Several years ago, I had the pleasure to look at the first draft of a novel by a friend of mine. I shared my thoughts along with a few spurious doodles and that was that. Imagine my delight when I saw the book for sale on Amazon. That book is A Circle of Salt by E.J. Weaver and I am pleased to say that it was worth every cent of the 12 dollars I paid to get a hard copy.
A Circle of Salt is not like any fantasy novel I have read. The core of the book is a series of Russian fairy tales that have been reworked by Weaver to tell the story of Vasilissa, a fey from the Summer Realm who is exiled for her pride. Over the course of her exile, Vasilissa crosses wits with Russian fairy tale villains Koschei the Deathless and the Baba Yaga who attempt to use Vasilissa's blood to enter the Realm and unleash the Dragon. While this might sound like Shannon Hale meets Mike Mignola, Weaver's understated and deeply realist story-telling gives A Circle of Salt a feel and voice that is uniquely its own. Weaver makes Vasilissa's world credible without the usual detours into "how everything works" that bog down similar novels. This allows the interest of the story to compel us -and compel it does! Indeed, when so much contemporary story-telling strikes me as ugly, shoddy, and over-blown, Weaver's commitment to beauty, craft, and authorial restraint are most welcome. With such a strong showing out of the gate, I look forward to the release of E.J. Weaver's next novel.