A beautifully strange debut novel that draws upon folklore of the Scottish west and the isles.
In Scottish author Logan's fictional world, the seas have risen and swallowed vast continents. Land, in its scarcity, has become a militarized commodity, populated by an aristocracy known as “landlockers” who have staked out their hereditary claim on the only land that remains, a series of archipelagos. The liquid world is left to the “damplings,” who are forbidden to trespass beyond the high-tide mark without wearing a bell, banished to carve out harsh livings at the mercy of the sea. Out of this starkly original setting, less Waterworld and more Water for Elephants, come central characters Callanish and North. Dampling North and her pet bear are performers who live aboard the traveling circus boat the Excaliber, while Callanish is a landlocker who's been sent away to work as a gracekeeper, living a solitary life administering watery burials for damplings and caring for her graces: caged birds set out in “graceyards” to starve, marking a human being’s suggested mourning period over the loss of a loved one. Logan is an award-winning short story writer and perhaps as a result never stays with one character long but shifts deftly between viewpoints, revealing her characters' desires and longings, secrets and limitations. Each point-of-view shift delivers a deeper perspective on the lives of North and Callanish as Logan unhurriedly builds the narrative tension into a billowing storm. “After that night’s performance, the crew of the Excalibur felt the storm finally stirring to life….With glitter in their blood, coals in their chests, choking on their secrets, they sailed into the night. Soon they lost sight of land. The first drops of rain fell.” The storm that rocks the Excalibur is both literal and metaphorical, as it brings the lives of North and Callanish crashing together and stirs up love, adventure, and a smoldering determination to find a sense of wholeness.
Logan delivers a haunting, spare, and evocative debut.