The Salt Grows Heavy

Hardcover, 106 pages

English language

Published Nov. 17, 2023 by Doherty Associates, LLC, Tom.

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4 stars (3 reviews)

From USA Today bestselling author Cassandra Khaw comes The Salt Grows Heavy, a razor-sharp and bewitching fairytale of discovering the darkness in the world, and the darkness within oneself.

You may think you know how the fairytale goes: 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 cruellest parts of their true nature if they hope to survive.

3 editions

A beautiful and horrific love story

5 stars

I loved this and I needed to sit with it a while after I finished, before starting my next book. It's a body-horror/fairytale/love story between a 'mermaid' on land and her (plague) doctor, as they intervene in a morbid cult run by three false saints. It's like nothing I've read before (okay, maybe it's a bit T. Kingfisher-y - a good thing) and it's really beautifully written.

The Salt Grows Heavy

4 stars

I quite enjoyed this dark fairy tale / body horror novella about the relationship between a mermaid and a plague doctor, as they investigate mysterious violent children in the woods in the thrall of three surgeon saints. I enjoyed the prose quite a bit, but I am also a sucker for stories about monsters and bodies, broken and (re)constructed.

(Also seriously though, I will content warn for on page violence, death, and gore. Various characters are eviscerated several times on page.)

The ebook that I read also included the short story "And In Our Daughters, We Find a Voice", which can be read here:

It's possible that I'm slow on the uptake, and so I didn't twig to the fact that the mermaid in The Salt Grows Heavy having her tongue cut out (losing her voice, in other words) was a riff on the little mermaid story. This short …

avatar for JustGrist

rated it

4 stars


  • Horror
  • Fantasy
  • Novella
  • Fiction