Book Review: Waters of Salt and Sin by Alisha Klapheke
I know what they say about judging a book by its cover, but I'll admit it: I definitely judged this book by its cover. I mean seriously, how could you not? It's gorgeous. The artist, Merilliza Chan, is super talented and has done some amazing covers that I love (exhibits A, B, & C). This is probably my favorite, though. I was 90% persuaded to buy this book by the cover alone, so by the time I read the blurb, I was sold.
Waters of Salt and Sin is an exciting adventure set in a unique fantasy world that isn't based on medieval Europe, castles, and knights in shining armor, which was hugely refreshing. One of the things I loved best about this book was the world-building and social structure. One of my favorite elements of this was the whole idea of caste status being made evident in the number of bells a person has to wear, and it played into the conflict nicely as we see characters buy their way into a higher status by having bells removed, which is what heroine Kinneret wants to do to raise herself and her younger sister from their low-caste status. She is also motivated by her romantic feelings for childhood friend Calev - a relationship that is forbidden because of Kinneret's social status. Kinneret sets out to seek a legendary island of silver, but her quest is complicated when her sister is captured and made a slave.
The book started off a little slow, and there wasn't much happening in the first few chapters. However, it didn't feel like it dragged, and I appreciated being slowly introduced to the world the author had created and coming to understand the role of the caste system, salt magic, and salt wraiths in this society. The salt wraiths were especially interesting. I loved that whole concept and seeing how they were integrated into the plot as more than just obstacles for the characters to overcome in their travels.
The story is well-written, and Klapheke does an excellent job of showing us the world through Kinneret's eyes. I'm not always a fan of first-person point of view, but I thought it was handled very well here. I connected with Kinneret almost immediately, which made me become more immersed in the story and more invested in what was happening to her and the people she cared about. Oron was another favorite character, and Berker made for a good - if somewhat one-dimensional - antagonist. I had mixed feelings about the constant banter between the main cast of characters. It was spot-on in some places and made me laugh out loud a few times, but there's a lot of it, and it started to feel forced and wear thin in some places.
The relationship between Kinneret and Calev was predictable and rather formulaic, but for the most part well-written and touching. I was rooting for them to get together by the end, even if I could see it coming from the first few chapters. My biggest complaint about the romance arc was Kinneret's attitude toward Miriam, the woman Calev is Intended to marry. It felt like Kinneret was being a little petty and even contradicted herself throughout the story, wanting to be with Calev and hating Miriam while also expressing a desire for Calev to be happy and not be Outcasted (which would be the result of a relationship with someone low-caste like Kinneret). I guess that's human nature, but it did grate on me a little that Kinneret hated Miriam so much for no reason other than that she's Calev's Intended. We don't see Miriam do anything to earn this hatred; she seems like a nice enough person, right up until the end of the story when we find out that she's not such a nice person after all, apparently. But we're just told this in passing, and it felt like kind of a forced way to show that Kinneret was justified in hating Miriam all along. I don't know; I guess I don't like seeing girls hating other girls in stories just because of a boy, especially when they don't even know the other girl that well.
The ending also felt just a little contrived for me, but it was still satisfying. Overall, I enjoyed the story and the author's writing style. I loved escaping into Kinneret's world and will probably read something else by this author in the future.