Cally and Westerly are strangers from opposite ends of the world who are about to be brought together in a place they least expect. Both reeling from grief at losing their parents, they find themselves in a mysterious, magical, and malevolent land that has echoes of their own, but otherwise is beyond imagining. They each have their own shared directive: to find the sea, where their parents implied they could be found. In this land, they meet a majestic, beautiful, and terrifying woman named Tyrannis, and her companion (or enemy?) the sun-like Lugan. They encounter creatures made of stone, a fatalistic chess game, and eventually each other. Together, they face perilous odds on their journey to the sea, always threatened by the presence of Tyrannis, but aided by allies known as Lugan’s folk. What will they find at the sea, and why do they find themselves in this land with each other?
(For people who enjoy how cover art changes – I really dig this original British 1983 cover, other than the fact that Cally is nowhere to be found on it, but the first time I read this book, I read the later 80s paperback. For my reread this time around, I found the original American edition in our library, and then I saw this version that was printed in 2013, which gives zero indication of what the book is about, as that dragon is in the book for 0.5 seconds).
I originally read this as a middle schooler after loving Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, and reread it a million times after that. The story didn’t have the staying power for me that TDIR has, so I anticipate that it was the romance and some surprisingly sexy parts that made this an adolescent favorite. The book definitely has echoes of TDIR – Tyrannis and Lugan mirror The Rider and Merriman in some ways, and young strangers navigating a larger than life quest is also a familiar theme, as well as some roots in Celtic mythos (selkies!). But Seaward is definitely for an older crowd (did I mention the sexy bits?!) and is much broader in its symbolism.
Things I observed on my reread: Westerly and Cally are cute together, though maybe underwritten considering they are our protagonists. They are very funny (West’s brand of sarcasm is particularly fun to read), but because we meet them just launched into this world, we don’t get to know them much outside of their survival and growing love for each other (and even that isn’t investigated much beyond two teens stuck in dramatic circumstances). The book is definitely for those who prefer their literature heavy on theme and setting rather than character.
I am glad I reread it, it was a nice comfort read after a long year of demanding work-related book needs. But I don’t know that I’d need to visit it again. It majorly pales in comparison to TDIR. Cooper’s work shines when she can really dig into the characters she creates (Lugan cannot compare to Merriman, the best of the old wizardly mentors IMHO) and the circumstances that Cally and West encounter feel like flashes in a pan compared to the rich adventures Will Stanton and the Drew children engage in.
Top marks for the sexy bits, though.