The Blue Salt Road by Joanne M. Harris
Publication date: 15 November 2018
Page count: 224 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
Joanne Harris is rapidly becoming one of my favourite authors. Pocketful of Crows was a standout read from last year, and The Blue Salt Road is just as good. I really appreciate retellings of lesser known fairy tales and folklore, and the Child Ballads fit the bill perfectly. Harris’s haunting style and talent for storytelling bring The Blue Salt Road to life.
An earthly nourris sits and sings
And aye she sings, “Ba lilly wean,
Little ken I my bairn’s father,
Far less the land that he staps in.
(Child Ballad, no. 113)
So begins a stunning tale of love, loss and revenge, against a powerful backdrop of adventure on the high seas, and drama on the land. The Blue Salt Road balances passion and loss, love and violence and draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless, wild young man.
Passion drew him to a new world, and trickery has kept him there – without his memories, separated from his own people. But as he finds his way in this dangerous new way of life, so he learns that his notions of home, and your people, might not be as fixed as he believed.
Beautifully illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins, this is a stunning and original modern fairytale.
The Blue Salt Road is a fairy tale in the old tradition, meaning it is incredibly dark and there are some horrifying implications to the story. Harris’s writing is haunting and atmospheric — it was so easy to sink into this book on a cold, dark evening. I particularly enjoy any story that takes place on, in, or around the sea, and you could really feel the salt in the air, the harsh cold, and the spray of the sea while you’re reading. There are gorgeous illustrations throughout the book, and I really felt like they complimented the story so well. I loved seeing our characters and setting come to life on the page.
Something I really liked about The Blue Salt Road is that we have a male selkie as our main character. In every selkie tale I’ve heard, it’s always a female selkie who is torn from her family and the sea when a man steals her seal skin. The fact that Harris decided to flip the usual story made it all the more compelling, and to me it felt like an even crueller twist of fate. I don’t want to reveal too much, but I really liked our nameless main character enjoyed his story arc, which gave similar satisfaction I found in Pocketful of Crows.
I would so highly recommend The Blue Salt Road as the nights grow longer and the air becomes chillier. Harris’s tale has so much magic and atmosphere, you’ll find yourself falling into the world she creates.
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