November 12, 2018

REVIEW| The Blue Salt Road

The Blue Salt Road
Joanne M. Harris


UK Publisher: Gollancz
UK Release Date: November 15th, 2018


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.


The Blue Salt Road is the second novella in Joanne Harris' folklore retellings that have been illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins, with the hope that more is to come in the future. Based on the familiar tale of the Selkie, an oceanic creature of myth, who can remove its skin and take on the form of a human; however, if their Selkie skin is taken and hid from them they remain trapped in their human form. Harris' builds on this story with layers and depths of emotion, that draws you into this wintery tale and never quite leaves you.

Harris' use of generational storytelling within the narrative is something I admired and thought helped to shape the three women as characters and not rely on the matriarchal symbols of The Crone, The Mother and the Maiden that is often identifiable in fairy tales to be able to do that. 

Again, the rich depth of human desperation to keep love and what loss can be fathomed by that, and the sense of confusion that the Selkie of the story felt was palpable as he had to find his sense of identity and purpose.

Bonnie Helen Hawkins' illustrations are nothing short from being perfect. They add to the Nordic atmosphere of the setting and the story, and I would happily flip back through to just look at them if I found myself short of time to reread the whole novella (although you most definitely will find me rereading this sometime soon). 


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