Review: A Circle of Salt by E J Weaver
The original title for this piece ended “A Novel Fairy-Tale” but I have an intense dislike for that term, and “folk-tale” doesn’t convey to me the same genre of fiction. Feeling the English language is selling short a much-belovèd form of story, hence my use of the German “Märchen.” (Britannica advises me that is the term by folklorists, so I’m obviously not alone in looking for a suitable term.)
There are certain conventions that I tend to expect in Märchen, such as the Power of Three, Anglo-Western European context, and a third-person narrative. In a Circle of Salt, @Joi_the_Artist uses some of these conventions (Power of Three,) but uses a Russian-analogue setting, and borrows from Russian mythos (eg: Baba Yaga.) Most surprising to me is the use of first-person narrative, and with a twist – the protagonist is an amoral non-human, who doesn’t understand humans. As with my taste in visual art, I am drawn to those who buck the trend; in this book, @Joi_the_Artist does just that, making the work very much HERS, as opposed to an “in the style of” generic.
The body of the tale is a set of linked scenes, each a story in itself. Some scenes are of the “and they all lived happily ever after,” but some anything but. An early review of The Lord of the Rings mentioned “By turns comic and homely, epic and diabolic…” – A Circle of Salt made me think of that quote. Whilst the Power of Three often gives a hint at what happens next, sometimes what happens next can be a shocker. The ending is – different. I won’t say any more, because I wouldn’t have wanted to know before I got there. I hope I haven’t given too much away as it is – this is a work to be read, and enjoyed, without spoilers. This is a work that delights through ongoing change, and revelation.
All in all, whilst this beautiful work includes many familiar conventions from traditional Märchen, there is nothing clichéd about the overall effect. A Circle of Salt is an original addition to a classic genre, and I a look forward to seeing more work from this author.
Thank you, Joi, for bringing back some of the magic of my childhood. It is a long time since a story moved me as much as this.