Thursday, March 21, 2013

Book Review: The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

Title:  The Brides of Rollrock Island
Author:  Margo Lanagan
Genre:  YA fantasy/mythology retelling
Pages:  305

Rating:  C

Synopsis from  On remote Rollrock Island, men make their living--and fetch their wives--from the sea.

The Witch Misskaella knows how to find the girl at the heart of a seal. She'll coax a beauty from the beast for any man, for a price. And what man wouldn't want a sea-wife, to and to hold, and to keep by his side forever?  But though he may tell himself that he is the master, one look in his new bride's eyes will transform him just as much as it changes her. Both will be ensnared--and the witch will look on, laughing.  

In this magical, seaswept novel, Margo Lanagan tells an extraordinary tale of desire, despair, and transformation. With devastatingly beautiful prose, she reveals characters capable of unspeakable cruelty, but also of unspoken love.

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I've always been fascinated with selkie mythology, so when I heard about The Brides of Rollrock Island, I was really excited to check it out.  But I thought the book was just blah over all.  There was no real plot, only a couple of the characters got any development, and the narration was choppy and disjointed.

The book is split into a group of short stories about Rollrock Island, each told by a different character.  Usually I like split narration, but in this case, having so many narrators took away from the story.  The phrase "Too many cooks spoil the broth" was true here.  It made the story seem very choppy and all over the place.  And it made the fact that there was barely a plot much more noticeable.

I think I might have liked the story a little more if some of the narration had been done by one of the seal-wives.  Considering that the book is called The Brides of Rollrock Island, you would have thought the story might have been told from their point-of-view, at least a little.  Instead, all of the narrators are the non-selkies.  So the seal-wives barely had any character development; their personalities were very flat and boring.  One of these days, I'd like to read a book about selkies that's told from their POV, about how it felt to be pulled from their skins and what it was like to be trapped on land and how they justified leaving their children behind if they found their skin again.  That would be a great book.

The Brides of Rollrock Island disappointed me because I was hoping for something different, something more than what I got.  I expected a more mysterious story, a story that focused mostly on the selkies and less about the islanders.  I guess my biggest problem with the book was that it didn't fit my expectations.  C

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