Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Review: The Brides of Rollrock Island - Margo Lanagan

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan
Genre: YA, fantasy, romance
Published on September 11, 2012
Published by Knopf Books
Pages: 305
Read From: 12.15.12 - 12.22.12

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 the 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 have 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.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Divided. On the one hand, it stares creepily at me, and we all know how I feel about books that stare. But, there is also a very mysterious, intriguing element to it that attracted my attention. So, I may not like the staring, but it definitely catches one’s notice.

Characters: There are no likable characters, not a single one. There are characters you can feel sorry for, like Misskaella, whose ill treatment at the hands of her family and fellow Rollrock islanders is contemptible. But Misskaella’s bitterness quickly diminished what pity I had for her, and I just wished she would die. All of the men of Rollrock are lecherous, and right when you think that maybe one of them will defy the witch Misskaella and find a “red-blood” wife, it doesn’t happen.

The Romance: The whole plot revolves around Misskaella replacing the red-blood wives of Rollrock with her magicked seal-wives, so there is plenty of “romance” (though that isn’t what I would call it). It did annoy me, because it lent to the constant sexual overtones.

Plot: Problem Number Two: there isn’t a plot. The whole time I read The Brides of Rollrock Island, I kept waiting for something to happen. But nothing ever did. Misskaella brings up seal-wives from the sea to punish the people of Rollrock for treating her so cruelly, the true wives of the men leave Rollrock after every single one of them abandons the red-blood women for seal-wives, and that’s pretty much all that happens. It meanders through various different narratives, not ever going anywhere, just plodding along. I found it to be pretty dull.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: The style itself was beautiful - I will give the Author that. She has tremendous skill with descriptive words, and she brought Rollrock to stark reality. But she failed in the department of characters and the general layout. The book felt like a collection of short stories that are roughly connected, each one told by a different protagonist. And right when the Reader feels like they might actually begin to know a character, it switches to another character’s point of view, and we never read from the other characters’ perspectives again.

Content: 1 s-word. Misskaella sleeps with a male selkie - (i.e. seal person; pg. 61-63), and several of the Rollrock men have affairs with selkie women, though no details of their nightly escapades are given. The Author doesn’t shy away from describing naked women, either, in pretty thorough detail in some cases.

Conclusion: The ending is as uneventful as the rest of the story. At first, I began to hope that maybe there actually was going to be something a point to the story, but the last two chapters confirmed differently. I would have found the conclusion kind of sad if I had cared for any of the characters, but I didn’t, so my only thought was, Well, everyone got what they deserved. I had hoped, when I first picked this book up, that it would be something like The Scorpio Races in terms of bringing an ancient Celtic legend to the shores of an isolated British isle in the modern world. And while Margo Lanagan’s style and descriptions were pure poetry, I cared for none of the characters, and there simply wasn’t a plot to make up for this. It was a big disappointment.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, older teens due to content.

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