By Kendall Kulper
Available now from Little, Brown BFYR (Hachette)
Avery Roe is supposed to be the witch of Prince Island. But her mother took her from her grandmother, the current witch, and is keeping her imprisoned. When Avery foresees her own murder, she knows she must become the witch if she is to survive. Her only hope is newcomer Tane, who has his own magic.
I was drawn into the world of SALT & STORM, which is basically our world, on the eve of whale hunting. Obviously, the magic in the book wasn't real, although sailors and whalers were a superstitious lot. I really enjoyed the book's focus on culture and community, how knowledge and art can be lost forever as people die out and as more dominant cultures take over. Avery and Tane are both the last of their kind, and both are merely half trained.
(I did appreciate debut author Kendall Kulper's end note, which talks about what in SALT & STORM is based in history, what is made up, and why Avery and Tane both have names no one would have.)
The romance left me cold at times. Avery and Tane are both headstrong, passionate, and high-handed people. For all that there isn't much real conflict between them, they can bring the drama and I found it a little tiring. At the same time, I did believe they felt for each other. But the truly interesting figure in the book is Avery's mother. She starts out a real villain, keeping her daughter from her destiny and letting the island's magic die. But her history and motives and feelings really get fleshed out as Avery discovers more about the Roes. I do admit, however, that I longed for Avery to just tell her mom about her vision of impending doom. (Yes, even back when Avery was representing her mother as the Source of Everything Wrong with the World.)
SALT & STORM is full of intriguing magic and a legacy of powerful women with fatal flaws. It's great for historical fantasy fans looking for a standalone, as long as they can take a protagonist who is a bit of a drama llama.