1. first person narration
2. dream sequences.
The Witch of Salt and Storm is narrated by a girl who can interpret dreams.
Now that we have established that this book is quite possibly the best way to give me a permanent case of stinkeye, I want you to know that it’s not a bad book: Sentences are thoughtfully constructed. The pace of the plot quickens as a life-threatening deadline approaches, which makes technical and theoretical sense. Important themes about identity are looked at and developed. The setting is in a New England whaling town, and it’s obvious that a lot of time was spent researching whaling communities. I loved the sense of the cold, harsh atmosphere that is conveyed consistently throughout.
Part of what pushes the bleak mood of story is the role of fate. Avery Roe can interpret dreams for people, but she repeatedly says that they cannot change the future. They don’t have a choice. The interpretations are usually vague enough that they can still come true even if a character changes everything about their life to try to stop it. Yet they are specific enough that the characters know if they should be happy or terrified about their futures.
I have a big problem with this. Forget the first person narration and the dream sequences. This story passes a fundamental message, and that message is about fate.
First, a definition, taken from this page which explains FATE vs DESTINY very nicely—
Fate: the preordained course of your life that will occur because of or in spite of your actions
Destiny: a set of predetermined events within your life that you take an active course in shaping
The difference is subtle, but important. The presence of fate means the absence of responsibility and hope.
In the book, we are hammered with the understanding that we can’t change fate. But one day Avery has a special dream that appears to give her a choice about the future. She allows herself to hope. She searches tirelessly and takes risks to be able to achieve the result that she wants. I began to cheer for her!
In the end, what happens? SURPRISE, she didn’t have a choice at all. She just misunderstood the meaning of the dream. Fate won again.
It’s a grim outlook to live under. It perpetuates this lie: nothing that I do matters, the result will still be the same. If the use of fate is a way to darken a sombre story about how some people are meant to be miserable, and that misery will lead them to have magical powers, then the author, Kendall Kulper, was successful.
(note: I received this as an ARC, but that didn’t change my honest review of the book)