Daughter of the Salt King
Author: A.S. Thornton
Publisher: CamCat Books (February 2, 2021)
Hardcover, 448 pages
Fantasy, Adult Fantasy
As a daughter of the Salt King, Emel ought to be among the most powerful women in the desert. Instead, she and her sisters have less freedom than even her father’s slaves … for the Salt King uses his own daughters to seduce visiting noblemen into becoming powerful allies by marriage.
Escape from her father’s court seems impossible, and Emel dreams of a life where she can choose her fate. When members of a secret rebellion attack, Emel stumbles upon an alluring escape route: her father’s best-kept secret—a wish-granting jinni, Saalim.
But in the land of the Salt King, wishes are never what they seem. Saalim’s magic is volatile. Emel could lose everything with a wish for her freedom as the rebellion intensifies around her. She soon finds herself playing a dangerous game that pits dreams against responsibility and love against the promise of freedom. As she finds herself drawn to the jinni for more than his magic, captivated by both him and the world he shows her outside her desert village, she has to decide if freedom is worth the loss of her family, her home and Saalim, the only man she’s ever loved.
I both liked and didn’t like this book. There are moments where it’s truly magical. Much of the writing is beautiful, the descriptions are lush and evocative and I could almost feel the desert wind on my face, the stifling heat of too many bodies all packed into one airless tent, the tart ruby juice of a pomegranite… And then at other times the story itself just moves SO SLOWLY. Much of this book is just Emel wandering around her settlement running through the same thoughts and feelings about being trapped with no way out over and over again. This really could have been half as long. I spent most of the last half of the book going “Okay, I get it, this point has been made, move along please…” The story finally picked back up in the last chapter or two, and then to find out – IT ENDS ON A QUASI-CLIFFHANGER AND THERE IS A SECOND BOOK. WHAT.
Unless the second book has drastically different pacing, I really don’t think this needs to be a duology. It would have been better served by some major edits and being Part 1: Daughter of the Salt King and Part 2: Son of the Salt Chaser (the title of the second book).
I am undecided whether I’ll read the second half of the duology, Son of the Salt Chaser which is due to be released in 2022. On the one hand, some of the writing is truly beautiful, but on the other I don’t have the time or the patience for another 450 page book that could have been half as long. I suppose I have a good year or so to decide! This is A.S. Thornton’s debut novel, so I’m hopeful that she’ll work out her pacing issues while continuing to polish her amazing talents at bringing a world and the characters in it to life.
A digital ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss+ for review. All opinions are unbiased and my own.