This is the best vampire novel of all time, ever.

It is the vampire novel I recommend even to people who don't like vampire novels.

It is brilliant.
posted by kyrademon at 8:34 AM on December 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

I love Robin McKinley so much that I'll read whatever she writes. I remember checking this one out of the library with a bit of a groan because I hate the whole vampire archetype (I fucking HATED Twilight), but I ended up loving the book. It's Twilight done first and right. You can read my review of it here.
posted by orange swan at 1:22 PM on December 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Yeah, this was basically the last vampire book I read (apart from Strange Practice this year, which isn't entirely a Vampire Book, if you know what I mean), because a) I'm 10000000% done with vampires and b) this was the last good take on the vampire and vampire romance premise. I loved Rae's narration, I loved the setting, and at no point did the vampire make me roll my eyes and go UGH, so all around, A+.
posted by yasaman at 2:46 PM on December 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is one of my top re-reads. I didn't love it so much on the first time through -- the 'world-building via stream of consciousness narration' style was slightly maddening what with being in suspense as to the plot stuff, and having been hyped by Gaiman's "pretty much perfect" endorsement, I felt cliffhangered/let down by the ending. But on re-read, when I didn't feel like I was rushing to find out what happens next, it won me over. Now it's one of my go-to comfort reads.

Also - if you have the time to spare, watching Mark Oshiro read the whole thing out loud is delightful - youtube playlist - he goes into it completely unspoiled, not even knowing it's a vampire story.
posted by oh yeah! at 3:01 PM on December 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

I thought this was a pretty wonderful modern fantasy, and I'm sad that it did not get either a the series of sequels it cried out for, or a TV series. But the less well-written Sookie novels did. Go fig.
posted by happyroach at 9:19 PM on December 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

I wanted so much more from this world than what we got... I'm afraid the whole if society never felt real to me.

But the vampires? They worked! I've never enjoyed other vampire stories, but this was great.
posted by meese at 11:37 AM on December 30, 2018

This was the beginning of the end of my liking of McKinley's works, I'm sad to say. Though I did think it was a fascinating spin on her obsession with Beauty and the Beast fairytales.
posted by TwoStride at 1:52 PM on December 31, 2018

OMG, excited to see this. I have two copies of this so I can lend one out, it's that good.
posted by gryftir at 4:00 PM on December 31, 2018

I have enormously fond memories of this book. I still remember how pleased I was with how well "friendly neighborhood baker" collides with creature of the night. Now that I'm on the West coast (a strange land where bakers don't seem to wake up until 7 and their bakeries don't open until at least 9), this book is absolutely tied up with memories of going to a coffee shop at dawn and getting the best bread of my life.

(McKinley was always pretty good at writing around the trope. I feel like The Blue Sword was a significantly less icky book than you would expect, if you remember anything about the plot.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 8:44 AM on January 1, 2019

Robin McKinley is one of my favorite writers of all time and I love Sunshine so much because it just feels so..... feminine, not in the sense of sexuality or sensuality, but like one young woman talking to another. It is a book that absolutely does not care what men will think about it-- but not intentionally, not like it's taking a stance on anything, just almost... accidentally. Like McKinley is writing from a place where men and their opinions just don't exist. It is a book about women and women's adventures and women's concerns and women's experiences, especially Millennial women, when so many of us are making chosen families and facing jobs that aren't careers. It rings so true to me, I feel like I know Rae, like I went to college with her, and we were friends. And the world-building is scattershot but also very real, especially the idea of a precarious, shrinking economic and social and natural world that's easy to ignore the decline of because you, in your own little bubble of a town, don't see it. The integration of Rae's shadow and sunlight selves (The roses said, "You do not have to choose.") remains an important reminder for me that I don't have to choose either.

I got my first tattoo, a leg piece of two different types of roses, three different types of wheat, and honeybees, for labor history and feminism and ecology reasons, and only realized later that the tattoo is also three McKinley books: Rose Daughter (roses), Sunshine (wheat), and Chalice (bees.)
posted by WidgetAlley at 1:50 PM on January 3, 2019 [6 favorites]

I love this book so much! The themes are so well worn these days (vampires, chosen one, snarky heroine etc) but McKinley ploughs her own field so much that all of it still feels very original and refreshing. Plus the puddings!!
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 10:54 AM on January 8, 2019

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