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Myna’s a selkie, though she doesn’t know it.
With her firstborn pronounced dead and taken before Myna can see her, it takes the birth of a second daughter, years later, to begin to mend Myna’s broken heart.
But then Myna learns her firstborn is still alive, and everything she thought she knew about herself is turned upside down.
Myna has a choice; retrieve her skin and return to the ocean—to the family she never knew and the daughter she’s long grieved for, or remain on land with the husband she loves, and the daughter who can never enter the sea.
This edition of What the Tide Brings is a revised version of the one printed by The People’s Library in 2018.
It was dark when Myna woke. Moonbeams sneaked through gaps in the shutters, stretching the shadows in the room. Outside, waves whooshed as they washed over the sand, the sound almost reversing as they were sucked back out to sea.
She’d had that nightmare again; the young girl with long dark hair, the eerie-sweet song on her lips. Once it had given her hope for the child to come, but that child had long since entered the world, been declared dead, and taken before Myna had even seen her. Perhaps if I’d held her one time—
Before the thought was complete a familiar eerie-sweet tune stole through the window.
Myna’s heart pounded in her ears. Not while I’m awake. She shook her head, her hands clenching the blankets. It’s something else. It’s got to be.
She slipped out of bed, pulled on a thick woolen jumper and stole outside. The sound was stronger, clearer, but though it still sounded of the music from her dreams, Myna was convinced that up close it would fade and change, that her ears could not hear properly over the wash of the waves.
It took a few minutes to reach the shore. At first the beach looked empty. Myna stepped out, glancing first to the left, along the great stretch of sand, and then to the right, where the land curved out to the point.
At first there was nothing, but then the shadows moved and something emerged from the rocks, something with pale skin, and long dark hair teased by the wind, something which seemed to be the source of this eerie-sweet sound.
Myna shook her head. She wanted to wake up to the warmth of her bed and the safety of Ronan’s strong arms, but the chill night air clung to her face and raised goosebumps on her arms.
The singing stopped.
‘Mama, you came!’ The figure came closer. A young woman, maybe fifteen years old.
She was naked.
‘Aren’t you cold?’ Myna scanned the beach for clothing.
The girl laughed. ‘Why would I be cold, Ma?’
Myna shook her head. ‘I’m not your mother.
‘You are. I’m your firstborn. They call me Wayanna, now.’
‘Wayanna?’ Myna frowned, shook her head. ‘My firstborn died.’
The girl stepped closer. ‘I’m not dead. Grandmother saved me. I was born with my skin, see.’
The girl pulled at Myna, pointing at something on the sand. Myna pulled back, refusing to budge.
The girl frowned. ‘You don’t know.’ She looked out to sea, and then back at Myna.
‘They said you didn’t know.’ She pulled at Myna again. This time, Myna was too cold to resist and she stumbled across the sand on numb legs. ‘But you must remember being under the waves. I remember my first days, even when I was a pup. That first shock of the cold water…’ Her head tilted to one side as she examined Myna. ‘You don’t remember, do you? You’re a selkie, Mama. The human woman stole you away when you were a baby. When I was born I looked like a selkie child, and Grandmother took me to raise me in the sea.’ They approached the shape in the sand and the girl lifted it up, and passed it to Myna. It was heavy; thick and rubbery, damp and warm. Myna shuddered with revulsion at the touch, but the girl didn’t seem to notice. ‘That’s my seal skin, Mama. You have one too. The human will have hidden it somewhere. If you find it, you can come home.’
What the Tide Brings by Heather Ewings is a sweet story. The story of a woman who is more than she ever dreamed is a wonderful distraction. Ewings brings colour and depth to her world, and it’s a comfortable read. Her description is simple, yet effective, the flow smooth and characters—otherworldly or not—likeable and realistic.
Myna is benevolent as the protagonist who has lost so much, only to find she’s about to lose more to reach where she belongs. Ronan is Myna’s biggest champion—his support of his wife’s unusual situation admirably unwavering. Ebba, their second daughter, is your typical teen: stubborn and unrealistic in her expectations but, unlike her mother, keen to explore the world unknown.
What the Tide Brings is the perfect escape from the mundane world of humanity,plunging the reader into a world of selkies, folklore, lies and life-changing discoveries. Ewings makes this world a pleasant one, and tugs at the heartstrings. A perfect addition to any fantasy fan’s library, and a wonderful starting point for those looking to dip into the addictive waters of this genre.
Review by Belinda Brady – Aurealis Magazine – Issue 141
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