**Thank you Netgalley and Little, Brown for providing me with an ARC of this book.**
Because I could read dreams and I knew what it meant to dream I was a whale, to dream of men trapping me, hunting me, piercing me with harpoons and leaving me to drown in my own blood.
I will be killed. I will be murdered.
I've never been wrong before.
There's only one word that can be used to describe this book: feelings. So many feelings. At first, I was rather sceptical -- it was a slow, jolting start and I wondered whether I was the problem or the book's pace was.
However, once I struggled through that part, it quickly became obvious that it was unputdownable. (Let's pretend that's an actual word for a minute.)
As Nenia Campbell pointed out in her review, this isn't exactly a "sweeping, historical romance". Love plays are large role in this book, but the actual romance between Avery Roe and the harpoon boy Tane is a plot line, but not the plot. Which is great. How many times have novels with great potential been trampled because they focused too much on the romance, but not the plot? The plot is quite thick and doesn't falter:
"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."
Intrigued? You ain't seen nothing yet.
I was incredibly pleased with the setting and time this book was placed in. An island with a thick legend of witches? Generations of magic that keep the whaling jobs upright? A historical setting that won't bore you to tears, nor make you question every other point for accuracy? Sign me up!
The best thing about it is that there isn't much info-dumping. If I could pick one thing that I see as a major turn-off in books, it would be unnecessary info-dumping wherever you turn, which is quite common in historical books. The Witch of Salt & Storm though manages to give you the information you need without boring you to tears or making you place this gem "on hold" for God knows how long. What's even greater is that every part of the island is described with a little bit of history, in the sweeping, poetic narration that is Kendall Kulper's writing and you fall in love with every part of it. It's fan-bloody-tastic.
Oh, thy pretty story speaks.
Avery Roe comes from a long line of witches. These witches live at the top of Prince Island and their sole purpose in life is to provide the islanders (mostly the sailors) with protective magic: a charm for no storms, a charm for an unsinkable ship, a charm for safety and strength.
But Avery was taken away by her mother and forced to live the life a common rich girl -- parties, pretty dresses, long walks in the park... you get the picture. She knows, though, that when the time comes, she must return to her grandmother and learn the secrets of the trade.
And she can't wait.
The problem? Her mother (who has given up witchcraft unless it suits her) is hell-bent on keeping Avery away from magic and will do everything to keep her safe... even cursing her so thinking about running away causes her an inordinate amount of pain.
But Avery can read dreams. Her latest dream tells her that she will die... murdered.
There's a huge sense of urgency in this book and the tension is thick enough to cut with a knife.
Avery tries and tries again to run away and return to her grandmother and learn the magic, but with a dream that tells her she will die and the curse that stops her from leaving has her turning, blindly, for help from the strange, tattooed harpoon boy, Tane. He has magic of his own and together, they're unstoppable... nearly.
Think, I told myself. The cottage, the escape. I closed my eyes and tried to block out the pain, the feeling of Tane's skin, and I took a step. Then another. Another. Refocus! The cottage! The escape! But I did not black out. I did not stumble or fade away, but instead my fresh tattoo throbbed, sweet pain that whispered to me that I was, at last, free.
The story is plot-driven but the way it's written (I can almost compare Kulper's writing to Laini Taylor's. It's poetic, sweet and, although it sounds corny, musical) it sweeps you in along with Avery and soon, you'll find yourself rooting for an outcome that might never happen.
The fabulous characters
One popular complaint in YA these days is that characters come across as cardboard cut-outs, boring, flat and naive. In fact, there are more negative aspects of YA characters than there are positives.
So you could say I was pleasantly surprised when I found that the characters in The Witch of Salt & Storm were anything BUT boring. Each and every one of them had a history, a reason, a story to share. Essie Roe, Avery's mother, who's scar deformed her beautiful face; Grandmother Roe, who's pain could create the strongest charms and even Avery herself, who's dream-telling both haunted and pleased her, who wants nothing more than to run back to her grandmother and learn the tricks of the trade.
Needless to say, there isn't a quite moment with the characters. Something is always happening, someone always has a story to tell and it keeps you both on your toes and racing through the story.
5/5 stars. No complains. Absolutely stunning read.