Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper

Received from NetGalley for review. 

‘I am all of them, all the way back to Madelyn, the first one, the one whose blood sang for salt water and who made the first charm for the first sailor and who fell in love with the wrong man.

I am their magic and their pain. I am their heir, no matter what my grandmother said about my suitability. I hear their voices, whispering to me in my dreams, giving me the advice they could never follow. And I listen.’

This is a strange story, but it is a beautiful story and it got under my skin and into my heart in a way I never expected. Salt & Storm (or The Witch of Salt and Storm) tells the story of Avery Roe, whose deepest desire is to break free of her mother, the woman who took her away from her grandmother and doesn’t want her to become the next Roe witch. When I started reading it I didn’t really know what was going on; the sentences are really long, and while some were beautifully poetic, some just gave me a headache. The writing was generally wonderful to read though; the reluctant romantic and utter sap in me was lapping up Kulper’s description. Somehow, though, the story sucked me in, weaving its odd magic, and just kept getting better. It takes a while to really get going but it was worth it. So worth it.

The story focuses on Avery, essentially a trainee witch who would have been apprenticed to her grandmother if her mother hadn’t taken her away, to live a life she never wanted. She is trapped on the other side of Prince Island by her mother’s curse, despite her mother renouncing magic. It’s a fucked up family dynamic, that’s for sure – I won’t give anything away but the relationship between Avery, her mother, and grandmother was really interesting to read about. I didn’t like Avery at first, she is very self-centred and obsessed with becoming the next Roe witch, and has a deep sense of entitlement because of it, but she grew on me in the end – she has moments of being caring and kind and I found myself reluctantly liking her, and even understanding her.

Tane, the lovely tattooed whaler, was my favourite character – everything about him was fantastic and the plot became much more interesting when he appeared, and I’m pretty sure he was the reason for my sobbing in this book. Yes, I cried. Big time. Another unexpected consequence of reading this book. The relationship between Avery and Tane was well done, and done in such a way that it didn’t become the sole focus of the story; yes, there were a few moments that had me gagging, but that’s just me being cynical. Some seriously difficult and unexpected things happened with Avery and Tane in this book and I was completely swept up by it, even if them declaring their love for each other happened a bit too soon for my liking.

I only wish that there had been more of a focus on the other characters in the book. Avery’s mother, her grandmother, and her friend Tommy weren’t really explored and a lot of the information about the Roe witches comes towards the end of the book. The focus is very much on Avery, but I would have liked to know more about the other islanders, the other Roe witches and Tane’s people – there is almost too much going on within the story to fully explore everything within it.

I feel like I can’t really convey my feelings for this book, because Salt & Storm really was an incredibly strange and moving experience for me. It was one of those books that I didn’t expect to affect me so deeply, but it has, it had me laughing, ranting and crying, and there is, quite simply, something magical about it.

Read: July 13th-19th 2014

4/5 stars

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