Hold Back The Tide really just softly held my hand, lead me to the edge of a cliff, and then shoved me straight on off.
I am rattled to my bones and probably will weep softly into a shawl as I stand on the edge of the loch and wait to be devoured by monsters. Like how dare this book?? Translation = it was thoroughly excellent, captivating, unique and fresh and compelling. And also how dare it.
This is a story of monsters, both real and figurative.
I absolutely love monsters stories and cannot get enough of them. It’s set in Scotland, with a historical feel (though no an exact date is given), with a little village that revolves around a mill. The mill functions from the loch and the keeper of the loch is a recluse after his wife left. He lives alone with his daughter. But the daughter knows the truth: her father is a murderer and shot her mother. She’s living everyday hoping she’s not next.
The beginning grabs you by the throat and really doesn’t let go. The story is both chilling and compelling, and it really knows how to hook you from the first page and keep your heart beating fast. At first I thought it was just a story of men who are monsters — from her dad and his dark secrets, to the owner of the town’s mill who is greedy and predatory to women. But then there’s something else you should know about what lives in the dark watery depths of the loch.
Here there are monsters too.
It gave me Stranger Things vibes, with the monsters and the eerie aesthetic. It’s full of kids making traps, plot twists, teeth and horror and blood smears. And MONSTERS.
The characters were also such a delight.
It’s narrated by Alva, and I loved her. She’s sharp around the edges after living 7 years expecting her dad to murder her at any second. She’s resourceful and super strong, like literally, from all the hard work at the loch, and the book starts with her planning her meticulous escape. Then there’s Murren Ross who is soft and will joke about and utterly has stars in his eyes for the very existence of Alva. (He also has a disabled leg; born that way, and I appreciate some good disability rep!) Then there is Garrat, the mill owner’s son, who is surprisingly gentle and caring despite his awful dad. I loved how the three accidentally end up caught up together. I loved Alva’s fierceness to be self-sufficient until she learns loving others isn’t weakness. I loved Ren’s respectful adoration of her. I just loved them so so much. 😭💛
I truly don’t want to give too much away about the plot, but just know it’s riveting.
The book is only 3oo pages and it went by so so fast! I did wish we had a bit more time with the characters (I looooved them) but overall it was nice to have a book that zipped along so you felt the nip of every cold wind and the throttling cloying dark and you felt when the insidious monsters were just around the corner.
The ending left me broken, but look 😭 it was a good book.
The tears are nothing just RAIN on my FACE. With a gorgeous but brutally bloody aesthetic of lochs and monsters, and characters you easily give your heart for, this book is going to haunt you.
Thanks to Scholastic for the review copy! Hold Back The Tide by Melinda Salisbury is out now.
Here are the rules of living with a murderer.
One: Do not draw attention to yourself.
Of course, when you live with a murderer, this is impossible. Even the subtlest of spectres is bound to be noticed. Which leads to the next rule.
Two: If you can’t be invisible, be useful.
Everyone in this quiet lakeside community knows that Alva’s father killed her mother, all those years ago. There wasn’t enough proof to arrest him, though, and with no other family, Alva’s been forced to live with her mother’s murderer, doing her best to survive until she can earn enough money to run away.
One of her chores is to monitor water levels in the loch-a task her father takes very seriously. Their family has been the guardian of the loch for generations. It’s a cold, lonely task, and a few times, Alva can swear she feels someone watching her.
But the more Alva investigates, the more she realizes that the truth can be more monstrous than lies, and that you can never escape your past . . .
tell me the last book you couldn’t stop thinking about!! and is this on your TBR? (or have you read other books by this author?)