Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett

BloodA wise man* once said “Comparison is the thief of joy.” While I suspect he was talking about peer comparison, it holds true between books as well (if only slightly less meaningful).

Comparison is a dangerous thing. When I’m promised a book will be the next Stephen King’s The Stand, I get very, very excited. And then the inevitable happens? I read the book and it’s nowhere near as good as the comparison promised. Sadly, it’s not even the book’s fault. I just went in with unrealistic expectations.

The latest example?

Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett. The blurb promised me it was Children of the Corn meets Romeo and Juliet. Was it? Nope. Was I disappointed? Yep. Was the book bad? No, it just wasn’t what I expected, and that stole a little of my joy.

Ash and Rhys are teenage twins living with their mother in New York City. Their life is a little bohemian, a little mysterious, and full of strange visions. At least it is for Ash. One day the twins go to school, when they return home, their mother has disappeared. Although they don’t know much about her childhood, they know she grew up in a cult in Kansas, and that’s where they begin their search to find her. By the time they get to the corn field in Kansas, they are filled with tension and worry. Ash steps out of the car and meets Dane, and the two share an instant, forbidden bond, but then he vanishes. The twins make their way to Quivira, only to find out things are not as they anticipated.

But that’s always the case, isn’t it? If things went according to plan, it wouldn’t make for very good fiction. There are several things I like about this debut novel. The writing is solid, as is the mysterious setting. I enjoyed the idea of a cult novel infused with history and folklore (Francisco Coronado plays a fairly significant role). Ash is a strong female character, and although she falls for the romantic lead a little too quickly, but she doesn’t necessarily let that blind her. Her brother helps to keep her grounded and provides a little of the mystery himself, adding to the convoluted family dynamics. While at times it gets confusing, Liggett keeps the plot moving along.

Intertwined family histories, a smattering of romance, a tinge of horror, a bit of alchemy, and a doomsday cult obsessed with immortality all combine to make this a solid, refreshing read. I can’t say that I can think of a comparison for it. And that’s a very good thing.

Are you ever let down by a misleading comparison?

*That wise man was Theodore Roosevelt.

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