July 04, 2006

Upslope of the Sea

YA author Betsy James' story of how she came to write The Seeker Chronicles, the three volume novel of Downslope, Upslope and the Hill people, is almost as compelling as the novels themselves. James heard bits of Irish folklore and stories and did paintings and drawings of them all the way through school. She abandoned her dreamy drawings and stories, never showing them to anyone, but now they have emerged again to an appreciative audience. The cover first caught my eye, and the storyline well rewarded me for picking it up. The Long Night Dance is short enough and compelling enough that you'll want to begin the story with the sequel right next to you.

Kat is less daughter than housekeeper; has been, since her mother has died. Kat is from Upslope, as far away from the sea as she can be. Kat has never swam, doesn't sing, isn't permitted to dance. She has to keep respectable, including covering her bright red hair, to keep her snotty aunt and the nosy townspeople from starting up the gossip all over again. About her Hill mother. And the fact that the Hill folk and the Downslopers are all wild savages, dancing and carrying on. Good people have better things to do, like marry respectably and keep a respectable house, bring forth respectable children, and play respectable games... like War, which is the village favorite.

Kat's life is a study in black and white that clearly outlines how sere and ordered is her internal landscape. Yet she hears the beat of drums in the pound of the surf, though it is far from the house. One night, goaded by its song, Kat goes down and sings to the sea... and the sea brings up a gift for her. A Rig... one of the seal people. And everything in Kat's life changes.

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