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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-07-02
- Reviewer: Staff
In this powerful but grim tale set on a rugged, windswept island, an unlovely, embittered young woman discovers that she can magically pull human beings out of seals: “I drew each speck toward and into the man-shape at his center. A head-blur parted from the body-blur; some limbs came good, splitting from the main shine. Then suddenly the man’s outline sharpened within the seal.” She uses this power first to find herself a lover and then to take revenge on the people of Rollrock Island, who she believes have slighted her, providing each man with a supernaturally beautiful seal-woman (for a price). Decades later, the jilted human women have all left the island, leaving the spell-struck men with their captive wives, who cannot always hide their yearning for the sea. Lanagan (Tender Morsels) casts the traditional selkie tale in a poetic yet deeply antiromantic form. What, she asks, would such a relationship truly be like? How might it satisfy, but also destroy those involved? A beautifully written story featuring a thoroughly realized setting and cast. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Sept.)
A mythic love from the sea
Some call them sea-wives. Others call them seal-women, fairy lasses or monsters. But to the boys of Rollrock Island—only boys, not a single daughter in a generation—they are their mams. Beautiful, docile, otherworldly and sad, the mams say nothing of their past, only that they came from the sea.
At the heart of this magic lies the witch Misskaella. Mocked and alienated by the people of Rollrock, Misskaella draws on her natural affinity with the island’s seals to exact an exquisite revenge. The radiant, not-fully-human women she calls forth from the water’s edge dazzle the men of the village. Once a man has been enchanted by a seal maiden, his interest in the business of human affairs dries up like old seaweed.
In The Brides of Rollrock Island (first published in Australia as Sea Hearts), two-time Printz Honor recipient Margo Lanagan draws on Scottish, Irish and other Northern European coastal legends of selkies: shape-shifting seal women who can be held captive in their human form by whoever possesses their sealskins. Lanagan’s lush, image-laden writing style, reminiscent of the fairy tale retellings of Donna Jo Napoli and Francesca Lia Block, forms the perfect vehicle for the atmosphere of wistful longing that traditionally characterizes selkie tales. Weaving between the points of view of several generations of islanders, mainlanders, witches and boys, Lanagan tells a story in which loves are lost and sometimes regained, truths are hidden and sometimes revealed . . . and redemption may be both closer and farther away than it appears.