Salt

Salt

by Hannah Moskowitz

Hardcover

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781452131511
Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC
Publication date: 10/30/2018
Pages: 268
Sales rank: 443,786
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

Hannah Moskowitz is the author of many books for teenagers, including A History of Glitter and Blood and Gena/Finn, both awarded the Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year. She lives in Maryland.

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CHAPTER 1

MORDE D'EAU

"You were supposed to be on watch."

I open my eyes and settle on Beleza's leather boots stomping to the bow. My neck stings from where she woke me up by stabbing me with her fingernails. She takes Mom's spyglass out of her pocket, unrolls it, looks through.

I get up quickly. "What did I miss?"

"Radar's been going off for God knows how long." She lowers the spyglass. "I don't see anything."

"Let me look."

"Yeah, now you're interested," she says, but she hands it up to me.

I know it's around five a.m. without checking my watch, just by the quality of the light, which is barely enough for me to make out peaks in the water. We're floating around the Mediterranean, like usual, pointed vaguely toward the Iberian Sea. Or at least we were when I drifted off.

"There might be something due west." I hold the spyglass where it is and tuck her head underneath my hand to guide her to it. "See?"

"Mm. What's our speed?"

"Six knots. Seven. Between six and seven."

She raises an eyebrow at me. "That before or after you fell asleep?"

"Give it a rest, I was out for a second."

"Indi."

"It's supposed to be Oscar's watch anyway."

"Indi." She points. "See that?"

"Shit."

"You're gonna want to increase that speed about now."

"Oscar!" I yell.

Our brother scrambles up from the cabin. "I'm awake!" "Something's coming," Beleza says. "Where's Zulu?" She's already made it to the headsail, and she's gripping it hard, winding the line through her fingers for traction, getting ready to tack against the wind. When it comes to hunts, I know what my siblings' six hands are doing as clearly as I do my own.

"Which side?" There's Zulu, running up from the cabin behind Oscar. Her voice is like a little bell.

"Starboard," I say. "Get the harpoon gun."

"Got it! What is it!"

"We don't know yet."

"I hope it's a fuegodor!" she says. Our last hunt was a fuegodor. Zulu always wants it to be the same monster as last time. If we somehow took down a monster the size of Africa who spewed poison goo and shot bombs from its eyes and ate ships in one bite, she'd be hoping our next hunt was another one of them.

"We're not in Spain, stupid," says Oscar. "It's not going to be a fuegodor."

"You're not in Spain, stupid," Zulu mumbles.

Beleza hushes them with one hand — a skill she learned from our mother — and straightens her quiver with the other. "Oscar, did you sharpen the knives yet?"

"Just mine and Indi's. Mine's here. His is" — he pauses and digs around the ankle of his boot — "here." He holds it out to me.

"You think it's gonna get up on deck?" I say to her, quietly enough that the kids won't hear.

"I'm just being prepared." Beleza picks up her bow from where she's stashed it at the helm; she was doing some target practice earlier, taking out a few innocent fish with her poison arrows. Normally she keeps it in the storage locker, but not normally enough that it isn't warped all to hell from the humidity and the spray.

She hasn't finished sliding in her arrow before there's a roar that, if I weren't in our family, I'd describe as otherworldly. But it isn't. It's this world, this sea, and it's closer than it was a minute ago.

Shit.

It goes on so long, this gurgling, vibrating growl, louder than our air horn, louder than Monaco on Bastille Day, louder than fuegodors, no question. Louder than anything I've ever heard besides —

"Morde d'eau," Oscar says.

Beleza nods and swallows. "Get the blowtorch. It's gonna come up."

"And the big hooks, right?"

"Uh-huh."

This is going to be our first big hunt without our parents, and if that ever had to happen, I wish it were against a monster I really knew. Morde d'eaus are rare, vicious, and terrifying. They're nine-tentacled (nine? It might be ten. Beleza would kill me if she knew I'm forgetting details like this), three-meter-toothed monsters whose only weaknesses are fire and, thankfully, Beleza's poison arrows. But all those do is paralyze — and not for very long, not in a thing the size of a morde d'eau. It's going to take a quiverful to even pause it.

"Get her harness on," I tell Oscar, and he helps Zulu without argument. It's different when a hunt's starting. We're not the kids who were just bickering at each other; we're not brothers and sisters or orphans or people. We're weapons.

Zulu gets attached to the mast — she's small, and we don't need her getting swept out to sea — but the rest of us stay untethered because we might need to make some quick moves, and because the fact that we're going without harnesses makes us feel like we're strong enough to go without harnesses. Even if that isn't true.

Oscar gives the leather strap on Zulu's harness one last tug of his teeth. "All right, you bastard," he says, at the ocean. At the monster. "Let's do this."

It's four, maybe five seconds of silence, and there's the roar. It vibrates under our ship, and then up rises the head and thick neck and two suctioned tentacles, each slimy cup bigger than my face. I was hoping it wasn't fully grown. Looks like I'm out of luck.

Our boat quakes.

"NOW!" Beleza yells, and Zulu fires up the blowtorch and waves it around, shrieking, to distract the monster. It rears back and hisses like it's supposed to, leaving Beleza to take an arrow out, lick it — like always — load it, and shoot it straight into the roof of the morde d'eau's mouth.

The monster spits it out like a toothpick.

I grab one of the hooks and say, "Oz, come on!" and we heave it over the side and toward the morde d'eau, trying to both wound it and drag it closer so Beleza can have a better shot. They have skin like armor, though, and our hook bounces off and almost pulls Oscar off the edge from the weight of it. I grab him by the waist and Beleza screams something at me while she readies another arrow, but I can't hear it, can't hear anything over the roaring and its breath whipping our sails around and God, we do not have the right boat for this, this thing could swallow us whole —

"ZULU, TORCH!" I yell, and she hands it over and I grab Beleza's bow and ignite the end of her next arrow.

"Eyes?" Beleza asks.

I ready another arrow. "Eyes."

Two flaming arrows take out two monster eyes. It opens its mouth to scream, and this time Oscar's ready with the hook. I run over to grab some of the weight and he swings it up and into the thing's mouth just as it lurches onto the deck and we hear our boat start to crumble.

"Shit. Shit," I say.

Beleza either doesn't notice or doesn't care that our boat's getting damaged. "Burn it, Zoo!" she orders, and Zulu's there in a second with the torch, burning through its skin, detaching the head, filling the air with the smell of burning blood and monster.

It's over. Oscar's bleeding. We're all gasping.

We are us again. We're still orphans. Our boat is still a piece of shit.

We're still some of the best damn sea monster hunters around.

I still hate it.

Beleza wipes sweat off her forehead. "Let's haul it up," she says. "Zulu, go start some water."

CHAPTER 2

SING-ALONG

Butchering is Zulu's job. She stands up on her stool with our good knife, the one we have to make sure to keep as dry as anything in the cabin can be, and saws with that in one hand and thwacks with a machete in the other. Hack hack hack. She cuts off massive steaks and spears them onto chopsticks we saved from the Dragon Inn, the Chinese food place back in Nerja we went to last time we were in Spain. We already promised Zoo we'd stop there again next time we're that far east, but for the past day and a half we've been headed toward Sicily to meet with someone we only know from Mom and Dad's journal.

Beleza's idea.

Zulu keeps cutting and Oscar starts the burners while I make Beleza open her mouth. "Spit," I tell her, and hold a cup under her mouth.

She spits. "You worry too much."

"Those arrows can paralyze a damn monster, you gotta stop licking them."

"It's good luck."

"I'll remind you of that when your teeth fall out."

She crosses her eyes at me. "So what were you dreaming about, little brother?"

"Mermaids," I mumble. Might as well just tell her, she'll tease me until I do.

"You know they're not real," she says.

"Shut up."

"You know they have tails," she says.

"Still have boobs!" Oscar volunteers.

Beleza glances behind me. "Oscar, watch Zulu with that knife."

"She's fine," he says, without looking at her.

I finish wiping down the inside of Beleza's mouth and open my first-aid kit. This is my job. Zulu does most of the weaponry; Oscar, despite how surly he is with us nowadays, charms locals and tourists alike and keeps food in our stomachs; and I stitch up cuts. Beleza used to be first mate, but that changed a few months ago. Now I'm first mate to her captain, and I think a part of her thinks I'm going to try to wrestle control away from her or something, and every time she has to get me to reach something she can't or haul in a hook that's too heavy, it's with the same narrowed, don't get any ideas kind of eyes.

I tug on the bottom of Oscar's pants. "Let me see that leg."

He shifts weight off it. "It's fine."

Beleza says, "Oscar, listen to your brother."

She's examining her mouth in the rusted mirror above our rusted bathroom sink. It's not much of a bathroom. It's barely big enough to turn around inside. This ship has no real appliances, not even a real oven or stove, and our solar shower on the deck leaks and only holds a gallon of water — which we have to get through our reverse-osmosis machine, so that's a whole process — at a time. The result of this is that we're sweaty and dirt-blotched and we pee with the door open. This whole boat is pretty much a piece of crap, but our good boat, our real home, disappeared along with our parents, and all we could afford with the money they left was this third-rate fifteen-meter wooden schooner that's probably been around longer than the beastie we just took down. And he's got to have been in his eighties, judging by the tooth decay. We've seen morde d'eaus before, but that was when we were better armed and a hell of a lot more prepared — and it looks like no one's going to mention this is the first thing we've taken down by ourselves. This wasn't supposed to be a hunting expedition; we weren't even planning to stop in France, and we sure as hell weren't planning on shooting down any French monsters.

I peel the cuff of Oscar's pants away from his sticky ankle. A ton of blood. "You got yourself with the hook again," I say. That's a lot easier to do than it sounds. The hooks for monsters this big are a meter and a half wide and heavy. Oscar's big for his age, like me, but his age is twelve, and it takes a lot of force to haul those things off the deck. He needs to stop leaning into them.

"Whatever, I got the thing."

"Sit down. I gotta stitch this."

He plops down on the ground and pouts. "Great."

I light a match to sterilize my needle and tie off a piece of dental floss. "You okay up there, Zulu?"

"Yup!" Thwack — off goes a tentacle.

I give Oscar's ankle a squeeze before I slide the needle into the bottom of the cut. He groans and thumps his head back against the floor in time with Zulu's chops. "Stop that," I say.

"Ughhhhhh."

"Seriously, cut it out." I put my hand between his skull and the floor and give his head a rough squeeze the next time he throws it down. "I'm not treating you for a concussion too. You'll just have to die in your sleep."

"Jerk."

"Mm-hmm." I hum a stupid song I made up when he was a baby and wouldn't sleep — the lyrics are Oscar, you smelly bastard, go the hell to sleep — to distract him until I'm finished stitching. "All right, buddy. All done."

He flexes his toes, slowly. "Thanks."

"Yep. I'm starving, start roasting those."

Oscar picks up a skewered piece of meat, and for no damn good reason, yanks on one of Zulu's pigtails. Just like that, she's crying.

"Why do you have to antagonize her?" Beleza says. She slams the bathroom door behind her — we only close it for effect — and comes out and scoops up Zoo.

"I didn't do anything!" Oscar says.

"Bullshit, we all saw it."

"She was in the way."

"Get your damn story straight."

Oscar kicks the heavy pots hard enough that they rattle but doesn't say anything.

"Careful with that leg," I say. "That's my handiwork."

Zulu sniffles into Beleza's shoulder.

Once the meat's done, everyone mellows out. French monsters don't have the best texture, but the flavor's always good. Just like French people, my dad used to say.

We don't have a proper booth down here for eating, and unless we're docked, sitting down for a decent meal is kind of a useless venture anyway, since three-quarters of your attention has to go to making sure your plate doesn't slide away. So we sit around the Bunsen burner and eat our steaks right off the chopsticks while we lean against the bunk beds, my back against one with Oscar rested against my shoulder and Beleza sprawled out in front of the other. She's tired. Zulu, on the other hand, is full of energy now that she's cried and eaten, two of her favorite pastimes, so she's singing and skipping around the Bunsen burner, making everything shake. The sea is gentle, rocking us like babies.

"Yo, ho! Yo, ho! A pirate's life for me!"

"Zoo," Beleza warns.

"Drink up, me hearties, yo, HO!"

"Zulu," Beleza says, more sternly this time. "What have we told you about pirates?"

Zulu stops singing but not skipping. "It's just a song."

"Tell me what we've told you about pirates."

"They're useless scum not even ... shouldn't be allowed to be people."

"That's right."

"So can I sing PLEASE?"

On a bad day, Beleza would get up in a huff, stomp up to the deck, and not come down for hours. I'd find her straddling the wheel and staring out at nothing, or pacing and adjusting the sails for changes in the wind no one can feel but her. Or maybe she'd even snap and yell at Zulu; we don't do it much, but we're not perfect. We're two teenagers and two kids on a tiny boat in monster-infested waters. No one's a hero, here.

But it's not a bad day. We killed a monster. And that's all it takes, in Beleza's world, for it to be a good day. No wonder the monster venom never makes her sick. My big sister is monster venom.

And so today she tips her head back, her hat slipping off a little, and says, "Yeah, what the hell. Devils and black sheep, right?"

I

It only takes about two hours before it's very clear that our rickety Salgada isn't going to make it to Sicily in its current condition. We've sprung a leak on the starboard side, where the beastie bit into it, and our hasty patch job isn't going to hold forever, and the same magnetism that lets us detect monsters in our radar sometimes shorts out our ham radio, and even after half an hour of fiddling with it I can't get a hint of a signal.

"Our spare sail is rotting," Oscar says.

"We're out of crackers," Zulu contributes.

Beleza sighs.

"Marseille?" I say.

"I guess." She pulls out her compass. "Brush me up on my conjugations. I hate French."

CHAPTER 3

THE NIGHTMARE

I should have expected that talking about a risky ship right before I went to sleep would have me waking up gasping a few hours later, but I didn't.

I'm burning hot, like I always am after a nightmare, leaving sweat on my sheets that's going to soak in and get cold by the time I go back to sleep. If I go back to sleep. We don't have any spare sheets. We'll do laundry in Marseille, maybe. Pick up some more canned food, maybe see if I can find a bookstore so I'll have something to read for our next stretch of flat sea. This is how I keep myself focused after these hunts. I think about boring things. I think about things we'll do the next time we reach land. Laundry, spackling, stocking up on supplies, getting the radio fixed, maybe finding a girl. It's going to be a busy trip. If I come up with enough things we have to do while we're there, it means we'll make it there in the first place.

We'll make it.

Above me, Beleza's snoring in her bunk. Zulu is curled up by my feet; she sneaks into my bed a lot in the middle of the night. I slip out carefully and I'm cold right away, my T-shirt already settling into a cold damp mass hanging off my shoulders, so heavy it's making me feel like I can't breathe. The Mediterranean is warm, but not at night, not in a ship cabin. Not out of bed.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Salt"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Hannah Moskowitz.
Excerpted by permission of Chronicle Books LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Salt 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Bran-OneLastChapter 4 months ago
What could be more fun than a family sailing expedition with monsters?! After their parents mysteriously disappear, the four siblings of this tale set out on the Mediterranean Sea to hunt down monsters like countless generations of their family did before them. Indi, Zulu, Beleza, and Oscar are the perfect quartet with very diverse and complex personalities. At times they are each other's throats and do the sibling rivalry thing but hey months at sea in cramped quarters with constant danger looming over your head will anyone half crazy and at arms with their companions! Right? I liked that aspect as it brought out the human side of the characters and showcases their human flaws. Even monster hunters cannot be perfect! As much as I enjoyed reading the story, I feel like there was so much left to chance or imagination. There is a huge lack of details concerning monster hunting in general and how it came about. I would have loved to know who the monsters were and why exactly they were revered. Kind of like stories from mythology in Greek monster hunting. Flashbacks or scenes from other adventures would have really packed a punch as well as locations or detailed descriptions. Why are they out there? What drives people to take up the mantle of monster hunter? I realize that this is the author's first book, which I totally commend her for, and I hope that there is much more in her future works in the way of world building. I thoroughly enjoyed the focus on family and their witty banter as it truly drove the plot. I really hope that the author focuses more on details and development in all her upcoming titles. Hannah Moskowitz is very talented and I will read anything she has published!
ruthsic 6 months ago
Salt is like an ode to Supernatural – it has the essential elements: siblings who are brought up by hunters, parents are missing, complicated sibling dynamics with one wanting to continue as a hunter and the other yearning for a simpler life. Indi, the protagonist of this story, has practically raised his two younger siblings with Beleza, his older sister since a long time, even before their parents disappeared three months ago. Now, adrift and looking for clues to their disappearance, the four of them continue sailing, fighting monsters, and hoping to find them again, or if not, get revenge. Along the way, Indi reevaluates what he wants from his life, what he feels about their hunting, and finally getting a choice in the matter. The monster-hunting angle of this story is not delved into much, which was perhaps the one downside of the story. It appears like there is a whole lore of these sea monsters, and a network of hunters in the life, but most of that is just skimmed over like we are supposed to be familiar with it. It takes away from the excitement of the hunts, because I literally had no clue what the monsters actually LOOKED like. (I just went like – ah, a kraken, I guess? – every time) It is more a character-driven plotline that focuses on Indi, and him finally taking a stand in the direction of his life. The relationship between the siblings is rendered in its messy yet heartwarming glory. Having known only each other for most of their lives, and very less time on land, they are practically glued to each other and the little independence Indi gains gives him a taste of the life he could lead. There is also a whole arc about him figuring out what happiness means to him. Among the siblings, Beleza is a firebrand who wants to continue hunting and Oscar, a master thief, wants to also do the same. Zulu, however, is too young and Indi worries about the kind of life she and Oscar are being brought up into. The way each of these relationships, between the four of them, is played out, is well-written, giving weight to each arm of this convoluted frame. Also, I loved the fact of them communicating in four different languages mixed up; it was amusing, though – the book being in English even though none of them speak it. Aside from them, there is another secondary character, Hura, who plays an important role for a bit, but then the ending sort of pushed her out? She was a nice catalyst, but otherwise not all that relevant. Avraham sounded like he could be interesting, but the small plotline of the cash register was also abandoned. Eventually, though, this is a standalone and I guess I can forgive it for those threads but it still niggled me a bit. Overall, a good adventure story with some heartwarming characterization.
Sunshine1006 6 months ago
Beleza and her 3 younger siblings are monster hunters. It's the family business until her Mother and Father disappear. a few months before. There is salt in their blood and they live on a small boat killing monsters bigger than can be imagined. Their parents kept telling them that there is treasure for them but there is no mention of it in their Mother's journal and she is not around to explain it to them. Pirates come in all shapes and sizes. They were taught that " they’re useless scum that should not be allowed to be people.”. This is a great book that could be enjoyed by different age groups. I received this book from Net Galley for an honest review.
CaptainsQuarters 6 months ago
Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this young adult fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . . Upon reading the synopsis, I thought this novel would float me boat. It is about fighting sea monsters in the Mediterranean!  But I just could not finish it and had to abandon ship at 42%.  Why ye ask?  Well for a myriad of reasons: Sea Monsters - Well this be the entire reason I wanted to read this book.  I love me some fierce fighting of nasty beasties.  The first battle with monsters came at the 2% mark and I was excited that it jumped right into the thick of things.  The monster sounded awesome.  But this was only  in concept.  The battle was lackluster and was over pretty quickly in about 2 1/2 pages (the 3% mark).  It was light on details.  But it was the first one so I cut it some slack.  The second monster battle begins at 33%.  The decision about how to get the monsters attention was silly and ye tell me how a teenager is able to out-swim that swarm?  Better than the first but still missing real tension.  I was very bored by these monsters!   The Siblings - This tale follows four siblings as the hunt for the monsters that killed their parents.  I actually did like all of the siblings and thought they were fun folk.  The problem was that what they did was unrealistic.  Ye put a 6  year-old in charge of butchering a sea monster over half the size of the 15 meter schooner?  And also putting the 6 year-old in charge of the weapons?  Ummm no.   And the 19 year-old and 16 year-old leave the 12 and 6 year-old to fend for themselves in a port where they don't speak the language well?  Ummm no.  All so they can get laid.  Ugh. The Parents - So the parents hunted sea monsters for a living.  Cool.  They go off on a massive hunt and leave the children behind for safety.  Cool.  They have no backup plan for what happens if they don't come back?  Very not cool.  All the kids have is a small amount of money and a journal with cryptic clues about a mysterious treasure and snippets of where their parents might have gone.  Also the kids have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA about how to live on land.  That's just stupid.  The parents should have at least had an onshore base or some other sea hunter friends that could help them out if something happened to then.  Unrealistic. The World-Building - The ship knowledge felt off.  The port of Marseille was so lackluster that it could have been anywhere.  The shadowy society of monster builders wasn't explained in any detail.  I wanted grand adventures and scary sea serpents and to feel that this version of the Mediterranean was real.  The book just felt flat. Fun concepts here.  I wish this one would have focused on the sea monster battles and how the monster fighting community works!  I wanted an awesome treasure hunt.  I didn't get them.  With so many books on the horizon, I just gave up.  I want me reading to make time seem to disappear, not to accentuate every second passing.  I am sad, but I couldn't fight the tide. If ye be interested in a better sea monster story, try into the drowning deep about killer mermaids.