Title: Salt & Storm
Author: Kendall Kulper
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Hachette)
Acquired Via: Around the World ARC Tours
Release Date: September 23, 2014
A sweeping historical romance about a witch who foresees her own murder--and the one boy who can help change her future.
Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she's to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.
Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane--a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.
It's been a while since I've been well and truly surprised by a book, but Kendall Kulper pulled it off with her debut novel, Salt & Storm. There were issues that I had with the execution, but the style and symbolism were almost flawless. Though parts of Salt & Storm were difficult to read, those gritty parts lent credibility to the portrayal of the whaling industry.
Avery Roe comes from a long line of witches who have served and protected Prince Island and its whalers since settlers came to the New World. Unfortunately for her, Avery's mother has banned her - verbally and magically - from going to her grandmother to complete her training to become the next Roe witch. The witch mythology is interesting and well-constructed. Each woman is unattached, has only one child - a daughter, and dies by her forties. Each witch has her own unique power, in addition to the sea magic. The Roe witch's life revolves around helping her community of whalers and their families, selling charms or magical services to whomever wishes to buy them, training her daughter, and then dying. Avery's mother broke the cycle by moving herself and Avery to the other side of the island instead of taking her own place as the Roe witch.
The part of Salt & Storm that didn't work for me was the interaction between the characters. The only relationship that I connected with at all was the brief scenes between Avery and Tommy. The Tane bits felt forced at times, and I didn't have much emotion for Avery and her family. I guess it was because I couldn't see Avery's mother as this horrid, mean bitch. I'm a mom, she's a mom - I knew her mind before it was told to me as a reader.
I greatly appreciate the level of detail Kulper gave to the whaling industry in the late 1800s. It is graphic at times and hard to read, but I believe that it was handled fairly honestly. (Whales died in real life, so they died in the book.) This was the people of Prince Island's livelihood, and their portrayal in Salt & Storm is probably as accurate as a fictionalization can be. And though Kulper's research is obvious, she shares her findings in the Author's Note at the end.
There is symbolism galore in Salt & Storm, but I'll feel like I'm writing a research paper if I get too far into it. And you would get bored. So let's just say that you could write about this in an English class and have plenty of material.
Salt & Storm is a smart book that shouldn't be approached as a quick read. If you want a historical novel with substance, look no further than this.
To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received an advance copy of the book briefly for reviewing purposes through Around the World ARC Tours in exchange for an honest review. The book was likely provided to the tour by the publisher or author, which has in no way affected the outcome of my review. All opinions expressed are rambling, honest, and completely my own.