The Blue Salt Road by Joanne Harris
Illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins
Published November 15th by Gollancz
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.
I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. When I heard Joanne had written another book in the same vein as her 2017 release A Pocketful of Crows (which I reread and reviewed Tuesday) I was hugely excited! I fell in love with the wonderful prose contained inside the tale of a nameless wild girl of the travelling folk and we are met with a slightly different style, that is no less captivating for it, about a nameless, young selkie man entrapped by a young woman and it does not disappoint.
I read The Blue Salt Road in a few small sittings over a couple of days and it has been an absolute joy to read. Joanne has an innate talent to bring hope and compassion into even the darkest of tales and this book is no exception. I was pleasantly surprised with the number of twists and turns throughout, one problem that I think stories that read like old tales can often suffer from is predictability but with this book while feeling familiar is also refreshingly new and strangely relevant to the world we live in today despite being set in a different time.
The prose is in a different style to A Pocketful of Crows but like it’s predecessor it evokes it’s subject perfectly and you can almost feel the wind and the sea spray against your face as you read about the waves, the different types of whales and other sea life, Joanne has a remarkable and magical way of describing nature and it really works well in The Blue Salt Road. We are also once again we are treated to some absolutely gorgeous art throughout by illustrator Bonnie Hawkins helping, even more, to bring the story to life. It is also hard to really pin down a true villain despite many of the characters doing despicable things but this just helps to bring it in line with reality, this is a perfect example of a new, yet old tale and I would happily read more like this.