The Salt Grows Heavy – Cassandra Khaw

“And you shall know her by the trail of dead.”

This is the story of a toothy mermaid and her plague doctor. If you need to know more than that before deciding this is absolutely the book for you, then maybe this is not the book for you. For everyone else, it’s just as dark and weird and strangely beautiful as you’re hoping it will be.

It’s body horror. It’s a love story. It’s hunger. It’s not giving up on one another. It’s a story you should know as little about as possible before you prise open the pages and devour the viscera for yourself.

The writing is gorgeous. Although this read has its own style, it reminded me of Seanan McGuire’s books when she’s writing as Mira Grant. A number of reviewers have already described it as lyrical and I can’t think of a better word to capture the experience of this book. However, I’m certain the author could come up with ten alternatives.

For someone who simply loves words, this novella was practically a playground for me. I stumbled across so many words that were new to me so part of the joy of this read was learning what they all meant. A couple of my new favourites are intaglio and cicatrice.

“Could you assemble a new life from nothing but debris?”

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Titan Books for the opportunity to read this novella. I can’t wait to read it again!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

After the murder of her husband and the fall of his empire, a mermaid and her plague doctor companion escape into the wilderness. Deep in the woods, they stumble across a village where children hunt each other for sport, sacrificing one of their own at the behest of three surgeons they call “the saints.” These saints play god with their magic, harvesting the best bits of the children for themselves and piecing the sacrifices back together again.

To save the children from their fates, the plague doctor must confront their past, and the mermaid must embrace the darkest parts of her true nature.

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