Author: Kendall Kulper
Title:Salt & Storm
Published: September 2014
Publisher: Little, Brown
Length: 416 pages
Genre: Young adult fantasy
Why I Read: Sounded intriguing
Read If You’re: Hankering for a historical, magical tale set by the sea and aren’t too critical of undeveloped romance
Rating: ★★★ [ratings guide]
Links: GoodReads | IndieBound | Chapters | Amazon
The premise drew me to this story. I’m learning that I enjoy moody tales with touches of magic in a historical settings by the sea (okay, few stories have all those elements – two out of four is enough to draw my attention). I like that atmosphere. I also enjoy stories that feature a line of women, focusing on one of them. I like reading snippets about impressive ancestors of the past. Salt & Storm tells the tale of the Roe witches of Prince Island, a small whaling island off the east coast of America at a time when the whale industry is collapsing. Avery yearns to become the next witch and take over from her grandmother, but her mother holds Avery against her will to prevent her from doing. While this sounds like something I would love, the story fell short for me because of the romance.
The romance develops quickly and unrealistically (even if you’re a fan of everlasting teen romance, you may agree with me here). I can’t accept that such feelings can blossom in so short a time, when they know so little of each other. Admittedly, I am so not interested in teen romance. I wasn’t interested as a teen, and I’m becoming even less interested as I age. Possibly I’m too cynical when it comes to matters of young love. I dislike stories which go “I’m 16 and I’ve just met the love of my life and we’ve been together for a week but we’ll be together forever”. They’re not realistic – which, okay, this sort of romance is often fictional escapism, but they rarely even feel realistic and I can’t imagine why I would want to read that. I guess for me it’s a bit because I’ve never experienced that feeling? But, I also never wanted to experience it (I’m not hankering to be in a relationship, I like to take things as they come and go), so in stories it dulls me. I’d rather see a few relationships (that don’t necessarily end horribly) before meeting the soul mate, but I guess there isn’t room for that in a single novel. Now I’ve digressed probably more than necessary. The point is, at least this romance appeased me with its tragic ending (that I read too quick and got a bit confused about what was happening.)
Another aspect of the story that ties into the romance that I didn’t like was how witches get their power from having their hearts broken by men. Avery’s mother and grandmother both fell in love with ‘bad’ men, had their hearts ruined, and thus gained their magic powers. Perhaps some years ago I would have thought this beautifully tragic, but now I can’t help but find messages like men give women power when they hurt them, women can only be strong if men break them first, women can’t trust their feelings, etc.
In addition to the romance, the story has a more teenager-y voice than I anticipated. I hoped for something more in the vein of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender – less romantic yearnings, more touches of magic, less ego, more dreamy prose. I still intend to read the upcoming companion book (I can’t tell if it’s a sequel or prequel or how much it’ll connect to this book). After all my ramblings on romance, you might think I’d give this book a lower rating. However, I enjoyed all other aspects, especially if I stop thinking about what I wanted to it to be and just take it for what it is. Ditch the romance and I think Kulper could really tell a shining story.
The Bottom Line: A great historical setting and system of magic, unfortunately Salt & Storm is more focused on the underwhelming romance than the magic.