Monday Man: Constantine
to Monday! To lighten the fact that you’re likely back at work and I’m not (come on, you get weekends), I bring you Monday’s new feature: Monday Man.
The idea is simple. On Mondays, I will pick a male character in the urban fantasy (or sometimes other fantasy) genre to dissect. But not really dissect, because I don’t think I could even catch this one if I tried, let alone get him to hold still.
I’ve just finished reading Sunshine by Robin McKinley, so it’s only appropriate for me to pick one of her characters to begin, no? If you haven’t read the book, I would get on that. I’ll try not to include any excessive spoilers, but a couple might slip in. Ready?
We first meet Constantine shackled to a wall with a warded anklet. He’s a vampire. Right off the bat, I loved that Robin McKinley’s vampires were not pretty. Their skin is grayish and dead-looking. They have no heartbeat and irregular breath. They move without humans being able to follow it, and when they nab Sunshine at the beginning, she doesn’t hear them coming.
Right away, it’s evident that Constantine doesn’t really have any desire to hurt Sunshine, which is already a nice contrast to her assumptions about suckers. He helps her stay untempting, and I liked the twist that humans have to invite the suckers to drink their blood or otherwise enter their bodies. (Ahem.) Granted, if you look into their eyes, they’ll be able to persuade you to give that invitation, but I am a sucker (mua ha) for anything that gives supernaturals a human-accessible weakness.
The situation in which Sunshine finds herself shows a lot about Con’s character. One of her captors makes the remark, “He likes old-fashioned things” right before making her dress in a red ballgown. It’s evident from Constantine’s careful positioning that he is trying to minimize any possibility that he would hurt Sunshine, both for her sake and because he has no desire to succumb to Bo’s game.
At one point, Con informs Sunshine that there is more than one way to live the life of a vampire. Though he never goes into detail about this, it’s inferred that they can survive on animal blood and that taking human lives affects not only their personality and level of evil, but their ability to age well. Con, it seems, has been very careful.
He’s also described as passing-ugly. Sunshine makes mention several times of his blatant Other-ness, differences in his body shape and movement that make him almost abhorrent, even though she is intrigued by him. It’s clear early on that he views their sort of forced bond as both necessary and a curiosity.
I love gray areas, and Constantine is a great gray area. He goes against the stereotypes of vampires in that world, and he makes his own rules, though he’s not overly aggressive about it. He also represents a darkness Sunshine fears and challenges her assumptions about what that means for her character. He has a lot of roles that don’t seem to fit, such as healer, though again it falls outside the lines of expectation, both for the reader and for Sunshine. Con is in many ways a contradiction, and I think that’s why I liked him so much. He managed to do all of that without being broody or maudlin, and I always appreciate a good self-actualized vampire. Above all things, Con knows his place in the world and doesn’t waste his time wishing for the sun or fat grandchildren.
I’ll close with a bit of fan art of the two of them. Con looks a little bit more ogre-y than I imagined him, and less stringy and lean, but it’s cool to see them depicted anyway. I give you: Monday Man!
- Chalice – Robin McKinley (booklolly.wordpress.com)
- The Hero and the Crown – Robin McKinley (booklolly.wordpress.com)
- On Bookstores, Books, and the Number 33 (emmiemears.wordpress.com)