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Review by Kelly Jarvis: A Sweet Sting of Salt by Rose Sutherland

A Sweet Sting of Salt is a beautiful, sapphic retelling of selkie legends set along the coast of Nova Scotia in the mid-1830s. Jean, a midwife who lives in an isolated cottage, hears cries outside of her window one stormy night, discovers a strange woman named Muirin, and helps her to deliver a baby boy born with webbed fingers and toes. Muirin is the wife of a fisherman named Tobias, and as the two women form a friendship, Jean discovers that Tobias has stolen Muirin from her family and forced her into wedlock. As Jean and Muirin grow closer, the midwife vows to save her friend and her child from their dire situation, discovering unbelievable secrets about the world around her.

The dedication to this novel reads: “To anyone who has ever been lonely. Keep searching; your people are out there,” and the plot of the book supports this touching idea. Jean and her childhood friend Laurence are engaging characters who both feel like outsiders in the rocky landscape they call home. Muirin, who barely speaks English, is also an outsider looking for a way to return to her own home. The book turns on the power of choice in love and underscores the importance of freedom in defining the most essential facets of individuality. Tension rises as storms rip through Nova Scotia and the women make brave choices about their futures.

In addition to an engaging plot, the novel is filled with folklore, opening with a memory about The Young Teazer, a ship which burst into flames in the harbor in June of 1813 and continues to haunt the residents of the coastal villages. Selkie myths and legends are used to explore real world issues like post-partum depression, suicide, and autonomy. Fairy lore about protecting infants from becoming changelings casts a light on the darkest fears of new mothers. The novel ends with a heartfelt conclusion that will have readers believing in the beauty of true love and the power of community. If you enjoy novels that sweep you away and leave you searching the horizon for magic, then add Rose Sutherland’s debut, A Sweet Sting of Salt, to the top of your list. I loved it!

You can find the book here.

Thank you to NetGalley for a free copy of the book in exchange for a fair review.

Kelly Jarvis works as the Assistant Editor for The Fairy Tale Magazine where she writes stories, poems, essays, book reviews, and interviews. Her poetry has also been featured or is forthcoming in Blue Heron Review, Mermaids Monthly, Eternal Haunted Summer, Forget Me Not Press, The Magic of Us, A Moon of One’s Own, Baseball Bard, and Corvid Queen. Her short fiction has appeared in The Chamber Magazine and the World Weaver Press Anthology Mothers of Enchantment: New Tales of Fairy Godmothers. You can find her at


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