by Robin McKinley
Rae (nicknamed Sunshine) Seddon is just your normal young twenty-something with a complicated family situation, working at a coffeeshop and dating a nice guy. Until one night she gets ambushed at the lake and finds herself chained to the wall in an abandoned house with a clearly starving vampire, also a prisoner. Not the best setup for long life expectancy. Except that Sunshine’s complicated family situation includes inheriting a surprisingly strong talent for magic from her father’s side. So a precarious, unlikely alliance is born between Sunshine and the vampire Constantine, as they work to escape and then elude and then destroy the evil creature that captured them. All while Sunshine comes to terms with and uses to learn the power she inherited.
There’s a lot I liked about this book. The setting is interesting – it’s Earth, but in the future after some huge paranormal type war. McKinley is good at world-building, down to the kind of slang that might develop given the society she’s positing. The way Sunshine uses magic is intriguing but not over-explained. Constantine and Sunshine are great characters. Sunshine is a relatable, sarcastic, real feeling narrator – you definitely feel like you’re in her head while reading. Constantine is strange and aloof but also restrainedly courteous. The dynamic between the two is tense and interesting. And despite some hints in the text, there isn’t an actual romance between them, just a really profound friendship. At least not in this book. Which brings me to my main beef with this story: there is no sequel! It’s a great story and fun read, but the place it ends at leaves so much unresolved and unexplained. I was genuinely shocked to learn this wasn’t the first book in a series, but a standalone. Honestly, if this had been book 1 of something, instead of book only, I would’ve given it 4 stars instead of 3. It’s still worth a read, if you’re looking for a darker urban fantasy (there’s some violence/gore) with vampires that don’t sparkle or seduce. Just be warned that this one book is all you get of this story.