Author: Kendall Kulper
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: Historical fiction, Let me down, Fantasy/pnr/everything untoward
Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the sea witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe and prosperous at sea. But before she could learn how to control her power, her mother - the first Roe woman in centuries to turn her back on magic - steals Avery away from her grandmother. Avery must escape before her grandmother dies, taking with her the secrets of the Roe's power. The one magical remnant left to Avery is the ability to read dreams, and one night she foresees her own murder. Time is running short, both for her and for the people of her island who need the witches' help to thrive. Avery has never read a dream that hasn't come true, but a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane tells her he can help her change her fate. Becoming a witch may prevent her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers it will also require a sacrifice she never expected. And as she falls in love with Tane, she learns it is his life and hers that hang in the balance. A sweeping romance with a spellbinding twist - from a talented new voice in YA fiction.
If Titanic and The Brides of Rollrock Island had a love child out of wedlock, the latter unabashedly not giving a fuck and the other ashamed of the manner their progeny was brought into this world, both passing down some of their undesirable and desirable traits respectively, getting them all mushed up and mutated during the blueprint process, naming Regulus Arcturus Black its godfather and basically leaving it in his care for the weekends, holidays, sick leaves et cetra, the result would undoubtedly be The Witch of Salt and Storm.
Crikey! Kids are demanding.
If you think you’ll be able to handle that, you’re most welcome to Kendall Kulper‘s amply, questionably, sporadically enchanting debut. But just for my satisfaction, do read further and know what you’re actually getting into.
The Roe witches curse, bless, protect and kill-if you pay the right price. Avery’s family has-of women-has always had a tenuous connection with the islanders-who wouldn’t take a shit without first consulting her grandma. There are several facets to this story and one of those explores this unhealthy, dangerous relationship in a world of whaling as the world progresses, and witches be losing powers.
While it’s written with a focus on romance, the book doesn’t forget how it began, its roots and the creatures it weaves amongst. The first half of the story is devoted to this dance, playing by the characters and building on the setting and characters, their links and chains. The writing is subdued but that only complements the story that’s thrilling despite the dearth of action.
Avery was an evocative character at times, although sometimes that was substituted for likeness to a caricature of a character made up lesser of lines and circles than of adjectives. She appeared to be obsessed with being a witch without any logical basis for it. Of course, her survival plays a major role but most of it had to do with dogma-the Roe witch have always been witches, and she must continue the line or the island will collapse. As time goes on, her views change though not her goal, and it was fascinating to see her reasons become more rational and survivalist.
I loved the descriptions of the island, the men and boys who have only one option-whaling, sailors who buy monogamy charms for their sweethearts but never themselves, sour and overripe and sickly sweet smell at the docks, raging winds from memories past that were harnessed by witches past; the whaling industry(it’s crap and I hated hated hated the whales who died) and how it ran the world.
Every rich lady in the country has a jar of whale on her vanity. She dabs whale on her wrist, at her neck. She uses whale to pull in her waist and lifts up whale to keep the rain and sun off her lovely face. She reads by whale and washes with whale and has whale to brush her hair and pin it in place. Her husband takes some whale to polish his shoes, to keep his buggy wheels clean and squeak free. The factories that chug whale to grease their millions of working parts and whale to light their workrooms, and even a garden benefits from a bit of whale sprayed daily. You could glue things together with whale, strip off rust with whale, whip your horse with whale, and at night stroll the streets warm in the glow of whale.
These subtle and overt explorations of basically everything, written in a compelling manner are one of the things I’ll remember fondly about The Witch of Salt and Storm for some time, for it was daring and fucking spellbinding, as the blurb says.
*dum dum dum!*
This is how it ends. (Also, a book I just remembered.)
Actions start: ka-pa-chow! Ding ding! Do things!
Turns to this:
The writing becomes grittier and often, nonsensical or awkward. The sequences that follow-with its high on emotional drama-only served to annoy me with their banality. It all became tiring-a catharsis that helped neither me or Avery. Her outpouring of emotions weren’t out of the norm and came as a direct contrast to what I loved about the storytelling initially.
Not to say that it was particularly bad. Nah, it was simply uninspired and lost the enchantment. Even as the usage of magic increased, the story became more firmly rooted in reality-mobs going crazy, occurrence of untoward things. I suppose my disappointment has a lot to do with the the change in the narrative-not the character, but happenstance and circumstance, which in turn, changed her tone. And as a side, there were several back stories and relationships(in especial, Avery’s mother’s and grandmother’s) that I wish had been explored more thoroughly.
Despite the lack of novelty, despite the “ballsy” twist that I didn’t consider as such, I think Kendall Kulper could have had a tight grip on me even through these times. Butttt-she didn’t.
I don’t have much to say about the romance, albeit it soon became one of the foci-Tane was a model character-not white, not perfect, thirst for revenge, a distinct lack of douchebaggery. What we all want, yet he was lacking-I saw him more as a tool, as a means to achieve things than as a real character.
In the end, the ending didn’t sit well with me, primarily because of all the useless stuff about beaks and crap, however, I truly appreciated what the ending alluded with regard to the whaling business. Overall, it was a good effort and I am sure lots of readers will love it.
Review copy provided by publishers.