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Selkies’ Skins by Teresa Garcia

 

Selkies are Scottish seal people, and are considered magical shapeshifting creatures, able to interbreed with humans.  Spoken of in many old stories, the females are said to make caring wives, and the men to be charming and good lovers.  If their skin is captured, they will remain on land, though more is heard about women being captured than the men.  If they find their stolen skin, they will return to the sea and any mate or family therein, though remaining nearby to watch over their land-children.

What happens though, if a Selkie never manages to reclaim her skin before her death, and so remains with her children?  What happens if her family is a magical one, and her subspecies had been created by the cooperation of sister water goddesses?  Further, what if the drive to return to the sea remains strong in the offspring, and as servants of these goddesses, provide their care despite being disliked and untrusted by both full blooded Selkies and humans when found out.

We come then to modern times.  First a fishing family, favored then by fortune and Marsali’s magic, the Makay clan grew to a merchant family that went on grand voyages for the good of the Magical Community.  Few now remain, and those are now waterwitches, primarily interested in tending duties set by deities that few believe actually exist, and the health of the waters both locally and planet wide.

Kirsty has little choice in her fate, only how it will manifest. There are tests to pass, a place that she may have to occupy prematurely if her visions prove true, and a need to earn her sealskin to be complete. Will Etain return safe to port, and will Kirsty survive her training and test?

Note: Selkies’ Skins contains some graphic violence and harsh language.


A serialized novel, updating fortnightly

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Listed: Jul 14, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

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Selkie Descendants Protect the Waters

By Fiona Gregory, editor

Feb 22, 2013: "Ahead, she finally saw the flickering and shifting where one reality met another, hoping it truthfully was the one she sought, knowing the strangeness of the sea."

This story and its main characters are poised between two concepts of magic: spells and potions as a technology taught in a Hogwarts-like wizarding school, and supernatural powers as the perilous gift of a capricious and demanding deity. In neither of these did I really sense the wild selkies of Scottish ballads and folk-tales, nor does the tale have a particularly British flavour despite being set in Northern Ireland and England. These part-selkie, part-human characters inhabit a definitely modern and somewhat familiar fantasy world. Fair enough, this gives the author the opportunity to explore the possibilities of water based magical beings – kelpies, merfolk, water imps, sea serpents, as well as selkies – in a modern fantasy, as an alternative to the more commonly used vampires, elves, werewolves, etc (well, there is a werewolf boyfriend . . . )

I wasn’t always completely convinced by this tale, but it I did find it quite charming. The mother’s enchanted voyage to investigate ocean pollution especially has some eerie and wonderful moments. The website is nicely laid out – the text is in an elegant, unusual script which adds an atmospheric flourish while still being easy and pleasant to read, and a friendly seal grins from the bottom of every page.

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Most Helpful Member Reviews

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Selkies in the wizarding world

By Senna Black, member

Jul 19, 2012: This is an interesting one. I was attracted to it because of the title: my love of British Isles folklore in general, and Selkies in particular, makes for an instant click for me if I see those elements in a summary.

One thing that I was startled by is that this set a the universe that looks very like the Harry Potter series. At first there was only generic magic, wands, potions, etc, and references such as the Ministry of Magic, which, if you squint, could signal a broadly Potter-ish world. But non-magical beings are at one point referred to as Muggles, and that places "Selkies’ Skins" pretty close to the fanfiction category, at least in my view. So far the story hasn’t crossed into the familiar territory of the Harry Potter series: wizards at school, wizarding London, etc, but there are strong signs it’s heading in that direction.

There are a couple of other things that caused me to give this story 3 stars, which is probably on the generous side. The writing is generally solid, but the dialogue is in places clunky. Conversation is used as a tool for exposition, and there were a few places where the emphasis and cadence of the dialogue didn’t really work. In the early chapters, the POV shifts every 800 words or so, and each new POV brings a chunk of exposition. I found myself skimming chapters, trying to get to a point where the plot would anchor me and keep me reading

All that said, the characters are (so far) original, and they are fairly interesting; the story is also interesting and the interweaving of the fantasy elements is tidily done. The Selkie element is portrayed true to the spirit of the myth, and it also has that beautiful wistfulness that all the best Selkie stories have.

The Potteresque elements were quite jarring, but other than that the story has potential, so I would encourage you to check it out if it sounds interesting to you.

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