The Sea Swallow
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This issue’s cover illustration is from The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan. Thanks to David Fickling Books for their help with this January cover.
The Wyre Coast stretches north of Blackpool towards Fleetwood, one of those austerely atmospheric Lancashire littoral zones whose flatness conceals a hoard of mysteries. In the case of the Wyre, these include an undersea petrified forest, a drowned village, a lightning-gutted lighthouse, and a history of shipwrecks. All of these elements have been brought together in a beautiful and intriguing adventure book, which has been produced in collaboration with a project to develop a ‘mythic’ coastal trail for the area.
The heroine of the story is Mary, daughter of a drowned trawler man, who meets a sea-sprite while exploring the ruins of the lighthouse against which her father’s vessel was wrecked. He is carrying a shell full of voices, the magical object at the centre of her father’s last, unfinished story. Mary is granted the ability to journey to the seabed for an encounter with a malevolent sea-ogre, who covets the shell and threatens her village with an inundation. The outcome of their meeting fuses the history of the coast with its contemporary redevelopment as an environmental haven.
This is a strongly made book, with robust, hessian-clad covers vividly illustrated with sea and sky scapes. Thompson’s prose is aptly rhapsodic, while Megee’s illustrations are wonderfully evocative of tidal flats and the teeming mysteries of the deep. Both print and pictures are elegantly set, their surfaces swept by flocks of billowing seabirds, as if the pages themselves are a part of the shoreline they celebrate.