Thoughts: The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw

Source: Netgalley- MANY, many thanks to the publisher
TL;DR: A beautiful but gruesome horror book about a mermaid and plague doctor who stumble upon a village of children and their twisted Saints. Loved this, beautiful but NOT for the faint of heart.

Plot: A short travel story that leads to a mysterious village with creepy children and twisted acts. Concise and well put together (with an unfortunately needless epilogue).
Characters: Equal parts mysterious and horrifying. Very well put together for such a short piece.
Setting: This one really evoked the setting for me with the cold forest and creepy village. Fantastic work.
Magic: The magic here is based on personhood and a sort of Frankenstein like alchemy. Some ‘deep, dark one’ horror is hinted at but otherwise it seems to focus in on that body alchemy you see in Frankenstein style tales.


The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw is possibly one of the prettiest but most gruesome books I’ve read. Khaw’s writing is lyrical, verging on the purple side, but it works to enhance the horror of the scenes they paint. From opening the book by describing how a house looks like the empty bones of a body, to the dark and atmospheric painting of the world in which our characters are traveling. Khaw manages to show us both the horror and beauty of what’s around.

The story itself is concise. A former queen, think a twisted Little Mermaid after she bore the Prince children and they turned out to be the horrors that she truly is, and a Plague Doctor are leaving the devastated realm her children destroyed and traveling to another. They find themselves in a village of children that is controlled and ‘cared for’ by a trio of Saints. We see the reflection of what violence and the search for immortality can do to a person and the victims it creates. Our mermaid is silenced, through violence perpetrated upon her by her husband, and over the course of the story she finds her voice again and becomes the master of her own story and heart.

As I stated the horror in this is intense, I wouldn’t recommend this for the faint of heart. From a description to eating an eyeball to the sight of someone’s insides leaking out their front, Khaw cuts no corners. My only complaint, in truth, has nothing to do with that. I almost never say this but the epilogue on this felt a bit too much, and unneeded. A tidy and sweet ending to a brutal and visceral story. Though I’m giving this one a high mark, I do wish that last little bit had been left to the reader to decide.

5 out of 5 Plague Masks.

Graphic: Torture, Child death, Death, Gore, Cannibalism, Genocide, Blood, Body horror, and Violence]

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