Misskaella has always felt different from her older sisters, a feeling that is confirmed one day when the seals follow her home from Crescent Cove. From then on, Misskaella wears cloths wrapped around her torso, crossed front and back, to deny the magic inside herself. Or she does until Able Marten asks her to call him a wife from the sea. Then Misskaella gets her revenge for years of rejection by giving the men what they ask her for, sea-wives so beautiful that none wants a land-wife. The results transform Rollrock Island and everyone on it, whether man, woman, child, seal, or even the witch herself.
The Brides of Rollrock Island tells of the whole island, creating a sweeping tale of anguish, love, and magic. The story unfolds from six perspectives, each independent from the last, yet intertwined and building upon each other. Not every voice receives the same amount of time as the others, and it can be frustrating not to return to previous perspectives for their insights into new developments, but the overall effect is a haunting, atmospheric feeling that infuses the novel. Misskaella is a complex character, strong but embittered by years of prejudice and exclusion. Her oppressors are also her victims, as she is both victim and oppressor of the islanders. Lanagan creates characters who are easy to sympathize with, no matter where they fit into the conflict. The narratives told here come together into a compelling story that is complex, melancholy, and just a little despairing, but also just a little hopeful.