The Sun on the Water by Nineveh_uk
Fandom: Sunshine - Robin McKinley
Rating: G, CNTW
Characters: Rae "Sunshine" Seddon, Constantine (Seddon)
Rae takes a trip back to the lake.
I bought Sunshine* years ago in Cambridge at one of the late lamented Galloway & Porter's big sales, read it then, and think I probably haven't for a decade. It felt like a good choice to take on holiday and I'm glad I did. It works for me because although it's a vampire novel it isn't really a horror novel, and vampire fan as I am, I am a wimp when it comes to horror of the gory sort. I'm much more into fear than horror, and it does fear very well.
The story concerns an early twenties-ish cafe baker who goes out to a local lake to get away from it all for an hour or so and finds herself kidnapped by vampires (how different from the home life of our own dear Ramblers Association), imprisoned in an abandoned house, and destined to be a vampire's dinner. Only the vampire is not so keen to go along with this particular script.
There isn't a vampire novel that doesn't have some vampire cliché, but in general I find this one pretty fresh. You can tell that this was originally written for adults rather than as YA, because the eponymous Sunshine is very much positioned as a young woman, social category full-blown adult rather than teenager. She's got a job, a flat, friends, is pretty content with her life these days, and it isn't a novel about being swept away from the mundane, but hanging on to it when disruption comes. The vampires are very effectively inhuman. They're creepy and inhuman and horribly compelling, and people perceive them as glamorous and mysterious (and then they die). I've read review comments about people being frustrated that it doesn't delve deeper into the worldbuilding, but the amount that is there is perfect for me. I don't want a Compleat World of Vampires and Eldritch Foes with Bonus Political Oeconomie detail. I want enough background for the story, and that is what it does. It does require a certain tolerance of ambiguity: I like that we don't know everything about the world, that the story has a very narrow focus and that although the central narrative has a satisfactory ending, the heroine doesn't solve all her personal mysteries, let alone how the vampire foe is going to be defeated long-term, but that it ends with a sense of future that is a life-like future, that the future will continue to unwind, but you can't know what it is. But I can see that the unanswered questions could reasonably be frustrating for some readers. I'm also a big fan of the casually lyrical narrative style. I think the final action sequence isn't as strong as it might be, and in fact is probably weakened by not taking the horror approach: it needs a bit more ludicrous vampire grandstanding, but that's a minor quibble.
*That cover is absolutely terrible. It's simultaneously a scene from the book and conveys absolutely the wrong idea of the book. Mine was this cover and I'm pretty sure that I picked it out of the pile because of that. Much creepier, but also, being the romance of the clapboard house, much creepier. I think the current cover also does the book a disservice in another way in that I realised while reading it that there is almost no physical description of most of the human characters, including the heroine, and all of them could be of any ethnicity, which feels like it works well in a vampire book where the ostensible sides are humans or Others and we don't even know the name of the heroine's country (OK, it's obviously the US, but in this AU world we don't know that it is called the US. Manchester does exist, however. It has a vampire problem.)
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