Book Review | Hold Back the Tide (ARC)

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it! Let’s review a horror novel. You know, for irony.

I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Hold Back the Tide by Melinda Salisbury. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.

I’m apparently quite a fickle reader, considering I went from a romcom to supernatural horror. And I’m planning to go back to romcom soon. Go figure.

Hold Back the Tide follows Alva, who has lived in a remote cottage in Scotland with her father—who she knows killed her mother seven years earlier. Alva has had to take care around her father to protect herself, but she has a plan to escape to a city soon. But when a new danger emerges, her plans might have to change in order to protect the people of her town.

I do not usually read books like this, but the premise was so intriguing, the first page grabbed my attention, and I’ve learned that if you use a quote from Frankenstein as an epigraph, I am automatically intrigued. And I had a surprisingly good time with this novel, though I admit I was a little freaked out a lot of the time!

The atmosphere of this story is fantastic—the setting feels remote and cold and rustic, not to mention sinister and shadowy. This is the perfect book to read on dark winter nights, or perhaps sunshiney summer mornings, if you’re a coward like me.

This book kind of reminds me of a Scottish version of Stranger Things in a way—though with way fewer pop culture references. As the plot progresses, the mystery surrounding the history of the town, and what happened the night Alva’s mother died, unravels in fascinating ways. Alva is an excellent protagonist, the side characters are strong, and the development of relationships is really well done. Salisbury is a skillful writer and had me entirely wrapped up in this tale.

I feel like I can’t go into much more detail, to avoid spoilers, but I will say that in the end, while this is quite a departure for me, Hold Back the Tide was a great read. It’s a fairly fast-paced, heart-pounding story of risk, fights for survival, and the revelation of secrets. I couldn’t predict what was going to happen next, I was engaged the entire time, and the whole thing was so frightening and intense. It was definitely a little violent at times, so this isn’t for kids (though teens could handle it, I think). And while I found the ending a little disappointing—not from a writing perspective, but it just wasn’t my personal preference—overall it was a great little book. I don’t know that it’s converted me to being a fan of the genre as a whole, but I’m glad I read it!

Overall rating: 8.2

Hold Back the Tide will be published on January 5th, 2021!

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