Monday, September 15, 2014

Early Review: Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper

Salt & Storm
by Kendall Kulper
Read: August 10 - 20, 2014
Published: September 23, 2014 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 
Source: Edelweiss (Thank you, LB)
Category: Historical, Whaling, New England, Witches

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository 

Book description: A sweeping historical romance about a witch who foresees her own murder--and the one boy who can help change her future.

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.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane--a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.

So much about Salt & Storm grabbed me immediately, including the beautiful cover. The story is set in New England's maritime past, especially its whaling history, which I found fascinating, and close to home, living on costal Massachusetts. I've also become a big fan of the historical fantasy genre, and adding romance to that is always a win for me. I enjoyed the history in Salt & Storm and the book overall. But at the same time, this story didn't bring out a lot of emotion for me until very close to the end, and I've been struggling for a few weeks about how to review it. 

Set-upAvery Roe has always known that she would become the next witch of Prince Island, protecting the sailors who spend their lives hunting whales, and residents who support those at sea. Generations of Roe women have made charms, tied the winds and kept their people safe and prosperous. Avery cannot wait to follow in her grandmother's footsteps and do the same. But Avery's mother does not want her daughter to become a witch, and she has kept Avery from her grandmother and magic for the last 4 years. Still, Avery is determined to unlock her magic herself and escape back to her grandmother's cottage. Unfortunately, before this happens, Avery dreams that she will be murdered. Interpreting dreams is Avery's gift, and she is never wrong in her predictions. This adds an even bigger complication, but Avery is not giving up. 

I tried to write an essay review of this book, but struggled to make my thoughts fit together, so I'm just listing them out. Five thoughts on Salt & Storm:

1) Avery is not always the easiest girl to like. She is quite selfish and narrowly focused on her objective, with a tendency to blame others, and get her friends into trouble. But she also endeared herself to me. Avery isn't given much information or support from either her mother or her grandmother, although she has this huge legacy and destiny that she has always understood she must fulfill and believes is vitally important to the health of her island. Then Avery begins to realize that the reality of her future may not be what she's always wanted, and she has to figure out what to do with that information. I enjoyed watching this struggle of identity and purpose play out; however, it wasn't until closer to the end that I felt a strong emotional connection to Avery and the other characters. 

2) It's always tough for me when huge secrets are kept from the MC, even when it is all explained later - including the reason for the secret keeping - and I struggled at times with why Avery wasn't given more information. Especially, why her mom and grandmother wouldn't tell her anything. It all make sense by the end, however. But as the story was going, I got a little frustrated along with Avery about the lack of help. Maybe that was the point? I did enjoy the way that those revelations changed Avery's perspective on characters and situations, and caused her to grow up. 

3) The plot is a little choppy in places. There were a lot of pieces that had to come together to tell this tale and some of the way they were put together felt like Avery was being led from one thing to another based on how she was affected by others. For instance, Avery was very determined to do a certain thing, but when that didn't work out, she switched her focus pretty quickly. It did all lead to the same place in the end, despite the flow issues.

4) I liked harpoon boy Tane (pronounced Taah-neh), he is a  sweet addition to the plot, and he is featured in some great scenes (one involving tattooing). I'm very glad that Avery had him, as they tempered each other well. But I never felt a huge amount for his relationship with Avery. Highlight for SPOILER>> Perhaps this was a self fulfilling issue, since I knew going in what his outcome would be (end spoiler).

5) I had no idea how vital whaling used to be to the economy. Whale parts were used for so many products - corsets, oil, candles, perfume, soap to name a few items. Weaved into Avery's realization that her life might not be exactly as she always expected, is a parallel discussion of how a community run on whaling was affected by fewer whales due to overhunting and newer more efficient products countering the whale trade. I really enjoyed the way this was done, and I was more interested in the true historical aspects of this book than the witch/fantasy ones. 

Final thoughts: Overall, I enjoyed reading Salt & Storm, and, perhaps surprisingly, I  appreciated the ending much more than I thought I would. However, over time, I'm not sure this one is going to stand out so much to me. Mostly, I wish I'd felt more of an emotional connection to Avery and her struggles. I am still interested in seeing what else Kendall Kulper writes, including a possible companion set in this world. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone. But I believe the author has a companion book planned. I don't know who the main character would be, but I'd be interested in reading it. 


  1. I actually started this one awhile back but I couldn't get into it so I had to put it down. I'm planning to pick it back up, but I was feeling the same thing as you, no connection to the characters. And on top of that, I didn't like all of the whaling stuff and some of the historical detail…I was so bored by it! It sounds like if I stick with it it gets better, but I do get frustrated when a lot of secrets are kept from the MC (although at least there is an explanation for it in this book, unlike others). Great review! ~Pam

  2. I have my review going up tomorrow Lauren and I felt much the same way about this one! I struggled to put my thoughts about it into words, as it left me just sort of Partly because what happens toward the end is one of those deal breakers for me and I couldn't quite get past it, but mostly, like you, I just didn't find myself overly connected to Avery. She was definitely selfish and her tendency to fly off the handle at Tane and her mother drove me a little crazy. The world and the atmosphere of this story though was a joy, I could easily picture the docks and understand why these people relied on a witch to bring their sailors safely home.

  3. I heard about what happens at the end and decided not to read it. I'm surprised you actually read it!
    Anyways, I don't think I will be picking this one up because all the mixed reviews have put me off.
    Great review!

  4. "It's always tough for me when huge secrets are kept from the MC..." YES!! This drives me insane. While an MC doesn't have to know everything, those huge secrets, kept secret for the MC's own good, usually, kill me (and usually wind up pissing me off). I haven't read this one yet but now I'm afraid! Of course, I'll get to it eventually but it's moved down the pile a bit.

  5. Withholding information from the MC is always a HUGE issue for me so I'm not sure this is for me. I haven't been too keen to read it, surprisingly, even though I love that cover. Seeing as I have such little time to read these days in-between college a novel that isn't going to hold up against the test of time isn't one I'm likely to gravitate towards these days. Thanks for such a helpful review, though, Lauren! I'll be curious to see what you make of the companion novel!

  6. I agree with your last bit, that it was a good read that won't stand out later. That's how I felt too. I enjoyed it a lot. Avery bugged me sometimes and all the secret keeping was pretty irritating for a while. I can only imagine that if Avery's mother really wanted to sell her off witchcraft, she could have told her the secret sooner. However, I loved the ending (surprised me, for sure) and the historical aspects were great---though I wish that Avery's sensibilities about whales had been less modern and eco-friendly. Nice review.


  7. I want to read this one so badly! It's like at the very top of my TBR list. It sucks that you didn't enjoy it as much because of a lack of connection with the characters. It's always difficult to read a book when you feel nothing for them or worse yet, when they are annoying. Awesome review!

    Laquesha @ BookLover2.0

  8. Amazing review Lauren. <3 Thank you for being honest. Loved reading your feelings about this book :D And ohh. I'm just glad you didn't hate it, hih :) I'm sorry you didn't love it :\ but it's good that you did enjoy it. Now I'm a bit more excited about it. <3 Tane sounds awesome. Though, yeah, I know the ending too. Hmph.

  9. I was definitely surprised by how much I wound up liking Salt & Storm overall. My favorite parts of the novel had a lot to do with the whaling & the magic, which were definitely aspects that were well-done. I do wish I'd connected a bit more with these characters, but overall, Salt & Storm was a good read!

  10. I agree with you on #2-- because Avery was kept in the dark so long, it also took me a looong time to get invested in this book. (Thanks for the encouragement to keep going!) I often have an issue with books where you wait and wait and wait for a big reveal...
    Thanks so much for stopping by! Jen @ YA Romantics

  11. The historical aspects sound interesting, but I can see it being a tough sell if you don't connect with the main character until the very end. Hmm...maybe one to try from the library?


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