Danielle Ellison’s Salt is a story of self-discovery. Penelope knows that her magic works differently from everyone else’s; it’s “temperamental,” as she puts it. What she doesn’t know is that pursuing her dream job will uncover secrets hidden in her family’s history that will explain more than just her magic–it will explain her newfound need for the mysterious Carter. This story comes brimming with action, intrigue, bureaucracy, romance, tests, “holy magic,” demons, and detailed history. It’s one that you don’t want to miss.
Now. Before I go any further: yes, this book is about magic and demons. It employs things like possession and realm hopping and confronting demons face-to-face. What I’m saying is that, if you like Buffy or Supernatural, you’ll probably like this book. In the Acknowledgements section, Ellison thanks a friend for introducing her to the Winchesters and all things Supernatural; that said, this story has a similar, if less horror-centric, ambience. What I’m saying is that stories about demons aren’t for everyone. If you can think of the demons as monsters–or if demons don’t freak you out–then this book is a good candidate. If this is a sensitive topic for you, then find something that’s more up your alley.
Salt is great, though. I’m a sucker for a backstory shrouded in mystery, and this book’s got it in spades. We don’t know why Penelope’s magic works the way it does, we don’t know why certain people have been blacked out of her family tree–and we know nothing about Carter, who seems to be looking for answers himself.
Ellison has created a complex world, complete with bylaws and government, that manages to be hidden in plain sight. She’s set the story in Washington, D.C.–which is appropriate, as she’s a local–but the government on Capitol Hill is absent from her narrative, opting instead to explore the dynamics of Penelope’s magical government.
Penelope herself is like Willow in early seasons of Buffy: researchy and reserved, her powers as a witch falling in the category of “untapped potential.” But don’t worry, she’s much better in combat. While Penelope ultimately saves the day, Ellison puts a huge emphasis on team dynamic, which makes Carter (and his occasional swoony my hero moments) an essential part of the story. It’s a bit like Rebel Belle in that regard.
With all this in mind, go forth and enjoy–but be warned: There is a sequel! (I couldn’t decide if I was more angry or eager when I got to the end of the book and the story wasn’t finished. This is what I get for buying a book without doing my research.)