Salt, by Maurice Gee

In Blood Burrows life is hard. It’s a city of ruins; the water is brown, giant rats and packs of feral dogs prowl the sewers in search of food, and every so often Company comes and takes men away to work. Some are sent to farms, some to the city, and others to the salt mines. But those who are taken to deep salt never return.

When his defiant father Tarl is sentenced to deep salt, Hari vows to rescue him. But Hari isn’t an ordinary Burrows boy – he can talk without speaking, and make animals obey him. He was taught by an old blind invalid, Lo, who also told him the violent history of Company.  They came with promises of riches and progress, then gradually subjugated his people.

Pearl is a runaway, escaping a world of privilege and cruelty with the help of her maid, Tealeaf. But Pearl isn’t just an ordinary Company girl, and Tealeaf is no ordinary maid. She taught Pearl how to enter people’s minds, and order them to obey. Hari tries to kill them for their food, but instead, Tealeaf offers to help him rescue his father. The three become travelling companions, and they set off across the forests and mountains to get to the sea. Beyond, is Tealeaf’s village. And beyond that is deep salt, and the terrible secret that waits under a dead hill.

This book is fairly spooky in some places. The deep salt mine and the mutated rats gave me the creeps. Also, there’s a lot of fighting, a lot of death. I thought it was quite contrary to the cover, which is fresh looking with the lurid green and white cave. Turns out Salt is dark, sad, and bloody. The underlying political themes of constant conquest, rebellion, and revolution are portrayed as futile, but inevitable. There will always be greedy kings, and people exploiting other people for their own benefit. The only possible hope for happiness lies away from civilization in a semi-communistic future.

I may be looking into this too much, but hey. It’s pretty depressing.

Overall, the flow and the pacing was great. I found it very easy to read (this might be a YA thing, or just a Maurice Gee thing).  The style was low-key descriptive, which I liked.  But the detail of the landscape during the cross-country journey was a little sparse. I found myself wanting to know more about this world, and the people (and animals) in it. Everything is mysterious, and everything is dangerous. It makes for an interesting read.

Salt is YA dystopia, with less fantasy elements and more of a magical realism vibe to it. I liked it, and it’s a good book for teens, which is who I’d heartily recommend it to.

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Toni is a reader, writer, blogger, and postgraduate student living in Christchurch. When not reading she enjoys road trips and going to the movies. Her favorite books are set in space, boarding schools, the ruins of civilization, and city streets. She loves a good love story, and characters that surprise and delight. You can follow her on Goodreads and Twitter.