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Review of Saltblood by Francesca De Tores

Updated: Apr 8

Well... Wow... What can we say about Saltbood..? We LOVED IT!

Saltblood is Francesca’s debut historical fiction novel which was inspired by the life of female pirate, Mary Read. Mary, along with Anne Bonny, were two famous pirates from the 18th century, and are among the few women known to have been convicted of piracy at the height of the "Golden Age of Piracy".

I was immediately hooked from the first chapter. Mary Read was the second born child to a mother who had lost a son and lived in poverty. To help make sure she continued to receive her son’s inheritance after his death, Mary’s mother disguised her daughter as her dead son, Mark. 

This decision of Mary’s mother creates the foundation not just for the storyline of Saltblood, but also Mary’s life, where long after her family dies, she continues to hide her true identity as she journeys from footman to a member of the navy, Mary has one wish in life, to be on the sea and to live her life amongst the waves, but as she finds her feet on the water finally, with her identity unveiled and many heartbreaks to follow, Mary needs to reinvent herself and claim her identity back. 

Saltblood is an immersive, poignant, hurrah of a feminist tale of a female pirate who follows her heart and soul to the sea at any cost. This is a captivating, adventurous novel that sews together threads of gender, identity, love, loss, grief and survival. The writing is utterly beautiful, the story at times heart shattering. I couldn’t help but highlight and annotate so many striking quotes and passages, including:

‘So I wear her love like borrowed clothes and know they do not fit me. But what does?’

We understand early on that Mary is swept away, hidden under the identity of Mark and as a result of this her relationship with her mother is strained, not least because she is unable to live her life not penalised by society because of her sex. We see as Mary struggles to find herself, whilst also trying to break free of the loneliness of her mother’s lie.

Francesca has shown herself to be an exciting new voice in historical fiction, and I for one cannot wait for her next novel. It is clear that Francesca has taken the time to learn about Mary Read, even though there is very little documented about her: thank you Francesca for amplifying the drowned out voice of one of history’s women.

Reviewed by Danielle.

Saltblood will be published on 25/04/24 by Bloomsbury.

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