“Most kids had imaginary friends, but most weren’t like Megan’s friend Niall. There were rules: only at night and only by the sea. She could’ve sworn he was real, but when someone vanishes without a trace, what else can you believe?
All that was seven years ago, buried in the past until Niall shows up in town with his tight swimmer’s body and easy smile. For Megan, just the sight of him is enough to tear open a scar that never fully healed. However, their reunion only elicits more questions. Niall’s keeping secrets, unbelievable ones, and as Megan delves into the supernatural depths of who he really is, she’s sure he’ll vanish again.
Megan’s not stupid—she knows how bad it’ll hurt if she gets involved. The first time Niall disappeared, she never thought she’d recover. But the moment they lock eyes, it’s too late—because Megan will go to any length to see that boy smile.”
I generally hate surprises unless it comes to stories. Being well versed in general mythology, I know the lore about selkies: human to seal shapeshifters who leave their seal pelts behind when the change. This leaves them vulnerable to theft of their true identity, for a selkie without his seal skin is only half whole. This is the foundation of By the Sea.
Like many young girls Megan has an imaginary friend; the only difference is hers is real. Then he disappears making Megan doubt her sanity and her worth. Now several years later, while working as a waitress, she notices something odd about her new coworker, and it doesn’t take her long to realize he’s her “imaginary friend” Niall. Initially angry and betrayed until Niall explains the reason for his desertion and also entreats her for help in restoring him to his full self.
I was pleasantly surprised by the twist in this story, for I’ve never seen this combination of fae before. The antagonist is terrifying and makes the story take quite a dark turn, putting both Niall and Megan in horrifying danger, and shattering her perceptions of the real world.
This story is well written with an almost whimsical tone to begin. The language leads you to think of the sea, breathy and light to glide alongside the loss the main character feels. The tension is heightened beautifully at the dire moments where you feel the same terror as the characters, doubly Megan whose suddenly thrown into a world she never knew existed. Their romance is sweet and almost childlike, as if Megan is still dealing with unresolved issues from that time, but it fits perfectly due to Niall’s true nature. They can both grow together. Him in the aftermath, no longer trapped but a willing denizen of her sphere, and her now privy to the secrets of his nature.