Sibeal rescues and helps a survivor of a shipwreck to remember his identity and helps him to fulfill his mission to rescue the rest of his crew, who are trapped on an island filled with monstrous sea creatures. Sibeal is a seer who is about to become a full-fledged druid and live a life of chastity and dedication to her craft. She is temporarily visiting her Aunt Liadan and Uncle Bran at their warrior fortress of Inis Eala. One day, she has a vision of a storm and she alerts everyone on Inis Eala to be prepared to go on a rescue mission on the high seas. The only people they are able to rescue are two foreigners – one who calls himself Knut and can speak rudimentary bits of their language and another who is his wife, a mute and wild-looking woman called Svala. Sibeal is suspicious of Knut because he doesn't seem to recognize the dead bodies of the other crew members who washed ashore and his wife doesn't seem to like him very much. Later that night, Sibeal has another vision that leads her to discover a third man who has washed ashore into a cove. She waits out the night with him, using her own body heat to keep him alive until one of her sisters discovers her the next day and helps her bring him to safety.
Over the next few days, Sibeal nurses the third man back to health. At first he doesn't speak, being too shocked out of his wits and too weak from his experience. Sibeal tells him stories and decides to name him Ardal since he can't seem to remember his name or details about why he was on the ship in the first place. Meanwhile, Sibeal also befriends Svala who she finds behaves very oddly. Sibeal communicates with Svala through sign language and finds that Svala is almost like a wild animal, roaming the beach naked and eating raw fish. Svala is often found staring desolately into the ocean and often, she tries to communicate something important to Sibeal, but Sibeal can't figure out what she's trying to tell her. As the days pass, Sibeal doesn't warm up any better to Knut, however, but the man seems to have easily won over some of the warriors of Inis Eala with his charm. Sibeal believes that Knut is hiding something, as he shows too much interest in whether or not Ardal regains his memories and insinuates to anyone who is listening that Ardal is not to be trusted because he is likely to be mad when he starts talking. Ardal also seems wary of Knut though he can't explain to anyone why.
When Ardal's health starts returning, he and Sibeal bond over their mutual knowledge of druidic lore and rune casting. Apparently Ardal must have been a scholar of some sort before he lost his memory. Ardal tells Sibeal that he does remember his real name – Felix. Ardal, now called Felix, falls in love with Sibeal but Sibeal can't reciprocate – not because she doesn't love him back, but because she is destined to celibacy as a druid. Meanwhile, Knut has been spreading rumors that Felix isn't to be trusted and suspicions and hostility build up against Felix. Sibeal is also doubly frustrated because Knut is undermining her powers as a seer by spreading rumors that Sibeal's powers are compromised due to potential "hanky-panky" with Felix, something which is forbidden for one who seeks to be a true druid. Luckily, her Uncle Bran and cousin Johnny trust Sibeal and decide not to leap to conclusions.
One day Sibeal roams the beach of Inis Eala and sees Svala again. This time, the woman looks very desperate and she acts as if she is about to plunge off a cliff. Sibeal stops her and when Svala grips onto her arm, Sibeal receives a vision of a terrifying sea beast. Svala tries to communicate to Sibeal how the vision is related to “home” however Sibeal still does not understand the details. Sibeal manages to extract the approximate location of this mysterious island that Svala calls home.
One night Sibeal, who had fallen asleep by Felix's bedside, wakes up to see Knut trying to strangle Felix in his sleep. Knut is brought to trial with Felix where each of them try to convince the rest of the Inis Eala warriors of their version of the truth. Sibeal knows that Knut is lying but her words don't mean much because everyone knows that she is biased to favor Felix's story. Felix eventually tells everyone the truth about Knut – how Knut meant to either kill him or get him to leave Inis Eala because he was afraid that Felix would tell the world the truth. Felix explains that he and Knut were passengers aboard a ship destined to the Orcades (Orkney Islands) and that their ship was caught in a storm which drowned many of their crew. He tells everyone that he and the other passengers had to rescue themselves by rowing towards a nearby island where they briefly docked to try to recuperate however a monstrous sea creature appeared and attacked them. Felix tells the Inis Eala warriors that Knut and the rest of their pitiful crew managed to escape but he wanted to return to the island to save the rest of their men. Finally, he claims that Knut knocked him out so that he wouldn't protest their escape. Since then, Felix has been haunted by the looks of horror and betrayal on the faces of the men he left behind with that sea monster. Knut can only defend himself by insisting that Felix is insane and a troublemaker.
Sibeal steps in as an impartial seer and convinces everyone that Felix may be speaking the truth. Felix tells Sibeal's Cousin Johnny, an important warrior leader of Inis Eala, that he plans on returning to that forlorn island to see if any men are still there so that he can rescue them. Sibeal also translates as best she can, what Svala tries to tell everyone. She tells everyone that Svala was taken against her will by Knut from that forlorn island where the sea monsters roam. Johnny finally believes Felix and Svala and organizes a crew of volunteers to help row them back to this mysterious island.
Sibeal, Johnny, Felix, Svala, Knut and men who volunteered for the mission make their arduous journey towards the location where Sibeal thinks the island can be found based on Svala's sign language. When they reach the island, they are caught in a brutal storm which knocks Felix off the boat. Sibeal is devastated, thinking Felix is dead, but the crew row up to shore where they are confronted by the sea monster. Against their instincts, Sibeal tells the men of the crew not to attack. Svala seems overjoyed and the sea monster does not harm her but seems to take her up into a tender embrace. Svala and the sea monster disappear beneath the waves. Sibeal feels like giving up, as the loss of Felix has hit her hard, but Johnny reminds her that they still need to find any survivors on the island and rescue them so Sibeal musters up the last ounces of her energy and uses her druidic powers to find the shipwrecked men. To her great joy, she also finds Felix, who was somehow rescued by the stranded men.
The rescue crew and the stranded men follow a tunnel that leads to their escape from the island, however the exit of the tunnel is blocked by another monstrous sea creature. It is at this moment that Sibeal recognizes that the sea creature is actually Svala's kin.
Sibeal puts two and two together and realizes that Svala is actually a sea monster that has somehow been trapped in human form. She notices that the stranded men have been using what looked like a blanket to keep themselves warm while they awaited rescue. The blanket turns out to be Svala's monstrous skin. Sibeal returns the skin to Svala who dons it and transforms into a sea monster. Knut tries to stop Svala however he ends up getting eaten by her. Sibeal and Svala say good-bye and the crew leave the island.
On the trip back to Inis Eala, Felix again expresses his love for Sibeal and Sibeal at first resists, but the story ends with Sibeal agreeing to hold off signing up officially to join the druids so that she and Felix can travel to Felix's homeland in Armorica (Gaul) where they may be able to strengthen trade relations and political ties between Sevenwaters (Sibeal's family) and other clans.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like this story because it is rich in folklore and mythology. I like that Svala turned out to be a "selkie" of sorts by the end of the story and that she had a special "skin" that she needed to wear in order to transform into a sea creature.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Svala had her moment of redemption against her captor, Knut, by transforming into a sea creature and eating him. Knut had separated her from her home, kept her stranded as a human, and forced her to be his wife - all of which make him despicable. It was quite satisfying to see him get his just deserts.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Sibeal is smart and courageous. She was the only one who could figure out who Svala really was and also to confront the sea monsters without fear. It was because of her efforts that Svala was able to return home and also get her "skin" back so that she can transform into her true form.