Salt & Storm, by Kendall Kulper (Review)

“I was sixteen, still my mother’s prisoner, the night I became the whale.” 

Rating: 3.5 stars

I picked up this book from my local library expecting to read a dark witch story about a new witch trying to solve her own murder. That isn’t what I got. What I found instead was a story about a young girl who falls in love despite her best efforts, and is constantly denied the power she needs to help people – seemingly all she’s ever wanted.

Avery Roe is due to be the next Roe Witch; the sea witch of Prince Island that keeps the whalers safe and brings the ships home, as well as casting charms for island residents. The current Roe Witch, Avery’s grandmother, lives a lonely life at the far end of the island, separated from the residents who fear the witch as much as they need her. Despite this lonely world, Avery is desperate to take her grandmother’s place and her birthright as the next Roe Witch, but her mother has stolen her away and denied her her legacy. When Avery’s only power, dream-telling, tells her that she is to be murdered, she needs to become the witch even more, as a Roe Witch cannot be killed. To get back to her grandmother, she enlists the help of Tane, a harpoon boy who needs her help to avenge his family.

This book constantly kept me guessing. Every time I was convinced I had worked out what would happen next, how she would regain her powers, how this book would end, Kulper pulled the rug out from under my feet. By the time I finished the book (in one rapid sitting no less) I had been wrong about everything I suspected and I’d fallen in love with Prince Island. 

The whaling business is a large aspect of this story, as it is a part of all of the characters lives and often discussed, but Kulper describes things well enough that despite knowing nothing about whaling I was able to keep up, without feeling like I was being spoonfed exposition. This focus on magic to help the whalers created a realism/fantasy blend that I really enjoyed as it was easy to imagine superstitious sailors asking for charms to bring them home safely or save them from drowning. 

This book is incredibly Avery-centric, which usually annoys me, as it doesn’t allow for characters in the background to be fully developed, but I’m willing to let that go in the case of Salt & Storm, as even that allowed Kulper to surprise me at the end with characters having motivations I could never have predicted. The Avery-centric view also fit the character, in my opinion, as Avery repeatedly reminds us that she wants to be the witch to help people, but she is still very focused on her own needs and her own desires – completely realistic as a sixteen year old girl. 

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I’m glad I picked it up, as I always pick up ‘witch stories’ but I would probably have left a ‘historical romance’ on the shelf. It’s certainly opened my eyes to a genre that I would be far more interested in than I expected – especially with a little dash of fantasy elements. The ending was powerful, and the ‘initiation’ into being a witch was beautiful in its execution, and entirely unexpected even as I tried my hardest to predict it the whole way through the novel.

Note: This review was copied verbatim from my Goodreads review dated May 12th 2019.

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