Sea Spell is the first selkie book I've ever read. Selkie is an
Orcadian dialect word meaning seal. Selkies (or silkies) are seal-people,
shape-shifters of a sort, living off the coast of the Orkney Isles and the
Hebrides, according to legend. After I finished Sea Spell, I
realized that I still knew very little about selkies. I did some research
in mythology reference books and found the italicized facts. Information
is available about selkies. It's just not found in Sea Spell.
Ten years ago, fifteen-year-old Beth Caxton was rescued from drowning in
the waters off Grey Gallows, California by a young man . . . well, sort
of. Her rescuer was really a selkie who took human form to resuscitate
her. When her parents discovered her and the young man, who was 100%
naked, they weren't convinced that his only goal was to help Beth. In the
resulting mess, the young man vanished. Beth always knew, in an unfocused
and undirected manner, that her rescuer was otherworldly.
Twenty-five-year-old Beth has returned to Grey Gallows. Before leaving San
Francisco, she met Gordon, who is our selkie, all grown up. Gordon has
bided his time for ten years, but wants Beth as his mate. He knows he's
got a challenge; Beth doesn't recognize him as her rescuer. Gordon is in
turn mysterious, sullen, kind and enigmatic. Information about selkie
history, legends, customs and behavior are missing. All I learned in the
first third of the book was that Gordon needs to protect his seal skin so
that humans won't find it and imprison him in human form. Later I learned
that their offspring would either be selkie or human, but not chimeric.
Dissension in stirring up the residents of Grey Gallows. The economy is
moribund. Certain factions want to rename the town and give it an upscale
image. Fishermen blame the decline in fishing on the seals and sea lions.
Uh, oh. Problems in River City!
Sea Spell is a story without detailed points of view. It's almost a
fill-in-the-blank approach. Beth and Gordon's thoughts, reasons and
actions aren't explained well enough. I guess I'm a method reader. I want
to know the whys and don't want to guess the character's motivations.
Sea Spell always left me wanting more, needing to know more to make
these characters flesh out. Because of this lack of detail, the whole
story had a vague feel.
Over half way through the book, Gordon finally begins to talk about
himself and his background. The story of how he's chosen the name of Gordon is charming and gentle.
Too many secondary characters populate Grey Gallows. At times I had to
stop reading and backtrack in my mind, trying to place the characters and
determine their significance. Also, sometimes the segues between scenes
were not smooth. I'd have to reread a paragraph, then go to the next one
and try to determine what characters were on stage and what the setting
Beth and Gordon's relationship is battling for space and word count among
the following plot threads: Beth's sexual capitulation, the town's
revitalization, evil people determined to eradicate the sea life, Gordon's
imagined rivals for Beth, Beth's reminiscences about her father, her
do-it-yourself home repairs, her stepmother, her cat . . . .
Most superheroes are invincible. Perhaps Gordon is, too, but I was
frequently worried. There are men who carry baseball bats as a matter of
course and take joy in bashing the skulls of the seals and sea lions. This
fear translated itself into discomfort and my inability to completely enjoy
Familiar with the selkie legend? Then this book probably won't satisfy
your interest. Never read a selkie story? Keep a reference book by your side.
Sea Spell is an acceptable story, just light on the romance and light on