Of Salt and Shore by Annet Schaap, translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson
Published by Charlesbridge, 2020
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Of Salt and Shore can be read as an imagined follow up to the original version of The Little Mermaid, and I’m pleased to say it retains the contrasting menace and charm that characterise classic fairy tales. We follow Emilia, nicknamed Lampie, the daughter of a lighthouse keeper. When she is held responsible for a terrible accident that takes place during a storm, Lampie is sent to work off her debt at the Black House, the ominous home of the absent Admiral. It is said that a monster resides within the Black House, but what she finds is much stranger and far more complex.
I found this such a thrilling and enchanting read, with Lampie and the ragtag group she meets along the way endearingly flawed characters. Schaap both indulges in and subverts fairy tale tropes, creating an atmosphere that is somehow both befitting of the classic tales that came before it, and refreshingly original. I also appreciated the bigger themes she managed to weave into the story to add extra resonance for contemporary readers, with commentary on the likes of parental abuse, finding family, othering, and self-acceptance all enhancing the narrative.
Though the climax was suitably dramatic, I did think things came to a rather abrupt end, with a couple of threads left hanging a little too loose for my liking. This felt like an especially unusual choice for a novel that is both fairy tale inspired and middle grade, both of which tend to favour neat resolutions. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment I spent with this whimsical story; grateful that it neither shied away from the dark lifeblood that runs throughout authentic fairy tales, nor lost the messages of love and light that make them timeless.
Thank you to the publisher for a free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. You can pick up a copy of Of Salt and Shore (also published under the title, Lampie) by clicking here.