Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper

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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.

It's hard to know where to begin when talking about Salt & Storm, because everything wowed me. The beautiful prose, the complex characters, the haunting magic system, the vivid emotions, the richness of the world... it's a truly stunning book. And every line of it hums with female power.

The novel explores the relationships between different generations of women -- the young not-yet-a-witch Avery, the magic-hating mother who keeps her hostage, and the witch grandmother she longs to return to, but who may not want her back. All three of these women play vital roles in the story, and they all have different personalities and expectations and dreams and powers of their own. Each female character has different definitions of happiness and freedom and love, and the exploration of those differences is what drives the novel.

Avery's relationship with her mother is particularly fascinating. Avery's mom hates magic, despite having the ability to control love herself, and she's determined to prevent Avery from becoming a witch at any cost. Unsurprisingly, the relationship between Avery and her mother is full of hate and resentment, with Avery desperately fighting to set her own destiny. But Avery's mother is probably the most interesting character of the novel, with a heartbreaking story of her own, and the exploration of her relationship with Avery and why she acts the way she does leads to some of the most compelling scenes I've read in a book in a while.

Avery herself is also a fantastic protagonist, not least because she's not always likeable. She's a very angry, short-tempered and often selfish main character, who makes mistakes, misjudges things and hurts others with her words as often as she hurts herself. She's volatile and passionate, and her dedication to her island and her magic drives the story forwards. She feels incredibly real, both powerful and vulnerable, and even when she's making bad choices or being cruel, I can't help but like and support her.

At its heart, Salt & Storm is a novel about choices, and about accepting that sometimes you can't choose. Avery struggles for freedom throughout the novel, saying she's do "anything" to win her powers, and the novel then goes deep into what "anything" can really mean, and whether the "freedom" she fights for is really freedom at all. Gorgeously written and emotionally compelling, Salt & Storm is my favorite book of 2014 so far. Highly, highly recommended.