Rae “Sunshine” Seddon, a baker in a coffee shop, ventures away from relative safety and is trapped by vampires. She is thrown into a room with a hungry and chained vampire, Constantine, who is taunted and tortured on the orders of her master. Rae rediscovers her magical talent and frees herself and her new partner. That’s just the beginning, because Bo, Constantine’s arch enemy, won’t give up until he destroys them both.
In the future, there is something called “Voodoo Wars”, a conflict between humanity and the “Others” (demons, shapeshifters, vampires – vampires are the strongest and the main problem). Many humans die in that conflict, and the survivors struggle to survive as powerful vampires attempt to rule the world.
One of the results of this conflict is that “bad spots”, places where black magic thrives, appear more and more frequently, reducing the habitable space for humans and making it even more difficult for humans to survive. As one of the characters says, “Others are winning”, they just can’t openly say that to the general human population.
This world isn’t what a reader would normally expect from a place populated by shapeshifters and vampires, and that’s where McKinley’s humor comes in. For example, the most common shapeshifters are not werewolves, but chickenmen, which makes shapeshifters unwilling to admit what they are. As for vampires, they are not sexy, they are physically repulsive to humans. While vampires have such control over their bodies that they “always can,” Rae asks, “Who would want a boyfriend with a constant boner?”
What captivated me most about this novel was the relationship between Rae and Constantine. Rae is sympathetic to Constantine’s position from the start, because “nobody likes bullies”, and Constantine is not your usual vampire killer. They are puzzled by each other, Rae by a vampire who doesn’t act like a monster but a nice being, and Constantine by having a human ally that he needs to protect, something he’s not very used to.
Their relationship grows, often to his bewilderment. Even though Constantine still looks ugly to Rae (we don’t get to know what Rae looks like to him), the sexual tension develops between them, and it’s quite believable. They continue to protect and help each other, each with their strengths and weaknesses, and their friendship grows, a friendship that does not end when the enemy is defeated, and the reader wonders what will happen next between them.
Cleverly written, humorous, sometimes similar to a fairy tale, Sunshine is a beautiful novel that leaps from stereotypes and builds its own world and characters. Despite many readers asking for it, the author has yet to write a sequel, but you can always wait.