T.C. Parker delivers the creeping unease of past masters with a story that is as beguiling as it is terrifying – Salt Blood is a story that keeps on giving from the very first page!
Salt Blood is an interesting concept for a book and one that seems far removed from the brooding cover (although I can see the connections there just about), it’s also a book that shouldn’t be judged on the cover alone (another awesome offering from indie horror go to cover designer Kealan Patrick Burke) – because this book has so much more to offer.
Salt Blood is partly dystopian fiction, partly mystery, partly folklore and hugely horror – this is a siren song of a book and one that the reader can’t help but drown themselves within the brutality that awaits beyond that striking cover.
Salt Rock is the ‘fictional‘ island that our main protagonist Robin finds herself interned on, a place where people are sent after ‘incidents of outrage‘ an almost censorship of free speech in a (what I could assume to be) not too distant future. This dystopian censorship vibe brings to mind thoughts and comparisons of ‘The Handmaids Tale‘ by Margaret Atwood and ‘The Hunger Games‘ by Suzanne Collins. Salt Blood is about the normal, the now, things we see around us but slightly askew, an almost separate / diverging timeline that you could quite possibly see coming to fruition. I for one would love to get Trump sent here.
You see our protagonists Robin and the other Salt Rock residents (prisoners) are stuck underneath a huge Faraday Cage – one that reaches from shore to shore around the whole island. The Faraday Cage for those who don’t know is a cage that stops or blocks electromagnetic fields, works in cutting off any outside or inside electrical communications. So those on the island are alone, isolated and scared.
A small amount of the sea is also imprisoned within this cage too, but trust me, you don’t want to venture too far into those waters!
What I really enjoyed about T.C. Parker’s writing is the work that she does with the characters trapped within this cage and on this sorry island. We are slowly introduced to these characters and chapters are used to further explain to the reader why they are interned on this island and subtle hints are dropped to the possible connections and underhandedness that is taking place around them, building superbly the mystery vibe to the book. I really enjoyed how T.C. Parker uses this tool to help add depth to her characters, which saves massive info dumps, as we get to see first hand how and why and what has brought these characters here… to Salt Rock.
T.C. Parker casts a spell on the reader from page one, we are brought into this deftly crafted world at ease, we believe what is happening, we can see that this is possible – but it’s the elegance of her prose and storytelling craft that make us fully immerse ourselves in this strange dystopian and devilishly good horror yarn. And while I’m talking about horror, yes there is plenty of it, at times the book was drenched in the bloody stuff and the folklore elements of this folk-horror vibe that is woven into the prose is pretty terrifying stuff, helped by T.C. Parkers attention to detail and graphic / masterful descriptions – it was fully formed nightmare in my minds eye as the horrors slowly unfurl on the page.
As Robin begins to make connections with the other prisoners, and explores the island for herself, things are not quite what they seem and when someone turns up dead, they soon realise that being held prisoner on this island is the least of their worries. The thing that lurks under the Faraday Cage, that stalks over the land, that resides from the sea, is the thing that needs to be feared above all else. Prepare to be scared!
T.C. Parker does suspense very well indeed, with her prose building to a stunning and cinematic conclusion, where we feel, see, smell and witness everything with a blinding clarity and discover the mysteries that she has hidden so well. But as I mentioned it’s the suspense and unease and impending dread that is intrinsically woven into her prose that gets the heart-rate pumping and the anxiety flowing, in these moments of brilliance Parker’s writing had me reminiscing about ‘And Then There Were None‘ by Agatha Christie, many of Daphne du Maurier’s works and ‘Shutter Island‘ by Dennis Lehane – all the while having me on the edge of my seat!
Salt Blood is a mysterious, horrific beast of a book, one that is steeped in mythology and folklore but also drenched in the horrors of isolation, despair and creeping unease. T.C. Parker has produced a siren song of a book and you should listen to her macabre call into the deep – check out this chiller of a book now, before someone makes a movie of it!
Salt Blood is available here.
T C Parker is a horror writer currently living in the UK.
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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