Fantasy (Teen), YA Fiction

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

I recently heard about this book through a newsletter: it was one of the top 10 fairytale retellings. I love fairy tales and any time I have a chance to read one in a new form, I will. This story is about mermaids – but it is quite unconventional. Here is my review:

On the remote Rollrock Island, men make their living from the sea. It is also the place where they fetch their wives. 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? 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.

When I first started reading this book, I was unsure of whether I would like it or not. The first few chapters are a little unclear and not as nicely structured as I would have liked. However, the story soon picks up, and begins to flow beautifully. The story is told from the perspectives of multiple characters, and how they are all affected by these beautiful seal-women. Calling them mermaids would be a misnomer since they really aren’t like the legends – and they come from seals. Each of the perspectives had a unique voice and helped to really flesh out the story. The more you read the story, the more you feel drawn to it, and the more twisted it becomes. Let me make this clear: this is not a happy or funny story with tons of action. It is poignant, and sad, and beautiful, and dark. If that’s what you are looking for, then this story will work for you. Once I got through the first few chapters, I absolutely loved this novel. I’m giving this a 4.5/5 stars but I would cautiously recommend this to other fantasy lovers.

Leave a Reply