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Book Review: The Salt Grows Heavy


  • Title: The Salt Grows Heavy
  • Author: Cassandra Khaw
  • Series: None
  • Genre: Horror Fantasy
  • Publishing Date: May 2nd, 2023
  • Publishing Co.: Tor Nightfire
  • Length: 97 pages
  • Format: Kindle, Audiobook, Hardcover
  • Acquired: Received an ARC from Goodreads Giveaway
  • Amazon LinkThe Salt Grows Heavy

You may think you know how the fairytale goes: a mermaid comes to shore and weds the prince. But what the fables forget is that mermaids have teeth. And now, her daughters have devoured the kingdom and burned it to ashes.

On the run, the mermaid is joined by a mysterious plague doctor with a darkness of their own. Deep in the eerie, snow-crusted forest, the pair stumble upon a village of ageless children who thirst for blood, and the three “saints” who control them.

The mermaid and her doctor must embrace the cruelest parts of their true nature if they hope to survive.

Final Judgment: 4.5 Stars out of 5

CW: Body horror, cult mentality, child death, graphic violence. 

The Little Mermaid retelling, with a horrific twist. Khaw, in their horror fantasy novella, dilvulges what really happened to the Little Mermaid to trap her on land, and the aftermath of that imprisonment. Luckily for the mermaid, she has her friend the Plague Doctor to show her around the other kingdoms, now that hers has been left in ruins.

The writing style is both dense and prolific, with flowery synonyms galore and archaic or otherwise unusual diction on every page. As an avid fantasy reader, this should not pose an issue, but for those who are seeking an easy read, this may not be the story for you. Although the prose is quite difficult to wade through, the language itself and Khaw’s structure are beautiful. Simply reading the words is a story within itself, never mind the plot.

And mentioning the plot, it is quite full of horrific sights, most etched in graphic detail, but which propel the characters forward and entice readers to continue to the next page. This is a rather quick read–if not exactly easy–and I finished in a couple hours. Once started, it is difficult to put down. The characters and their relationship, though not given much page time, is a major driving force. This small sprinkle of romance is the flash of pure snow we readers need to continue traipsing in the dark, gloomy winter that is this novella.

BONUS: There is a dash of LGBT+ representation in the form of the plague doctor, who uses they/them pronouns, and whose gender is undetermined. Any minority representation automatically elevates a novel 🙂

Overall, great read! The language can be a bit of a mountain to climb, but otherwise this is a deliciously horrific and enticing new look upon the Little Mermaid’s story. It goes beyond the Little Mermaid in a way that few other retellings attempt. Not for the faint of heart.


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