Without even knowing she broke the law, Robin is sent to Salt Rock, a new form of prison for those that get on the bad side of public opinion. It’s not long before her stay threatens her life, the disappearances of several other prisoners bringing to light a horrific truth. There’s only one problem, that being the copper cage that encircles the island, stopping all communication to the outside world.
(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)
The premise of Saltblood absolutely hooked me, the stand-out concept being an island prison enclosed in wire mesh. It was based around outrage and public perception, meaning that if a video of someone went viral and the masses had a negative reaction toward that person, then they could do time for it in order to reflect. Obviously a very flawed system as context is lost in translation, and Parker explored this with her characters while weaving together conspiracy theories and folklore. The knowledge that everyone had some sort of scandal made me want to know more about them, and in some cases their “crimes” didn’t fit into right or wrong but were mistakes that treaded the grounds of morally grey. I’m someone who likes nuance and complexity when in the mood for it, especially books that implement such thinking points.
Causing an online uproar, Robin is branded a criminal and sentenced, the book starting with her very first glimpse of the island. From there, it stayed with her as she formed relationships and made harrowing discoveries about the major corporation behind everything, as well as the native people that wanted little to do with the prisoners inhabiting their land. She even learned about herself while facing many obstacles, the most noteworthy being the threat that came from within. Along with the somewhat dystopian atmosphere was Orcadian mythology – the Orkney Islands of Scotland – where a monstrous being became restless with all the kerfuffle around the big cage and whatnot (can you blame it?). It made the tone bleak at every corner, but Robin was able to find some good amongst the mess, again hinging on human nature as in desperate times we cling onto what we can.
In conclusion: Seamlessly blending genres, Saltblood was one of those books that soared above the common tropes, its unfamiliarity engaging me from beginning to end. The protagonist was Robin, convicted for angering people online and ordered to spend six months on a secluded island – yes, a pretty extreme and evolved form of cancel culture, Parker wasn’t shy about the social commentary. Not only that, but the folkloric aspect became more and more significant by throwing a monster from myth into the mix, Parker really excelling in bringing it all together. I feel like I’m only grazing the surface of what she has to offer, so consider me intrigued.
There’s something behind her, catching up to her on the bloody sand. She can’t see it – can’t bear the thought of turning around to look – but she knows it’s there. It sounds like hoofbeats; smells like spoiled meat and dry earth.
© Red Lace 2022