Flashback Friday: Sunshine by Robin McKinley

It’s time, once again, for Flashback Friday…

Flashback Friday is a chance to dig deep in the darkest nooks of our bookshelves and pull out the good stuff from way back. As a reader, a blogger, and a consumer, I tend to focus on new, new, new… but what about the old favorites, the hidden gems? On Flashback Fridays, I want to hit the pause button for a moment and concentrate on older books that are deserving of attention.

If you’d like to join in, here are the Flashback Friday book selection guidelines:

  1. Has to be something you’ve read yourself
  2. Has to still be available, preferably still in print
  3. Must have been originally published 5 or more years ago

Other than that, the sky’s the limit! Join me, please, and let us all know: what are the books you’ve read that you always rave about? What books from your past do you wish EVERYONE would read? Pick something from five years ago, or go all the way back to the Canterbury Tales if you want. It’s Flashback Friday time!

My pick for this week’s Flashback Friday:

Sunshine by Robin McKinley

(published 2003)

Robin McKinley is perhaps best known for her fairy tale retellings (such as Beauty, Rose Daughter, and Spindle’s End) and her heroic adventures (such as The Blue Sword and the Newbery winner The Hero and the Crown), all geared toward young adult readers. I’ve read and loved all of these, but my two favorite Robin McKinley books happen to be her two books written for adults, Deerskin and Sunshine. It’s actually hard to decide which of these to focus on — and I’ll probably come back to Deerskin in the near future for another Flashback Friday pick — but for this week, let me tell you about Sunshine and why it’s such a phenomenal piece of fiction.

From the author’s website:

Rae, nicknamed Sunshine by her stepfather, is the baker at her family’s coffeehouse. She’s happy getting up at 4 am to make cinnamon rolls for the breakfast rush, and dealing with people and food all day. But one evening she needed somewhere she could be alone for a little while, and there hadn’t been any trouble out at the lake for years.

She never thought of vampires.

Until they found her.

Yes, it’s a vampire book. No, it’s not like Twilight or any other vampire book you’ve read. Rae is a strong lead character with a mind — and powers — of her own, who must call upon her inherited magic to save herself and the imprisoned, starving vampire Constantine from a deadly trap. Constantine is not the romantic, angst-ridden, broody vampire of today’s pop culture. Dynamic and entrancing, yes, but also clearly dangerous, inhuman, disturbing, and deadly. Definitely not boyfriend material.

Robin McKinley’s website is nice enough to treat us to a quote from Neil Gaiman regarding Sunshine, and if you need any convincing to give this mesmerizing book a try, this should do it:

I woke up too early, so started reading Robin McKinley’s forthcoming novel Sunshine, in the bath. It’s an astonishing piece of work. A gripping, funny, page-turning pretty much perfect work of magical literature that exists more or less at the unlikely crossroads of Chocolat, Interview With a Vampire, Misery and the tale of Beauty and the Beast. It’s not quite SF, and it’s not really horror, and only kind of a love story, and it’s all three while still being solidly Fantastique. It also does that nice thing where the author assumes the readers are smart, and she treats us like we’re smart, and we purr and get smarter and work harder for all that. It’ll be nominated for awards, and win them; in the meantime I really hope it finds its audience, which is, potentially, huge. — Neil Gaiman

The initial set-piece of the book involves heroine Rae chained up in an abandoned mansion next to (and within reach of) a vampire who’s also been chained up and forced into starvation. This section of the book is so suspenseful and chilling that I was immediately hooked, and from there the book just swept me up into its spell and didn’t let go until the end. In Sunshine, Robin McKinley has created an entire world in which ordinary bakers and other regular people live side by side with supernatural beings, both of the extremely dangerous and the neighborly variety, and where courage and devotion count as much as magical powers and superhuman strength. The plot is fantastic, the writing entrancing, and the characters unforgettable.

The more I write about Sunshine, the more I realize that this one belongs on my must-reread-as-soon-as-I-can pile. It’s that good. Give it a try! And if you’ve read Sunshine, please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

So, what’s your favorite blast from the past? Leave a tip for your fellow booklovers, and share the wealth. It’s time to dust off our old favorites and get them back into circulation! 

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: To join in the Flashback Friday bloghop, post about a book you love on your blog, and share your link below. Don’t have a blog post to share? Then share your favorite oldie-but-goodie in the comments section. Jump in!

Comments... We love comments!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s