Roaming the Mediterranean Sea on sailboats and hunting down monsters is the only life seventeen-year-old Indi has ever known. He never loved it, but now that his parents are gone—vanished during a hunt three months ago—it’s harder and harder to fight his desire to escape. It doesn’t help that he has custody of his parents’ journal, which contains a too-small section devoted to a treasure his parents promised they would someday give them. Maybe it’s something valuable enough to get militant Beleza to agree to settle down. Something that would take the little kids away from the life that’s turning Oscar into a pirate and wasting Zulu’s brilliant six-year-old mind. Something that could give Indi a normal life. If only sea monsters, his own conscience, and the entire ocean weren’t between him and that treasure.
I received this book in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. The minimalist title and cover of this book really peaked my interest. I (not-so-secretly) miss the trend of one work Young Adult book titles and combined with the unique premise of fighting monsters at sea, I knew I had to read this book.
The characters in this book, Indi and his siblings, were certainly my favorite part of the story. I soon found out that while monster hunting was at the core of book, it’s really a character driven story. Indi’s struggle to find who he is and navigate his role in his family was compelling and heartwarming. His siblings are not quite as complex as he is, but I enjoyed seeing the family interact and function as a unit. Indi’s love interest was a fun character to explore, even if she wasn’t always likable.
Normally, I’d also talk about the plot of a book in my reviews, however as the characters drive the majority of the plot in this story, it’s hard to speak about it separate from an analysis of the characters. I will say that the book is fast paced and the story is mostly told through short narrative vignettes than full, fleshed out chapters. There is an overarching plot, including obstacles, conflicts and resolutions, but it is in the background to Indi’s character development. However, the prose of the story, whether it was internal moments with Indi or a full on fight scene with a sea monster, was beautiful and often heartbreaking.
I wish the world of monster hunting played into the story a bit more than it does. In the beginning of the story, it’s unclear exactly what kind of world this, since the characters spend most of their life at sea and are out of touch land life. It turns out that sea monster are mostly unknown by other people and sailors and a few monster hunters, known as “sics” exist to keep the oceans safe. It’s also eventually revealed that it is a modern world they’re living in, with the internet and cellphones readily available. So the world is more in line with magical realism than high fantasy as I initially expected from the first chapters and book summary.
Salt is a fairly short book and a fast read. If you’re an active reader, you can finish in within about four hours. The book is mostly character driven and the narrator, Indi, is complex and well written. The prose is beautiful and enjoyable to read, but don’t expect an action packed story. Most of the development in within Indi, not within the world.