Book Review: HOLD BACK THE TIDE by Melinda Salisbury

title against stormy waters
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 5 stars
Series: standalone


hold back the tide

Here are the rules of living with a murderer.

Everyone in Ormscaula knows what happened to Alva Douglas’ mother, all those years ago. It’s why Alva can’t wait to leave.

But when dark forces begin to stir in the surrounding mountains and the mill runs the loch’s levels low, Alva has to face a very different future – and question everything she thought she knew about her past…

Synopsis adapted from the book’s blurb. Add to your Goodreads shelves here.


It’s a Mel Salisbury book. Was there ever any doubt that this would be less than utterly incredible? It was my most anticipated book of the year, and the early reviews and reactions from authors was only making me more excited – and it was so worth the wait!

HOLD BACK THE TIDE is her best book to date (and the shortest. NOOOO!), somehow surpassing my absolute love for STATE OF SORROW. If this book does not make her a world wide bestseller and household name, then there’s no justice.

It’s such a hard book to categorise – and impossible to blurb, hence the vaguery above. It’s a soft fantasy that’s also an eco-thriller and a horror. The fantastical elements are more horror than classic fantasy, but not gory or body horror (thank goodness). This strange mix of ideas does work, I promise, and I love the historic Scottish Highlands setting, because the isolation and rolling hills fits the setting so well.

It’s incredibly atmospheric, spooky and unsettling, that builds throughout the first half with a sense that something is very very wrong. Then it all explodes and all the hints of the first half come into fruition as the story rattles onwards without a breath. It’s a short book (<300 pages) so give yourself the afternoon to read it in one sitting. You won’t regret setting the time aside, and I think it’s easier to notice the foreshadowing if you stay entirely within the world.

The writing is gorgeous, so engaging from the go (Here are the rules of living with a murderer). Mel’s writing conjures up a village who distrust Alva thanks to her father, the hauntingly gorgeous Highlands, and the creeping unease. The setting is wonderful – feeling not too far away, but just far enough away for the mystical air to permeate every page.

Now, excuse me while I go and scream over that ending, because how dare you end the book like that, Mel! I know now why Beth screamed in the middle of Costa when she got to the end. Thankfully I’d learnt and was not in public when I finished it. Now to wait until we get some glimmer that she’s writing another book…

Read my reviews of other books by Melinda Salisbury:

The Sin Eater’s Daughter series:

The Sorrow Duology:


2 thoughts on “Book Review: HOLD BACK THE TIDE by Melinda Salisbury

  1. Great review! This book sounds so great, I’ve only heard a few people talk about it, but I definitely have to add this one to my list! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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