I consider Cassandra Khaw to be the most intelligent horror writer working today. The way she crafts her stories with precision is a gift, and her latest work, The Salt Grows Heavy, is an absolute gem.

Our mermaid narrator, and her Plague Doctor companion encounter a strange village, where young people are butchered in the pursuit of eternal life. The tribe is manipulated by three “saints”, who resemble a barbaric Greek chorus. The Plague Doctor is strangely keen to free these young people, and their mermaid bride endeavors to assist. But this is a bleak fairytale, and escape never comes easily.

I have seen Khaw’s previous work dismissed as “purple prose”. But Khaw’s writing is never needlessly flamboyant. She challenges the reader by using heightened language to contribute to the sense of unease. By creating a world that is not entirely comfortable and familiar, Khaw firmly consumes the dedicated reader. Patience and repeated readings bring great rewards.

The Salt Grows Heavy is a perfect length to read in one sitting. I would recommend carving out time and focus to truly appreciate this novella. It is bleak, but beautiful.

The Salt Grows Heavy is out now

Thanks to Tor Nightfire for the ARC.

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