The Witch of Salt & Storm
By Kendall Kulper
Published by Orchard Books / Little, Brown
ISBN 978 1 40833 519 2
Prince Island is a tiny dot off America's northeastern seaboard. It's a wild and desolate place lashed by unforgiving storms and untamed seas. The sea winds fill the air with salt and heavy clouds, and a storm is never far away.
The islanders are a tough lot, making their living from the whaling vessels that sail out into the mighty Atlantic Ocean. Whaling keeps and has kept Prince Island thriving for centuries. And for generations, the island's water witches have kept the whaling ships safe from harm.
Avery Roe's grandmother is the island's current water witch, and sells protective magic to the whaling families of this superstitious seafaring community. Raised by her grandmother from birth, by the time she was 12 years old, Avery herself was already a skilled interpreter of dreams and keen to take on the full training that would allow her to step into her grandmother's shoes.
But then Avery's mother married a magic-hating pastor, and forced her daughter to give up her birthright as a future water witch.
Four years on, 16-year-old Avery now lives the claustrophobic life of a minister's step-daughter, but this cannot destroy her innate supernatural powers. She is desperate to take up her grandmother's role when the old lady dies; but her mother possesses a strong magic of her own and Avery is trapped in a world of good manners and proper behaviour - and deeply unhappy.
Hope for escape suddenly comes from an unexpected source, when Avery meets a young South Pacific Islander called Tane, a harpooner on a whaling ship. Tane offers to help Avery return to her grandmother and her legacy - but this will come at a terrible cost.
Kendall Kulper's The Witch of Salt & Storm is very much a genre novel with few surprises in terms of plot, but what sets it apart is Kulper's elegant writing and the strong sense of place she evokes. This is an atmospheric story that plays itself out in a strongly presented and extremely potent setting.
Kulper's fictional 19th-century whaling community comes alive on every page through detailed research and imaginative writing, and this gives the novel its stand-out edge. Although this is yet another story of yet another 16-year-old girl caught up in the supernatural, the brilliantly captured period setting will captivate fans of historical / supernatural romances.
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