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Billed as a horrific and gruesome horror story, “Question Not My Salt” felt far too tame and underseasoned for my tastes.

Question Not My Salt

Question Not My Salt by Amanda M Blake is a 178-page Novella from the Extreme Horror imprint: ‘Torrid Waters’ of Crystal Lake Entertainment, which centres on a Canadian college girl and her American dorm-mate who are invited to attend a very unique Thanksgiving Feast. 

Sierra is a fish-out-of-water college student, transplanted from Canada to San Antonio so that she may attend her studies and distance herself from her own disruptive family. 

Sierra’s roommate Zoe is also her only friend therefore, when Zoe invites Sierra to attend Thanksgiving at her parents’ home, Sierra decides to fully embrace her new home, her new culture, and her new bestie, and she agrees to attend the family festivities despite her lingering nerves. 

However, when Sierra is warmly invited into the home of the Samuels’ she can’t help but feel that, behind the plastic smiles and the Hygge atmosphere, there is something rotten that is suppressed just beneath the surface. 

I am going to be upfront and honest and admit that I did not like this story.

This was largely due to the utterly confusing grammar, the weird similes, and the off-kilter tone, which made me feel like I was reading something created by an AI writing prompt program. 

“My cheeks and ears threaten to catch the drapes on fire” and “My cheeks and ears flush red for reasons other than attraction or fluster” are examples of the confusing, clunky language choices used to describe how the main character experiences embarrassment. 

As the implied ‘tension’ of the story heightens (I found myself bored rather than tense, in all honesty), the language becomes even more baffling.

The author disrupts the flow of any mounting tension by adding lengthy, juvenile descriptions like: “They dig dented shadows into his sweater” to annotate a scene where a fight breaks out. 

“Given the elephant in the ivory cave” is another mind-boggling example of how the author loves to take liberties with language which serves only to further confuse the reader as well as, to disrupt the flow of the encroaching terror. 

The novella title Question Not My Salt is a direct reference uttered by the Samuels family Matriarch known only as ‘Mother’ (hasn’t this been done before, ad infinitum?) when Zoe asks for salt to accompany her meal. 

Unfortunately, this appears to convey a writer with a poor grasp of English. However, perhaps this is just how they convey their writing style, which simply may not align with my tastes. 

Question Not My Salt feels far too derivative of both David Guy Levy’s Would You Rather and Mark Mylod’s recent hit The Menu to stand out as unique.

With that said, some elements stand out in Blake’s world.

Author Amanda M. Blake

This includes the notion of swapping spittle in lieu of blood, offering a different perspective for the Cannibal/ Vampire sub-genre of literature. 

The action itself unfolds during the Samuels’ family Thanksgiving meal, where Zoe is coerced into conforming to the Samuels family’s secretive Thanksgiving rituals, which the book alludes to with varying ‘trigger warnings.’ 

The ‘triggering’ elements of the story involve the characters swapping juices by drinking one another’s spit and a Cannibal scene where a man is forced to eat part of his own hand. 

The publisher’s Trigger Warnings include:

“cringe to extreme horror, cannibalism, and auto-cannibalism, forced consumption of bodily fluids, forced participation in sexual exhibitionism and voyeurism in view of family”

Trust me when I tell you that these elements are alluded to in the broadest, most Vanilla of forms. 

There is one single (aforementioned) cannibal scene, and the ‘sexual exhibitionism’ content would not even make a Priest blush: this is PG13- YA Horror, and I feel cheated that it has been pushed onto the Splatterpunk Books crowd. 

“Cringe Horror” though, perhaps there is something in that because I could not shake the impeding feeling of cringe when I felt that I should have been shocked, sickened or, triggered into putting the book down. 

Question Not My Salt is, however, paced well and succeeds in setting up a specific world in short time without unneeded, prolonged character exposition therefore, allowing the reader to fully immerse themselves into the slow-building horror. 

Unfortunately, this is not an Extreme Horror novella by any stretch of the imagination.

It feels cheap that the described content feels akin to a twelve-year-old kid trying to be Edgy during Storytime at school. 

However, I digress because there are elements here that show potential. 

What I enjoyed about the story was Zoe and her resilience in the face of bizarre scenarios; she is level-headed despite her isolation, and she knows when to play along to gain the trust of her tormentors, making her a Faun with deep survival instincts hidden deep within. 

Zoe’s strength lies within her ability to hide inside of herself and to know when to conform to survive when such strange odds are being stacked against her. 

The simmering resentment for religious institutions and familial traditions is apparent, and these elements nicely underpin the ebb and flow of the story arc. 

I will admit that I have been reading, watching, listening to, and consuming EXTREME Horror content from a young age so, perhaps I’m just broken, and my tolerance is much greater than that of the casual Horror Fiction writer. 

Blake succeeds in creating strong world-building, which immerses the reader in the action, and Zoe herself makes for a pretty cool Final Girl.

I appreciate that there are a lot of characters included in the story; this can be a tricky act to balance without forgetting about a pivotal personality, however Blake achieves this with ease in their writing despite the many main players involved. 

This book may be a nice introductory piece for anyone who is exceptionally sensitive to triggering elements. Perhaps if you are both curious but also apprehensive about reading Extreme Horror for the first time, Question Not My Salt may gently ease you into the genre. 

Question Not My Salt felt too stale for my seasoned tastes however, perhaps the Young Adult Horror crowd will enjoy sinking their teeth into this title. 

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 2

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