A Cup of Salt Tears by Isabel Yap

A Cup of Salt Tears by Isabel Yap
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Makino’s mother taught her caution, showed her how to carve her name into cucumbers, and insisted that she never let a kappa touch her. But when she grows up and her husband Tetsuya falls deathly ill, a kappa that claims to know her comes calling with a barbed promise. “A Cup of Salt Tears” is a dark fantasy leaning towards horror that asks how much someone should sacrifice for the one she loves.

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Makino had been through some hard times in her life, but the worst seemed like it was just around the corner when I first met her. Her reaction to the news that her husband was dying only endeared me to her even more. She loved him very much, and her heart was breaking as his health deteriorated. This was such a difficult experience for her that I kept hoping they’d somehow get a happy ending.

The ending was confusing to me. There were at least two different ways it could have been interpreted, but neither of them quite seemed to fit the tone of the beginning and middle. One of them was very bleak and felt totally out of character for what I’d learned about Makino’s personality. The other one seemed to have ignored important plot twists from earlier scenes. It would have been helpful to know what the author was actually trying to say and if the interpretations I came up with were close to how she imagined the final scene.

Kappas aren’t a monster I’d ever read about before, so I was curious to see what this one was like. His quiet intelligence surprised me at first. It also made me more curious to figure out his connection to Makino was and why he showed up just after her husband had been told there was nothing more the doctors could do for him. This was definitely a horror story, but it was like nothing I’d ever read before in this genre. I was impressed by how much thought the author put into developing the villain and his reasons for behaving the way that he did.

I’d recommend A Cup of Salt Tears to anyone who likes modern twists on old legends.

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