In Sunshine, Robin McKinley revisits her favorite obsession, Beauty and the Beast. This time, a cold, clammy and remarkably honorable vampire, Con [stupid name], serves as the Beast. Much to my frustration, however, McKinley takes an almost failproof idea [Beauty + Beast + vampires + magic = awesome] and sabotages it by not building it a foundation.
On the subject of worldcraft, McKinley doesn’t offer Sunshine enough historical grounding. The Voodoo Wars, which split Sunshine’s world into antagonistic factions of humans and supernatural Others, strongly inform the events of Sunshine, but we never hear about the specifics of these wars. Who won? Who lost? WHY do humans hate the supernatural Others so much? You won’t find the answers in Sunshine.
On the subject of character development, the only person who has any is Sunshine. Even the Beast, Con [stupid name], remains opaque. Not only is he stiff and impenetrable, but we also have no idea of his motivations. He insists that he is “different” from the sadistic vampire Bo [stupid name], but we don’t know why he is or how he got that way. Without a history, he remains a grey, clammy cipher.
Instead of offering readers the essentials of a good story, McKinley kills Sunshine with minutiae. She tells us how many pages Sunshine’s favorite romance novels have. She repeats, word for word, Sunshine’s disturbance when a vampire is in the room, the disgusting texture and feel of Con’s [stupid name] skin and Sunshine’s worries about her bond with Con [stupid name].
All of this goes to show that even brilliant, accomplished, award-winning authors can fail at writing a good vampire novel.