Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review: Salt

by Maurice Gee
The Salt Trilogy, book one

Book Description:
When his father Tarl is captured and enslaved to work in Deep Salt, Hari vows to rescue him. This is a forbidding task: no one returns from Deep Salt. But Hari was born and raised in Blood Burrow. He's tough and smart—and he has a secret gift: he can communicate with animals.

The beautiful Pearl, born into the privileged world of the ruling class known as Company, has learned forbidden things from her mysteriously gifted maid Tealeaf. Now her father has promised her in marriage to the powerful and ambitious Ottmar. But Pearl will never submit to a subordinate life, so she and Tealeaf must flee.

When their paths cross, Hari and Pearl realize that together they must discover the secrets of Deep Salt. Their long journey through the badlands becomes far more than a quest to save Tarl—their world is on the brink of unspeakable terror.

I wanted so much to like this book. When I had read the description, I had thought it was a stellar premise. When I finally got a chance to read it, though, I just could not connect. The first few chapters were great. The idea that the characters could talk to one another and animals with their minds was fascinating. The idea of the corrupt government and Pearl's escape from a loveless marriage sounded intriguing...

Somewhere close to halfway through the book, though, I lost all interest. The characters were good, but I didn't find enough explanation in the world building. I had no idea where the Company came from or why they were taking over. I didn't understand what the radioactive "salt" really was... I just kept coming up with more and more, "Huh?" moments and I was frustrated enough that I almost put the book down several times.

I really wish that this book had given more extensive historical context to its dystopian setting. As Gee is from New Zealand, I have a feeling that native readers in that part of the world would draw a deeper context, but for me, it was just vague in a lot of ways. I didn't really feel, either, as if there was enough resolution in this book, and I know it's the first in a trilogy, but I don't want to have to say, oh that must be addressed in book two...

Overall, I was sadly disappointed.

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