The Blue Salt Road


In 2018 following on from the success of "A Pocketful of Crows", Joanne Harris and her publisher Orion, created a second book, The Blue Salt Road, once again based upon an original English "Child Ballads" story. Again Orion commissioned Bonnie Helen Hawkins to draw the 24 black and white pencil illustrations to feature in the book, plue end pages.

An earthly nourris sits and sings
And aye she sings, "Ba lilly wean,
Little ken I my bairn's father,
Far less the land that he staps in. 
(Child Ballad, no. 113)

So begins a stunning tale of love, loss and revenge, against a powerful backdrop of adventure on the high seas, and drama on the land. The Blue Salt Road balances passion and loss, love and violence and draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless, wild young man.

Passion drew him to a new world, and trickery has kept him there - without his memories, separated from his own people. But as he finds his way in this dangerous new way of life, so he learns that his notions of home, and your people, might not be as fixed as he believed.

The following gallery features several illustrations created for The Blue Salt Road

What the critics say...

Bath Mag fullpage.jpg

The Bath Magazine, December 2018 issue.

Bonnie and Joanne's collaboration first started when a chance encounter between them led to the commissioning of 24 exquisitely detailed illustrations for the folklore novella A Pocketful of Crows, published by Orion in 2017. Reviving the tradition of illustrated books for adults, the book was received to great acclaim. The Blue Salt Road, her second collaboration with Joanne Harris, includes another 24 of Bonnie's illustrations. The novella combines the harshness of nature with the spookiness of a ghost story and the comfort of a great folk tale.

The Blue Salt Road was a wonderful book to illustrate especially for me as I have spent much of my childhood on the coast. Joanne particularly wanted fine detail illustrations ad by choosing a traditional lozenge shape for many of the images we hoped each vignette would be reminiscent of a Victorian style.

The line between song and myth is porous, and the Child Ballads have been fertile ground for Joanna M. Harris lately. “The Brown Girl” inspired A Pocketful of Crows, and now “The Great Silkie Of Sule Skerry” offers the starting point for The Blue Salt Road. Harris understand storytelling and the power of the tradition of folk tales, but, like all the best artists, she makes it her own in this rich tale. She takes you there, to the wide strand by the ocean, the poor village, the whaling ships, and into the water itself, to a part of the world where both the Folk and the Selkie live. Although the story centres on one couple, slowly the wider picture emerges of a reality that’s different to anything we imagine at first, yet absolutely believable. Her characters are alive, with their good traits and bad; nothing is painted in black and white, not even love. It’s a very human story, as all the best ones should be, one that ends with beautiful hope, and an unexpected twist. There’s redemption and reclamation between the covers, along with every shade of emotion, and that, along with a lovingly-told story, is what makes it such a compelling read, with magic treading lightly between the words. The luscious illustrations by Bonnie Hawkins complement it all, giving another, powerful dimension to the characters and settings, bringing them vividly alive.

Chris Nickson

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