Book Review — The House of Salt and Sorrows

 

Title: The House of Salt and Sorrow
Author: Erin A. Craig
Genre: YA Fairy Tale Retelling
Pages: Hardback 400
ISBN: 978-109848-3192-7
Opening Lines: "Candlelight reflected off the silver anchor etched onto my sister's necklace. It was an ugly piece of jewelry and something Eulalie would never have picked out for herself."


Rating


"Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters and their father and stepmother. Once there were twelve, but the loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls' lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is curses by the gods.

"Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that her sister's deaths were no accidents. The girls have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn't sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

"When Annaleigh's involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it's a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next."

~ Jacket copy

In the small seaside city, a "curse" plagues the house of Thaumas—taking the wife and daughters of a lord by the sea. While all of the deaths seems to either be from natural causes such as disease or tragic accident, both the people in the surrounding villages and those on the mainland question whether the lord and his previous wife suffer from a curse. Did he anger a god? Did he anger his patron god, Pontus? Each remaining girl—while extremely beautiful—becomes ineligible on the marriage market due to the rumors. Damned to become spinsters, the girls discover a mysterious door in the family's crypt, which leads to lands where their curse is unknown. And each night, the girls escape the manor house and dance all night long. However, despite the joy of being beautiful—and anonymous—bachelorettes, Annaleigh starts to question her sisters' deaths. When she starts to see the ghosts of her sisters and strange things happen around the manor, she also questions her sanity. In a small town by the seas, audiences meet the new Twelve Dancing Princesses.


The House of Salt and Sorrows takes place in a small-ish seaside city and the Highmoor manor house. The remoteness of the small city—only able to travel between areas/other cities using a boat—lends to the isolation felt by the main character, as well as allowing the author to create a bleak atmosphere. All of this adds to the building feeling of suspense and, in some cases, a horror-esque feeling.

While there are many supporting characters in the novel, the narrative follows the Annaleigh as she tries to uncover the truth of her sisters' untimely deaths. However, unlike her other sisters and father, she is unwilling to accept that the deaths were merely accident or disease. Through her quest to uncover the truth, she finds finds love and loses her mind. 

The House of Salt and Sorrow is equal parts mystery, ghost story, and romance; however, it all works together to create a beautiful retelling of a classic fairy tale. Despite narrowing the culprit down to two people early in the novel, the story still kept me on my toes. There were a few instances I felt were a little too cliché such as Cassius' true identity and the story surrounding the actual "villain"; however, the writing style and story allowed me to overlook those sections. Even though I suspected it was a plot device, the author had me questioning myself near the end of the book and wondering what was true.

If you enjoy retellings, mystery, YA romance, and ghost stories, I would recommend this book! It reminds me of a good gothic story.


 

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"If you’re a freak like me, Wave your flag! If you’re a freak like me, Get off your ass! It’s our time now, To let it all hang out!" I am a recovering English major, closet bibliophile, breve addicted, zombie lover with a rockabilly and heavy metal fetish.
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