January 19, 2012

Review: The Lure of Shapinsay, by Krista Holle

Author: Krista Holle
Title: The Lure of Shapinsay
ISBN: 2940013878815
Publisher: Self Published (December 16th 2011)
Disclaimer: Copy received for review purposes.

Buy your copy: Kindle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Ever since Kait Swanney could remember, the old crones of the village have been warning her to stay away from the selkies. They claim that like sirens of old, the seal men creep from the inky waters, shed their skins, and entice women to their deaths beneath the North Sea. But avoiding an encounter becomes impossible when Kait is spotted at the water’s edge, moments after the murder of a half-selkie infant.

Unexpectedly, Kait is awoken by a beautiful, naked selkie man seeking revenge. After she declares her innocence, the intruder darts into the night, but not before inadvertently bewitching her with an overpowering lure.   

Kait obsesses over a reunion deep beneath the bay and risks her own life to be reunited with her selkie. But when she lands the dangerous lover, the chaos that follows leaves Kait little time to wonder—is it love setting her on fire or has she simply been lured? “ GoodReads’ blurb

You know me fairly well by this point. You know I have something going on for selkies and selkie books. You shouldn’t be surprised that I accepted a selkie novel...

I was surprised, though, at how amazing it turned out to be.

The Lure of Shapinsay is probably the retelling that stays closer to the myth while giving it an entirely original style, and that alone, in a moment where everyone seems inclined to throw end-of-the-world conflicts into every faery tale while, is more than enough to shoot it to the four-star category.

The story is told in the point of view of both our lovers – Kait and her selkie man. If the POV wasn’t shared, we’d probably get lost pretty quick so it’s a good thing. Besides, the voices are so distinctive that there’s no risk of the reader feeling confused.

Indeed, Kait starts as a confident young woman who tries to stand up for herself in a time when female roles were limited to scrubbing the house clean and cooking for the males. She’s somewhat spunky and compassionate. And then, she meets him.

Selkies have a magic of their own: beauty, the ability to enchant the heart. Kait becomes obsessed with her selkie, becomes dependant on his presence... At times, I wanted to slap sense into her – specially when her love turned her egotistical and blind to his love.

And what about his love? Involuntary at first, then fierce like a sea storm, impossible to measure and to contain. Reading about his feelings, his choices, and yes, his sacrifices, made me want to shake Kait even worse.

I’m fiercely independent, so her behaviour stirred something in me – in the face of her loss of self and of the way it affected him.

The whole story is about the two of them sorting out their relationship, finding a balance between a human from the land and a magic, beautiful selkie from the seas, so I can’t tell you much more without stepping into spoilerland but... the evolution was both painful and beautiful.

I have to say that I wasn’t sure about how this one would end, not at all. Tragedy kept lingering on the horizon while I clung to hope, and till the last lines the winner wasn’t clear. It did read quite convenient, but the solution has been carefully planted beforehand – I had dismissed it, but it had been mentioned, so I guess that makes it completely legit.

That, and the fact that I didn’t really want to contemplate the alternative!

All in all, I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in adult faery stories that are both mystical and beautiful while staying close to the myths that gave them birth. However, I have to warn potential readers about something:

The story takes place in a village in the 19th century, and it shows in the way the characters talk. Personally, as a translator and sort-of-linguist, I loved this aspect. The accent and the everyday expressions have been taken care of with such care that I could have been reading a novel written in the time and place it portrays. It’s an aspect I’d like to congratulate Krista Holle about. I also understand that if English is not your mother tongue, if you dislike historically-tinged novels, then the way of speech could ruin The Lure of Shapinsay for you.

If you’re not sure where you stand, though, give it a chance. It’s most beautifully written.


  1. I personally love when the language style matches that of the period, and love when authors can successfully transport me to a certain historical era. Glad you enjoyed this one so much. It sounds very complicated relationship-wise, and a hint of tragedy? Love it. It sounds like a really good bittersweet read.

    So, I'm guessing this is not a YA right?

    1. Well... The character's age would fit in today's YA... But back then, that made them full adults and the book treats them as such. Not really steamy scenes - there's some implied stuff, but nothing I'd be worried about a teen reading.

      But yes, the relationship is very complicated and while I didn't need a box of tissues, there were some definitely tragic and bitter moments. There were also sweet and infuriating moments :)