Susan Cooper is best known for her epic "Dark is Rising Sequence," but "Seaward" is not as well-known, while also drawing on the same Celtic legends. It's a little darker, a little differently-written, but a great read for people with enough patience.
Westerly's mother was killed by gunmen, and he escaped through a door into a strange land, with three magical bones. Calliope, a girl with strange thick skin on her hands, watches her parents waste away with a strange illness and leave her alone,and she slips through a mirror to the same land. When Cally encounters West, he is trying to escape from the ruthless, cold-hearted Lady Taranis.
A kindly stranger named Lugan seems to be their best hope for escaping Taranis. As the two travellers cross the world that is an echo of our own, they encounter strange creatures such as the sealpeople (selkies), a talking insect that guides them over a desert, creatures made of stone, and the haunting specters of their own pasts and destinies...
"Seaward" seems like a pretty simple story at first, but in that simple storyline Cooper tackles questions about death and life, about grief, about good and evil. Westerly's guilt over his mother's death and Cally's opportunity to be with the selkies are beautifully drawn. Her writing is dreamy, lush, but thankfully never becomes overwrought.
Cally and West are very alike, very confused and lacking in understanding, but drawn "seaward" and both dealing with grief. Taranis comes across as very childlike and petulant, while Lugan is paternal and kindly. There aren't many supporting characters, but the Stonecutter is pretty unnerving, and Peth is endearing and sad.
Probably the biggest stumbling block in "Seaward" is the slightly dreamy tone of it all. Unlike the "Dark is Rising" books, there is no grounded "homey" base -- it's all like a legend right from the beginning. As a result, it takes awhile for the story to really get going, and there are long stretches where the characters are just walking. There's no cursing or violence, although there is one scene where Cally and West experience some pretty strong physical attraction (though nothing happens). Their romance is a little abrupt as well, although hardly unexpected; in fact, it's pretty sweet.
"Seaward" is a fantastic story, with likeable characters and a deceptively simple storyline. Fans of Cooper and Celtic legends will eat this right up.