Author: Maurice Gee
Page Count: 252 pages
Publisher: Orca Books
Genre: dystopian, young adult
Copy for review compliments of the public library
50 words or less: Hari watches his father Tarl be carted off by the Company, enslaved and sent to work in Deep Salt. If he's going to rescue his father, he'll need the help of Pearl, an aristocrat, and Tealeaf, her mysterious maid. While they're at it, they just might start a revolution.
Salt is a dark, gripping book that is a must read for fans of dystopian novels. The setting is bleak, the characters are authentic, and the groundwork is laid for the rest of the trilogy to be just as good if not better.
This book is permeated with a deep sense of history. Tarl and Lee, an ancient survivor of past wars and disasters, have instilled in Hari a deep sense of injustice, and a desire to see the Company overthrown. The Company is the cause of and solution to all of the difficulties experienced by the people in the burrows; while they are brutal in their methods and cull people from the population to serve as laborers without regard to those people's lives or desires, they also provide what little food and resources are available. It's a brutal carrot and stick scenario where the Company wins and everyone else loses. Hari's hatred for Company is palpable very early on in the novel.
On the flipside is Pearl, who from the first moment we meet her is fighting against her destiny. She's planning to run away from an arranged marriage to a horrible, brutal man. If she gets caught, death will be the easiest of the consequences; she'll be given to the family of the man she was supposed to marry for him to do as he pleases with her. Her maid, Tealeaf, is assisting her in her escape, but it's plain as day that Tealeaf has an agenda of her own and that Pearl escaping this marriage is very much a part of this agenda.
Hari and Pearl's paths cross very early on and they start sniping at each other immediately, mediated only by Tealeaf and her impressive psychic powers. The short term goal of rescuing Hari's father Tarl from Deep Salt quickly snowballs into finding out just what is mined there and why nobody ever comes back; the mysterious weapon isn't hard to figure out but thinking about how horrible it would be if someone would use it definitely sent chills up my spine.
The pacing of this book was spot-on. The author introduced just enough storylines to keep the book moving and to advance the characters to a place that shows how much they've grown since the start of the book, but left plenty of questions and mysteries for the next two books to unravel. There are many different lessons to take away from this book, too- how corruption is corruption, regardless of the motives behind it, how problems are solved and catastrophes averted by bringing people together to work towards a common cause, and how ignoring the suffering of others is just as bad as actively perpetrating that suffering. Perhaps the most important lesson of all was that everyone can change and that it's never too late to pick a different path.
I highly recommend this book to fans of darker young adult literature or dystopian novels. If you've never read dystopian fiction before then this is an excellent place to start.
Overall Grade: A
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