Lightning Review

The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw

The Salt Grows Heavy

by Cassandra Khaw

Dear readers, I would be remiss if I did not point out that Cassandra Khaw’s book The Salt Grows Heavy is about what happens when a horror story version of a mermaid teams up with a version of Frankenstein’s monster to burn it all down. It is, in its own blood-soaked, rage-fuelled way, a romance. There may not be many of us for whom this is our jam, but if it IS your jam, buckle up.

The narrator, who goes unnamed, is, for lack of a better word, a mermaid…


…one who was captured, mutilated, and raped (in backstory, off-page) by a prince that she and her toothy children subsequently destroyed, and by destroyed I mean ate.

She and the kingdom’s plague doctor (also unnamed) leave the kingdom in ashes and go wandering. They meet a group of children and teens who are locked in an endless sort of Lord of the Flies cult under the thrall of three surgeons – ones that the plague doctor remembers all too well from his past. Violent things happen.

I cannot overemphasize to readers the amount of violence and gore this novella contains. There are literal buckets, or at least jars, of blood. Children die, animals die, the snow is painted red, etc. etc. When I say that the narrator burns it all down, I am not speaking metaphorically, nor am I speaking of a single event. If you have any pent-up rage that needs a vicarious outlet, and who doesn’t, then these 112 pages should give you a bite-sized catharsis.

However, I’m going to maintain a stance that, while this is a work of horror fiction, it is also a deeply felt romance, a really beautiful love story. The unlikeliness of these two experiencing love – real love, tenacious, messy, hard-won love – is epic given their past experiences and given the fact that the mermaid in particular has either never had or, more likely, been robbed of empathy, warmth, and tenderness. The mermaid seems devoid of, and possibly unable to, form attachments, even to their own offspring. And yet this attachment happens, and it’s beautiful.

This is a novella, and there isn’t a lot of time for character building, but I loved these characters anyway. There’s nothing sweet or cozy or even sexy about this romance, but if you are in the mood for something very different, and you don’t mind a lot of entrails, give this a try.

Carrie S

From Cassandra Khaw, USA Today bestselling author of Nothing But Blackened Teeth , comes The Salt Grows Heavy , a razor-sharp and bewitching fairy tale of discovering the darkness in the world, and the darkness within oneself.

“This brilliant novella is not to be missed.” — Publishers Weekly , STARRED review

“With this brilliantly constructed tale…Khaw cements their status as a must-read author.” —Library Journal, STARRED review

You may think you know how the fairy tale 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.

Horror, Novella
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Add Your Comment →

  1. Lisa F says:

    Sounds intriguing!

  2. Jazzlet says:

    I can’t find it now, but I read a sample and Oh Yes!

  3. CarolynM says:

    $12.99 for 105 pages?


  4. LML says:

    This is a case of greatly enjoyed your review; have zero interest in reading the book.

  5. flchen1 says:

    I’m intrigued but like @CarolynM, find the price steep.

  6. Kareni says:

    No entrails for me, but I definitely enjoyed your review, @Carrie!

  7. Kendra says:

    For those who are interested, has an excerpt:

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