The Salt Grows Heavy

Tor Nightfire. May 2023. 112p. ISBN 9781250830913. $21.99. HORROR
What if the Little Mermaid laid eggs and her hatched children’s hunger laid waste to her prince’s land? Khaw’s (Breakable Things) latest novella tackles this question with a brutally visceral but seductive opening sequence. The mermaid, who’s been held captive and rendered mute by her husband, meets up with the only survivor in the land, a plague doctor. They soon come upon a band of children gleefully hunting another child at the direction of their keepers, “The Saints,” three adult cult leaders who rebuild the near-death child with parts taken from themselves. Told in three sections, each satisfyingly complete as its own story, and ending with a cliff-hanger, this compelling tale features strong worldbuilding, innovative uses of body-horror tropes, lush language, and a captivatingly direct narration as it takes the protagonists and readers on a journey to contemplate what it means to be “saved.”
VERDICT With this brilliantly constructed tale that consciously takes on a well-known story and violently breaks it open to reveal a heartfelt core, Khaw cements their status as a must-read author. For fans of sinister, thought-provoking, horrific retellings of Western classics by authors of marginalized identity like Helen Oyeyemi and Ahmed Saadawi.
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