I was almost certain, putting down Breaking Dawn after yawning my way through the final boring chapter in the early hours of Breaking Dawn-day-after-release-party, that I'd read a much better vampire/human story several years before. Or at least part of one. But I couldn't remember what it was.... Hardcover....had things other than vampires in it....
Kate came to my rescue: Sunshine by Robin McKinley.
Aha. I had borrowed it from the library in a sort of post-graduate-school-thesis-writing-defense-giving-induced fog. I actually didn't remember reading it nor did I ever write it in my book journal (pre-blog). Guess I was due for a true re-read.
Sunshine is the story of Rae Seddon, nicknamed Sunshine, and what happens to her when she ignores all sense of safety to visit her grandmother's old house out by the lake. The vampires just appear out of nowhere - because they don't make any noise - and drag her off to a different abandoned house where she is forced to change into a blood-red silk dress and chained to the wall. Next to another vampire, also chained to the wall. She's apparently an apperitif...or a form of torture. It turns out Constantine, the vampire chained to the wall isn't quite like the other vampires. He would prefer not to kill her. Rae isn't just a garden-variety human, her ability to make the best cinnamon rolls ever aside. She has the latent power to use sunshine to transmute objects. Using Rae's powers and Constantine's vampire senses the two forge an alliance and escape from the house.
But the story doesn't end here. This is only about page 75 or so - the rest of the book is about how Rae deals with the aftermath of her kidnapping and the very unlikely bond that she and Constantine now share. The Special Others Unit (because this world abounds with vampires, were-whatevers, demons, wardkeepers, etc., etc. - this is a post-VooDoo Wars world) is interested in Rae because she not only escaped from a gang of vampires (they can track humans by smell, obviously) but also because she wastes a vampire all on her own in an alley. Rae's boyfriend, Mel, is heavily tattooed with magical ward signs from a past he doesn't reveal and she never asks about them. Rae's absent/possibly dead father, Onyx Blaise, is a magic handler with mythic powers. In essence: this world is crazy-balls and it all snowballs into an explosive (literally) show-down with the vampire gang.
There's a lot going on in this book. Because the book is told in the first person, McKinley allows Rae to explain what she knows about her world, which is decently extensive in certain areas but lacking in others, particularly her own family history. If Rae needs something explained to her, we get to hear it, too. Even though the plot exposition gets a bit long on occasion it has to go somewhere. The SOF officers are a riot, particularly in one scene where it is revealed that at least one of them isn't quite what he seems. Even the little quirks of the world - like a vampire can't drink your blood without asking your permission, but they can hypnotize you by breathing on you (or something) so you'll just agree to whatever they want anyway...which would be to drink your blood - make for little jokes.
There is so much unexplained in Rae's world that I wish there was a sequel. Or maybe a prequel.
I think fans of Sookie Stackhouse would like Sunshine (this is less "sexy" but has that really crazy mix of supernatural elements) and this is definitely for Twilight fans looking to graduate to something with more of an edge. From my Goodreads review:
"This is what Twilight wants to be when it grows up, but only if they jettison that whiney Bella and creeper Edward."