by Laura Holt
Village of Salt and Sorrow
Expected Publication Date: Coming Soon!
Genre: Adult Fiction/ Magical Realism
Nova McIntosh has been called many things—a witch. Dangerous. The girl with fire in her hair and
salt water in her veins, whose eyes will drag you in and crush your heart like an under tow—and
they’re all true.
It’s said that Loch Moira was once home to a flock of selkies, until its fishermen made a deal with a
sea witch to steal their pelts. Unable to transform, the selkies were forced to retain their human forms
and wed their captors. But the sea is unforgiving and eternal and demands restitution: the lives of two
girls after every storm as penance for the selkies who perished on land, or it will swallow the town
The youngest in a long line of magical women bound to perform these sacrifices, Nova understands
the need to be cold and merciless. So, when she finds a boy washed up on the beach after a storm, she
doesn’t expect to feel anything for him. However, the ocean has never given back anything alive,
either, and the closer Nova grows to Arron, the closer she comes to unravelling the mystery behind his
survival and discovering the key to ending her town’s curse.
The storm that brought the boy to my doorstep was worse than any we’d ever had, and Loch Moira
has had its fair share of storms over the years. Up until now, the record-holder was the gale of 2004,
when a hurricane off the coast of Great Britain whipped the waves into a frenzy and flooded the coast
from Loch Moira to Inverness. We were cut off from civilization—no power, no roads, no way
out—for almost two weeks.
This storm was worse.
The weatherman on the radio said it was going to be a regular summer storm brought on by the
unseasonably warm weather we’d been experiencing for August. A few inches of rain, maybe some
wind, and a couple of downed trees. Nothing major.
Instead, it rained for two months without pause. Lightning and thunder split the sky and more than a
couple of trees. When a bolt hit the power lines, cutting off all of our communication with the
mainland, we knew it was going to be bad. When the water rose over the docks, submerging the
fishing trollies and washing out the only road in and out of town, we knew it was going to be the worst
we’d ever seen.
The wind howled like a demon possessed, ripping shingles from roofs, picking up bikes not tied down.
It even took the McDougals’ doghouse, though thankfully Nelly was inside with the family, or she
would have gone with it. No one dared venture outside. If you hadn’t stocked up on canned goods and
jugs of water from the grocery when the storm first hit, you made do with what you had and prayed
the rain let up soon. The sea rose like an angry leviathan intent on swallowing the land whole. I saw it
through the windows, a great, grayish-blue wall of water, heard it hammering at my door, helped my
mom put down towels to keep it from coming through the crevices where the wood no longer sealed
all the way, separated in cracks from years of exposure to the salt air.
When it finally stopped, the entire town held its breath, waiting to see if the ocean was appeased or if
it would come back for more. Once the sun had been out for almost an entire day, I kicked the towels
out of the way, unbolted the locks, and stepped outside.
The tang of brine hit me in the face, as strong as it was during fishing season. If I wasn’t used to it,
hadn’t lived my whole life around it since the day I was born, I would have gagged. As it was, I
breathed deeply, gladder than words could say to be free of the confines of the old lighthouse cabin
my mom, my two aunts, my grandmother, and I called home and made my way down the barnacle-
encrusted steps to the beach below.
The sand is like thick, wet mush beneath my bare feet. It squishes between my toes and into my nails
almost immediately, the way a crab nestles into its shell. I see a fair few of those as I make my way
down to the water’s edge, scuttling toward the ocean in a desperate attempt to escape the hungry
gulls whirling overhead. One bird with a particularly long wingspan swoops down and snatches a
crab in its beak moments before its legs touch the surf. I hear the crunch of shell as it bites down on
I am not here for the crabs, though, nor the empty shells or sea stars that dot the shore, pretty as they
are. I am here for the other things, the special things, the gifts the sea has always seen fit to leave the
women in my family for serving it so well over the years. It is not an easy job, serving the sea. It is a
cold, merciless entity, with an eternal memory and a mood as fickle as a newborn babe, as like to
drown you as to let you swim in it. Still, someone has to do the hard work, as my grandmother is fond
of saying, normally when she is up to her elbows in tea leaves and has had a few. While the men might
be good at tilling the fish, who better to please the sea than a sea witch? As everyone in town knows,
though maybe they don’t say it out loud anymore, because superstition is best kept behind closed
doors and not spoken of in normal, polite society, all McIntosh women are sea witches.
I absolutely loved this book. From the first chapter, I was swept away into this story. The writing was so descriptive, I felt like I could feel the spray of the salty ocean water on my cheeks. Shiver at the creepiness of foggy nights and moonlit walks along the water. This was an immersive experience. An all-consuming emotionally charged redemption story. The timeline jumps were executed perfectly, although I did find myself more invested in the story of the past. The past timeline definitely has quite a bit of abuse involved, so I would definitely check out some trigger warnings before diving unknowingly into it. All in all this was an amazing story and I cannot wait for more from this author.
About the Author
Laura Holt is the award-winning author of Fathoms Below, Fathoms Above, Fathoms Between,
Fathoms Across, and the forthcoming final book in the Star-Crossed series, Fathomless. She is a self-
professed word witch with a passion for mythology, history, and caffeine. When she’s not writing,
you can find her stretched out on a yoga mat, hiking down wooded trails, or wandering the aisles at a
local bookstore searching for her next great read. She lives in small-town Georgia with her daughter,
three cats, and a lot of fake plants.
Follow her on Instagram at @authorlauraholt to stay up to date on bookish news, events, and book
and music recs, or subscribe to her seasonal newsletter for even more exclusive content and writer
resources at https://holtlara2.wixsite.com/lauraholt.
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