So, when I thought this was on the list I first thought it must be the novel version of the film Sunshine and was then trememdously disappointed that it was a fucking vampire novel.
I haven't read Twilight and the books that I've read with vampires tend to either be Terry Pratchett, Bram Stoker or Elizabeth Kostova. So I was ready to be tremendously disappointed. I was ready for terribly contrived sex scenes and bodice ripping.
But in a classic case of don't judge a book by its cover (or in this case, genre), I was totally taken by this book. Don't get me wrong, it's utter candy floss but it was ever so enjoyable. But even then, I think it wins over so many other fantasy novels on a number of levels.
Women! It passes the test easily. The main character is a woman, the universe seems real because there are multiple women, of multiple types doing a variety of things. Not only that, the main character is lovable and fallible and just grounded in more reality as a person than most fantasy novels are (even though the universe is very unreal). She gets in the right amount of trouble to be believable. There is no bodice ripping.
No compromising on the plot for a sequel. I was ready to pick up the sequel to this book the moment I turned the last page. To my utter fucking dismay there is no god damn sequel. HOW CAN THERE NOT BE A SEQUEL? (I had 10 pages left when I got to work and I HAD TO FINISH IT BEFORE STARTING WORK). How many books have I now read where the plots in the first novel are compromised for some insignificant plot point (probably) in some future part of the series? Hello Pawn of Prophecy and Gardens of the Moon. I had not one iota of desire to turn another page of those books and yet there are hundreds to be had. Whoever is in charge of making novels, make the sequel of this book. It's amazing and I wanted more even before the bloody book ended.
The tension is appropriate for the plot. In so many books they rachet up the tension to some improbable degree so that when inevitably the heroes extricate themselves from this horrible situation, it feels like a tremendous let down. The amount of danger felt about right so that the ending seemed appropriate. As well, the tensions weren't things like rape, it was things like grisly death by vampire. Or slowly being poisoned to death. Which is pretty bad for anyone. Like The Doomsday Book, the tension was more interpersonal - it was lying to your friends and family, it was breaking taboos around people you should associate with, it was unearthing family secrets. IT WAS AWESOME. Everything was believable and I wasn't going OH FOR FUCK SAKES when I was either annoyed or let down by some ridiculous plot point.
The writing was fantastic. There were some bits where I had to reread a bit because of the colloquial style but it was still delightful. It was an absolute pleasure to read and I just flew right through it. Because of that, I loved the characters - especially Sunshine and Constantine (the human and vampire central characters). Also, Constantine is excellent, I think the author did a magnificent job of eeking out the amusing moments with how otherworldly he is without being schlocky.
I am honestly sad I've finished this book. You kind of feel like Constantine and Sunshine will get it on in a future sequel (there are a couple awkward moments in the book) and maybe that would make it less fun (there is a minimum of romantic relations). But I think as long as the heart was still in the story, it would be okay.
It's totally going to be in the top 5. It will possibly be the only fantasty novel in the top 5. It's definitely the only one so far that I would heartily recommend reading. Seriously, it's fucking adorable all over the bloody place. I want to be Sunshine's friend. I want to make Constantine make a dry vampire joke at me. I want the characters to be real (though, I could perhaps do without a world with were-things, evil vampires and general strangeness coming out of everything). READ IT. 5/5 stars for adorable paranormality but consistency and getting the tone and tension so right.
This review brought to you by 2 pints of Doombar.
(Seriously though, it's fucking adorable. Read it. I don't care if you don't like vampire novels.)