Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Brides of Rollrock Island, by Margo Lanagan

As you may have guessed from previous reviews, I like stories about fantastical sea creatures. Always have. So when author Margo Lanagan took a stab at the Selkie myth, I had to read it for myself. I was not disappointed.

(Side Note: Some may say Selkies are related to mermaids, but, really, the two aren't anything alike. To simplify, Selikes are women and men--yes, men too--who can shapeshift from seals into human form. To make one stay human, simply steal and hide their seal skin.)

The Brides of Rollrock Island is set on a distant, isolated island and takes place over several generations, and there is a lot going on. So pay attention. (this is NOT light reading, people) At the center of the story is Misskaella, who was born with the uncanny ability to communicate with the seals who make the shores and beaches of the island their home. Misskaella was not a pretty child, among other things, and the residents of the island never failed to remind her of her shortcomings. As she grows, she learns to use her unusual gift to draw out the women living inside the seals. She then sells these women, these "sea-wives," to the island's men...and makes quite a healthy living doing so. But the effect on the island's population is devastating: Families split when men trade their human wives for sea wives, children lose their mothers when a sea wife finds her stolen skin and returns to the sea without so much of a backwards glance, hearts break, and the witch laughs at it all. This is the revenge she'd hoped for. The story of Rollrock Island, and the revenge brought upon it by Misskaella, is told from six points of view--including that of the witch herself. It's not a happily-ever-after sort of story. In fact, it's quite uncanny and creepy. But it IS beautifully-written and memorable. And once you get into it, you'll want to keep reading.

Read this if you've enjoyed complex realistic fantasy stories like Maggie Stiefvaer's Raven Cycle or Bennett Madison's September GirlsDefinitely recommended! --AJB

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