A stand-alone fantasy book.
Publication year: 2003
Page count: 476
Publisher: Bantam Books
“Besides, I’ve always had a guilty preference for fiction. Since I seemed now to be living fiction, this proved to have been an entirely reasonable choice.”
Rae Seddon, called Sunshine, works in Charlie’s Coffeehouse as the baker. She makes the cinnamon buns and chocolate desserts, and is much loved by both the staff and the regulars. Her step-father owns the place and her mother runs the administrative side. Her boyfriend also works there as the main cook. However, Rae is a loner and when something life changing happens to her, she doesn’t want to talk about it to anyone. She loves reading fiction about the Others and also following news about them in the globenet.
One day, when she wants to be alone and away from her extended family in the coffeehouse, she drives to the lake where her paternal grandmother used to live. There, she’s kidnapped by a gang of vampires. She expects to die but they bring her to an abandoned mansion and chain her to the wall. To her horror, the room already has another occupant: a emaciated vampire.
Apparently, the vampire group’s leader, Bo, wants the chained vampire to drink from Rae and kill her. To that end, they keep her alive and bleeding. However, the vampire asks Rae to talk with him so that he will remain sane. Rae has no choice but to agree. That’s just the beginning.
Little by little, we find out about Rae’s background and about the world. Rae’s mother divorced her father and refused to have anything to do with him again. Rae’s mother and her new husband Charlie have two sons. Rae’s grandmother was the only one on her father’s side who kept in touch with her but even Gran disappeared years ago.
The world has several non-human races, the demons, the weres, and the Darkest of Others: the vampires. Demons and weres can pass for human and some of them do when they can. The purebloods and partbloods are technically required by law to register but most only do so when they can’t pass for human anymore. Most of the weres aren’t wolves. They tend to be coyotes, rats, and chickens and all sorts of animals. Werewolves are rare. This amused me enormously. There was a war, The Voodoo Wars, between the humans and the Others over ten years ago and this of course made an huge impact on the relations between humans and Others.
In addition to Others, there are humans who can use magic. Some of them do this openly, especially those who belong to magic using families and some keep quiet about it. All of this combines to a world were humans aren’t the top dogs, so to speak, but struggling to be the dominant one. Charms and wards are also commonly used against the Others and for other things. There is a special police force whose job it is to deal with the Others, SOF, Special Other Forces.
The writing style is very chatty, like Sunshine is telling the story to somebody else and specifically someone who doesn’t know her world at all. This is, of course, easier on the reader than not explaining things.
I enjoyed the characters a lot; they felt very real. Sunshine herself is a loner and a fiction lover. Charlie wants to feed everyone in his café, and Sunshine’s mother is very protective of Rae and her family. Rae and her mother don’t communicate too well, mostly by yelling at each other, but her mother leaves charms around Sunshine to make sure she’s safe.
Mel is an interesting character. He’s a (former) motorcycle gang member with lots of tattoos. It’s hinted that he still has friends among the motorcycle gang, er, cycles but we don’t see them much. He’s a cook/bouncer for Charlie’s and also repairs and reconstructs motorcycles. He’s clearly very fond of Sunshine but they’re both very private people and they don’t communicate much or easily. At first, Sunshine commented on how good it is that she’s able to just be with Mel and he doesn’t ask thing but later, that silence isn’t so good.
Unfortunately, Sunshine develops feelings for a vampire despite being with Mel and knowing that she’s nothing but food to the vampire. Bah.
I love the way that the characters swore. “Thank the gods and angels” and “double carthaginian hell”, “near kali goddam enough”, and “the city council thought it would be totally thor”. These seem to be a clear indication that monotheism isn’t the dominant religion. Also, nobody waves crosses or other religious items in front of the vampires. Wards are used instead.
About halfway through I had to got out and buy some cinnamon rolls.