Author: Kendall Kulper
Prince Island has been home to the Roe witch for generations. For a price the people of the island come to the witch’s cottage in search of charms of protection, love, and the like. Avery Roe is destined to become the next Roe witch, to inherit the role from her grandmother…until the day her mother steals her away. Determined to keep her daughter from magic, Avery’s mother has made it impossible for her leave the town of New Bishop, to claim her rightful place as the next Roe witch. But Avery hasn’t given up trying and when she wakes from a dream foretelling her own death, she must find a way to get back to her grandmother, to unlock the magic inside herself, and prevent her own murder.
“I would have tried anything…I would have shaved my head or lived alone on a rowboat for a year or slit open my body to the sea. Nothing I tried ever seemed to work, although I knew, I knew that all my magic lay inside me, waiting, waiting until I figured out how to release it.”
Kendall Kulper’s The Witch of Salt & Storm, more commonly known as Salt & Storm, draws several parallels between its setting and characters. Against the backdrop of changing times, Avery’s world is in a state of transition. Whaling is slowly becoming obsolete while the people of New Bishop continue to cling to the old ways including relying on the the power of the Roe witch to keep them safe. Similarly, Avery clings to her past, reliving memories of her time with her grandmother, hoping that despite the years that have gone by, she can return to the cottage she secretly still calls home.
The Witch of Salt & Storm does not have a traditional antagonist. Although Avery is locked in a battle of wills with her mother, the latter going to great lengths to keep Avery from returning to her grandmother, the real struggle Avery has is with fate. Gifted in dream-telling, Avery knows her death isn’t just imminent, it’s guaranteed, but still she presses forward. Avery’s relationship with her mother is complex in its conflict: though both characters have opposing goals, both are equal in their enthusiasm. The enmity pouring from Avery and what first appears to be spewing from her mother, keep both from truly understanding the other’s point of view.
Along Avery’s journey she meets the foreigner Tane, who first seeks her help in order to find the men who killed his people. Avery is forced to make a deal with him when it becomes apparent that she cannot break her mother’s curse, which prevent her from leaving New Bishop. Both Avery and Tane seek to honor their families: the former by taking over as the Roe witch and the latter with vengeance. What I really liked about Kulper’s book is that the romance aspect isn’t so prominent that it feels as though the protagonist’s story is being overshadowed or that her journey is being unsold in favor of it. The Witch of Salt & Storm is very much Avery’s story: her struggles and the understanding that eventual sets in when she realizes what it really means to be the Roe witch.