Not a vampire fan, me. I've never seen what the fuss is about. What *I* see is animus figures turning teen-aged knees weak. (That's the broad definition of teen-aged.) I'm not an animus fan either, not since I turned middle-aged, anyway. More precisely, I'm not a fan of what the animus figure does to otherwise rational people who haven't the sense to keep him on the fantasy level. Why do women date and marry guys who break their arms and blacken their eyes? Hell, why do they date and marry convicted serial killers? Animus figures are hazardous to your mental health if you're lucky and physical health if you're not.
Even as literary figures or manga characters they'll damage your dignity, unless you exercise great care not to let them. Please don't rhapsodize about the kakkou ii sardonic oyaji, emotionally manipulative or emotionally constipated as per. (The Japanese fen *will* do it. As long as they do it in Japanese I'll shrug and go read something else. Maybe. Or maybe I'll snarl about what twits the Klaus fans are. It's a very sore point of many years standing.) And please, for the love of all that's holy, don't fall in love with your own animus character: she says, looking at just about everyone who's ever created an animus character. No really. You know who didn't fall in love with their animus character? Ikuhara Kunihiko. He knows why Akio is irresistible and he knows why Akio is hateful and he not only shows him being both, with impartial fairness (in the series; the movie has all the excesses of war-time propaganda), he knows that kewl bad-assery does *not* trump everyone and everything all the time, and that moral weight cancels it out as if it never was. But other people's animus figures are as obvious as Mary Sues and much more embarrassing. Their gears show. (Their batteries show, actually. Vibrators don't have gears.) We know what they're doing for the author, and being sexual, it's not something that should be displayed to the public.
So, McKinley. Who does a pretty good job of avoiding all the pitfalls attendant on a full-blown vampire character with all the trad attraction of same. A little more otherness and kimoi would have gone down a fair treat, and not walking hand and hand into the dark night would have been OK. Wouldn't have minded if there'd been no sexual attraction at all: the protestations of how revolting and traumatic it is to see him do these horrible things which are never named or described, aren't enough to counteract the extremely visceral decription of how you wanted to jump his bones so badly when you landed, naked, on top of him.
However the people in the book are worth the price of admission (I'd say humans, but most of them aren't completely.) And the unresolved mysteries of umm just what's *up* with Our Lady of Pain and Sunshine's boyfriend and some of the others. Was this the one she was going to write a sequel to and then had an attack of writerly angst and now never will? Which is sad, if so.
But mostly it's the language that does it. It has flavour without using seasoning. It's whatever the opposite of undistinguished is. It's written by an author who knows what she's doing. Which McKinley usually does, I grant you; it's just that I've never overly cared for what she's done before. (In fact earlier on I was muttering, Look weren't we here before in Beauty? One-notch-up from spunky heroine encounters bestial male Other?) Couldn't get through Winter Rose; my nose kept smelling Twee. Maybe I should give that another go-round as well.