The sea gives and the sea takes away. To the fishermen in the village it provided food, their way of life. But to 15-year-old Peri it was the culprit who took her father, returned his boat empty. To the king it was the undersea home of his enchanted second wife and son. Ultimately, the sea took his first son away from him.
It was a changeling sea, but the mage, Lyo, unraveled the story:"Once upon a time there was a king who had two sons: one by a young queen, his wife, and one by a woman out of the sea. The sons were born at the same time, and when the queen died in child-bed, her human son was taken away, and the sea-born son left in his place. . . ."
The sea-born son, Keri, unable to have human feelings, gazed longingly at the sea. When he was a young man he returned to his mother ("a face very pale; the heavy almond-shaped eyes held all the darkest shades of mother-of-pearl . . .") and the Sea Kingdom. She then released the other son, who had been known by the village as the sea serpent.
Peri, who has devised hexes, cursed the sea and loved the changeling sons, resolved her anger at the water and set free the king's sons to their rightful legacies.
"The Changeling Sea" is an enchantment, a legend as old as man's life on the land and the water, a love story that touches the heart.
Patricia McKillip is well known for mystical characters that possess special powers of the muse. While she writes of the sea and "otherly worlds" - titillating fantasy lands - the reader is willing to suspend disbelief, to participate in the adventures of the ethereal.
Her trademarks are incredible descriptions of surreal settings ("A full moon hung above the spires: the breakers, slow and full, churned in its light to a milky silver before they broke") and ("the winds whipped up foam like the froth on cream . . .") with the intertwining of fire, moonlight, rain, tides, the colors of dusk and shadows.
The protagonists are invitingly special, authentic to the themes that leave the reader assured of better times, happy resolutions.
In "The Changeling Sea" the resolution is Lyo's. He has the ability to make the fishers rich with the gold chain held fast around the sea-serpent's neck but instead turns it into a sea of blue flowers - periwinkles - which is the tenor for the king's sons returning to their rightful homes and the foreshadowing of a life with the tattered yet magical Peri.
"It's an odd thing, happiness. Some people take happiness from gold. Or black pearls. And some of us, far more fortunate, take their happiness from periwinkles. . . ."
It's a lovely conclusion to a terrifically exciting book that will be welcome to McKillip fans and make enthusiasts out of those who reach for "The Changeling Sea" as their first exposure to her work.