QUEEN OF SALT AND BLOOD,
by Nixx Winters
The Fantasy Hive is – as the name indicates – a site dedicated to all things fantasy, showcasing book reviews, author interviews and many other articles concerning the genre. Much as I would like to, I don’t always have the time to fully explore it, but when I do, one of my favorite ‘stops’ is the section concerning short stories from well-known or new-to-me authors, a place where I can always find some intriguing brief works to read either between books or to fill some free time.
One of my latest discoveries is Queen of Salt and Blood, a story of slowly crafted revenge that kept me glued to the screen with no option of turning away until I reached the end: I always enjoy a good vengeance tale, and this is one of the best I recall ever reading.
Coran is one of the ladies-in-waiting for Queen Adela, besieged in her castle by Raulo Ironside, an uncouth barbarian she rejected long ago in a very public, very humiliating way: his army is now at their gates, and all is lost for Adela and her surviving retinue – once Ironside storms into the castle, everyone knows he will exact the vengeance he has waited so long for, and the sight of his men as they enter the throne room, “beards matted with blood and soil to a ubiquitous shade of ugly”, confirms Coran’s worst fears.
As the invaders settle into the realm, some of the Queen’s retainers suffer under their rule, while others bow to the new rulers, and Coran finds herself isolated and in danger, caught in the difficult balancing act of surviving and protecting those she cares about: she will have to resort to all her wiles, and what magic she can muster, to stay alive and retaliate for the losses she suffered.
Queen of Salt and Blood is a tale of violence, both of the most common, physical sort, and of the more subtle but not less cruel kind wielded by those who are desperate and have nothing to lose, but are aware that “vengeance [is] a funeral procession, not a cavalry charge”: as such it was a journey in equal parts fascinating and harrowing, and one that left a deep mark on my imagination.