Pros: Amazing world-building; incredible characterization; fascinating tale
Rating: 5 out of 5
Boy am I on a roll this week. After last week I wasn’t feeling entirely like reading; now I want to sit down and plow through a dozen books today alone. Why? Because the last three books I’ve read have been stunning. Last night I started Virginia Kantra’s Sea Witch around 4 pm, and I finished it by 9 pm because I just couldn’t put it down—and it read that smoothly. I already cannot wait for the next book in this series.
In the war between man and the children of fire, the children of the sea have always remained neutral. Demons hate humans, but to selkies humans don’t matter enough to hate. They live off of human wreckage, take human lovers for a night, but compared to their immortal spans, humans live and die in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, all that is about to change.
The selkie Margred came ashore for a desired moment of passion, but to her dismay she found more: Caleb Hunter, police chief, ex-soldier, with eyes like the sea and a will strong enough to resist even the potent charms of a selkie. When someone attacks Margred and destroys her pelt, cursing her to a human life and a mortal span of years, it’s Caleb who insists on helping her. But she isn’t the last selkie to be attacked on his island, and soon Caleb seems the most likely suspect in a horrific murder. She knows things that could help him find the real killer, but he’s far too logical and earthy to believe in selkies, immortality, and magic—until he finds out that she’s hardly the first selkie to wash up on his island’s shores, and she won’t be the last.
By far the aspect of Margred’s tale that caught at me the hardest was the characterization of her as a selkie. The author’s ability to put herself in the place of a seven hundred-year-old immortal from an extremely different ‘society’, biology and background is nothing short of stunning. This isn’t a human who happens to live in the sea—this is a being who is decidedly different, and has a great deal of difficulty adjusting to human culture and custom. Some of those details are deep and emotional; others are the small details of everyday life:
He poured her coffee while she sat at the table. She sipped from the cup and grimaced. It didn’t taste nearly as good as it smelled.
“Do you take sugar?” he asked.
Did she? Why not?
I also enjoyed Caleb’s character. While he has the troubled past of many romance heroes, and fits the currently trendy mold of veteran of the Iraq conflict, there’s a surprising amount of depth to him and his family. His personality is more grounded in his career as a police officer than it is in his past as a soldier, and the interplay between him and his father and sister is great. While the father seems like just another abusive drunk at first, he’s much more three-dimensional and ‘real’ by the end of the story. And the sister… well, I suspect she’ll end up being the subject of the next book, or possibly the one after that.
The world-building is similarly fantastic. The history of the selkie, the elementals in general, and the tensions between them and humans is simple and beautiful. The setting of a small island in Maine is the perfect foil for it, earthy and rich, unutterably human. A full panoply of characters make the town come alive, from the old lady who runs a restaurant and ended up mayor just so the lawyer everyone hates wouldn’t get the job, to the volunteer firefighters who go off to their day jobs as fishermen. In particular the investigators who come to town to help catch a murderer surprised me with their characterization. In most books they’d simply be foils, insisting on seeing Caleb as the murderer no matter what happens. Instead they’re much more even-handed and realistic.
Sea Witch is a beautiful story that would appeal to fans of a handful of genres. As a fantasy/paranormal tale it’s gorgeous, complex, and fascinating. As a romance, it’ll definitely grab hold of you. As erotica it’s hot and sexy, with plenty of enjoyable chemistry between its characters.
I, for one, will definitely be waiting for the sequels!