Helm Publishing (2013)
Reviewed by Madeleine Sullivan for Reader View Kids (12/13)
Diana Bastine’s “Selkie” is part three of the Flynn’s adventures with supernatural folk in Ireland. Over the course of the last two books, Caitlin Flynn and her father Niall have collected a ragtag group of various faeries, Hamelyns (the underground species who the Flynns rescued), Niall’s sister, and her life partner Anna—who turns out to be a ‘selkie’. Anna is captured by the Flynn’s previous adversary, Patrick O’Malley.
The situation quickly escalates and the Flynns are once again called upon to save the supernatural world. The plot wasn’t easily predicted and I was intrigued by what the outcome would be. Although it’s been almost two years since I read “Shapeshifter”, the characters were convincing and I found myself quickly slipping back into a sense of familiarity. She presented a summary of the Flynn’s previous adventures early in the book, catching the reader up on the current state of affairs.
One of the things I enjoy most about Bastine’s writing, both in this book and in previous books, is her consistent ability to create a rich yet subtle backdrop over which she weaves her plots. “Selkie” presents a wide diversity of interspecies, homosexual, and heterosexual relationships; the presentation of these varied relationships wasn’t heavy-handed but worked to provide a depth to the plot.
I also appreciated that the story was more told than shown — although this might sound like a complaint, I genuinely intend it as a compliment. By recounting the story in brief, sometimes with a lack of detail, it felt more like a folk tale retold than a story experienced, an effect fully in line with the subject matter of Irish folklore.
Probably my favorite part of “Selkie” by Diana Bastin was the way in which the author was able to lead me to think about the delicate questions of what it means to be human. This most recent trouble with O’Malley leaves the Flynns (and friends) questioning how exactly they might be able to put the trouble maker to rest once and for all. To what extent is it necessary to act with mercy and grace in order to be an exemplary human? And, in a very sci-fi sense, if we present new characters to the world, such as fairies, what is it to act as a human and to act well?