Several years ago, there was a devastating war between Humans and The Others (magical creatures such as vampires, werewolves and demons). The war, nicknamed the 'voodoo wars', left the world riddled with magical 'bad spots', where black magic thrives, and everything is wrong. There is an uneasy tension left behind, the vampires may have been defeated, but they're clearly gaining power again, many recent suspected vampire kils leads to a nervous populace. The SOF (Special Other Forces), is a sort of police division which keeps the populace safe from the Others.
Rae "Sunshine" Seddon, is a young woman working as a pastry chef, in her step-father's coffe shop. Her real father was a powerful wizard, who disappeared along with the rest of the magical humans after the voodoo wars. Sunshine is kidnapped by a group of vampires (ruled by a vampire named Bo), and held captive in a room where they are keeping a vampire named Constantine, whom they have been starving, and they hope to taunt him by keeping them together. Sunshine thwarts their plans by drawing on her long unused powers, that enable her to draw on sunlight. And using transfiguration spells taught to her as a child by her magical grandmother, she effects an escape for both herself and Constantine. Aiding Constantine, throws her into the conflict against Bo, whether she wants it or not.
I have to admit, this novel drove me absolutely crazy, but in a very good way. Since the first time I read it, I have gone back to it several times, re-reading favourite bits, and at least one full re-read. We're still waiting for a sequel (that may possibly never come), and I'm not very patient at my waiting. I just can't get over how much I loved this book.
Some people, I've heard, don't actually like Sunshine, the POV char. Or they don't like Robin McKinley's characterisation of her, which is down to McKinley's writing style; first person POV characters that have a tendency to let their thoughts run away with them, causing the plot to be held suspended for long segments while we listen to the character reminiscing or pontificating. But really, I was practically in love with Sunshine, and I loved hearing her random thoughts and speculations, and about her day job; baking endless reams of delicious cinammon rolls. I thought these little tangents broke up the novel perfectly, and made Sunshine into such a real and beautiful character!
Constantine was such a curious character, and the mystery that still surrounds him is probabyl the main reason why I'm so frustrated at the lack of a sequel. It is implied that Con is different from most other vampires, he doesn't seem to feed on humans (hence the taunting by imprisoning them both together), and he can walk under moonlight. But these things are never explicitly revealed or explained, and Constantine remains a total mystery. A frustratingly dark yet awesome mystery.
Sunshine's magical ability of being able to draw on Sunlight for her powers, is just absolutely uniquely awesome. I have never heard of this being done before, and it is amazingly well executed, in fact the entire system of magic is fascinating, and beautifully described, I could certainly stand to hear more on this system of magic. There is an interesting concept of powers alowing a sort of reversal of their actions, which I have not really come across before either. For example, a magic user with fire powers, would be able to counter-act fire due to his affinity with it, meaning he makes a very good fireman, as fire cannot harm him. Which leads to the absolutely amazing way that Sunshines power can be used to aid Constantine!
As for the *ahem* sexual content, yes it's labeled as romance, I guess I can accept that. But there is probably all of about 2 paragraphs of explicit content in the whole book. It's really not a big deal, and I'd feel completely comfortable recommending the book to someone who doesn't read romance. The tension is there if you want it, but it's not everything, it's the characters and the plot that stand at the forefront. In fact I believe many people who are avid readers of paranormal romance have slammed the book for not being what they expected. And me? I found it quite frustrating, (I think I keep saying that), but I cannot hate it because of that, I will just sit here and angst over the fact that there is no sequel (I think I said that a few times too..).
So yeah, I loved this book. And I loved Sunshine. I'd probably marry her if I could. And I'd recommend it to everyone. Just know what you're getting into, be open-minded about it.. it's not a twilight clone, and its not a typical PNR.. it's very Unique.