The simple title of Julia Lund’s well-crafted “Selkie” may fall strangely on non-U.K. ears, but the legends that it draws on are as old as the peoples that returned to the wind-swept coasts of Scotland in the wake of the receding glaciers. The hold these legends have on their descendants, and the clash that results when fate casts a young woman from away among them, provides the tension the author employs to build a captivating tale of coming of age, keeping faith with family, and self-realization
What, then, is a selkie? For the clinical answer, consult the Wikipedia entry, which describes the nature and possible mythic origins of the legendary “sea people” that reveal themselves as seals to land-bound humans, but which have the capacity to live both above and beneath the waves.
From a genre prospective, simply type “Selkie” into the search window of Amazon to find the 300 books, more or less, that capitalize on the love gained and lost aspects of the legend. Clearly, the conceit of beings that can lose their hearts to those on land but never escape the pull of the deep has provided fertile ground from which many stories have grown.
In this case, the legend provides the means by which a young woman of 16, newly removed to a tiny, seaside village when her mother is forced to struggle for work after the family is abandoned by her father, is forced to break from the self-centered world of childhood to assume adult responsibilities. At the same time, she is surprised by the opportunity to love and be loved, trapped between forces of good and evil, and thrust in the middle of a conflict between families whose troubled pasts have been tangled through three generations.
These are themes that have been well explored before. But the author skillfully uses the Selkie legend and the rugged coast of Scotland to develop and mature them in a colorful and vivid way that holds your interest, and ultimately surprises. The result is a young adult novel that will appeal equally to adults that have previously found that this genre, when handled with skill and imagination, can easily please readers of any age.
If there is any disappointment to be found, it is that the author has been too sparing in allowing her very substantial lyrical gifts to find voice in this story. The last two chapters are particularly poignant in this regard, leaving the reader hoping not only that Julia Lund will return with a new book soon, but also that she will give herself permission to give freer reign to her ability to weave words in a way that can leave you breathless and waiting for more.
Selkie is available in eBook form for $2.99 at Amazon (free for those with a Kindle Unlimited subscription). She is also the author of second novel, titled Strong as Death. Her web site can be found here.
I’m pleased to note that I released my second cybersecurity thriller last week. It’s called The Lafayette Campaign, and you can find it in print and eBook formats here.