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Every River Runs to Salt is a fun, short read, perfect for spending a day or two while enjoying the summer sun. It’s imaginative, and despite being short, it still touches on some important themes, such as pollution and drowning in desires. Only in this story, someone literally becomes an ocean. It’s great for lovers of New Adult fiction taking place at a university, where a whole lot of crazy fantastical things happen.
Quietly’s roommate Imani, is a bit of an enigma. She can do magic, claims to be part glacier, and has a bit of a temper on her. Still, Quietly doesn’t want to be without her. One day, Imani takes things too far when she steals the Pacific Ocean: California, Oregon, and Washington are not amused. When Imani dies, Quietly is left with the mess, and travels to the Under-Ath, the underworld underneath the University where all the trash goes, to get the Pacific back and rescue her friend.
Side note: I know me saying Imani dies seems like a spoiler, but it’s told in the stories blurb, and in the first few paragraphs of the novella.
“Living will always mean hurting a little and wishing for things absent from our arms.”
Every River Runs to Salt is an entertaining novella, featuring oceans and rivers as magical sentient beings, and hypotheticals that represent the different states. For me, the story was about desires, and a warning not to let yourself drown in it, or you will forget who you are. But it can also apply to relationships: don’t lose sight of yourself in your relationships. It also touches on pollution, where people toss their trash in the oceans and rivers. I didn’t find many cool twists in there, though, but the ending was still sweet and did have one surprising twist. But the ‘final battle,’ so to say, felt a bit rushed and anti-climactic.
I did love Quietly and enjoyed reading the story from her perspective. She’s smart, philosophical, brave, and funny. She does let other’s, such as Imani, boss her around a bit, and decided to stay at Uni forever. While Imani can do magic, Quietly is perfectly ordinary in that account. It’s quite refreshing to read about someone rather ordinary trying to save a magical person for a change.
Imani does remain more or less a mystery, as she’s not present for a large part of the story. But this is the case for most of the side characters. The side characters do seem a bit more one dimensional. However, all characters in the story have a purpose, and they are quite inventive.
“I like syllabi. They’re terribly optimistic. Slap a date next to anything and it almost becomes possible.”
Since it is a novella, not a lot of time is spent on the world-building, which means it’s not always clear. Notably, the University itself, and how much of it is magical and if all students know or not is very vague. When the hypotheticals first make an appearance, I was very confused, because I didn’t understand they were the embodiments of the states. But some things, like Imani’s background and the Under-Ath, are explained quite well and paint a clear picture.
The prose was not extraordinary, but the writing was good, readable, and to the point. There were also quite some philosophical ponderings by Quitely that made you think. I love it when a book makes you think about the world. And Quietly’s voice was powerful and unique, which made the story fast and fun to read. And since it’s a novella, the pace was fast, and the story mostly told in an active and engaging manner. Also, while we do bond with Quietly, there’s not an extreme amount of emotion involved. It’s mostly kept light, except when Quietly grieves for Imani.
“Out of sight, out of mind, out of memory. You float on peace while all your troubles round and round, out where you don’t have to see them.”
If you’re looking for something fun and short to read, Every River Runs to Salt is a great novella to pick. It has a strong main character with a unique and engaging voice and an interesting perspective on the world around her. The world itself is imaginative, and while not always clear, it’s still easy to follow the story. Definitely a great summer read!
Have you read this book? Let me know what you think!