Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but 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 cursed by the gods.
Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters 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.
AUTHOR: Erin A. Craig
WARNING: death and mentions of suicide
This book hooked me. A dark retelling of the classic fairytale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, House of Salt and Sorrows is full of magic and mystery, ghosts and death, and so many twists and turns that will leave you guessing right until the very end.
‘We are born of the Salt, we live by the Salt, and to the Salt we return.’
House of Salt and Sorrows follows Annaleigh Thaumas as she comes to terms with the death of yet another one of her eleven sisters. At the beginning of the book, four of her sisters have died, each in what appears to be non-suspicious, yet extremely tragic circumstances. Except Annaleigh isn’t as convinced as the rest of her family and sets out to prove her sisters were, in fact, murdered. Featuring some dancing (in fact, a lot of dancing), spooky apparitions, and a mysterious stranger.
Being that this is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses means we have a large cast of characters. Annaleigh is a character that I thoroughly enjoyed reading about. I found her interesting and compelling. Through all the tragedies, the suspected curse on the Thaumas family, the divide between her sisters and stepmother, and the pressures of being from an important, highly-regarded family, Annaleigh remains entirely true to herself. Even when her family doubt her, Annaleigh doesn’t give up. She knows something isn’t right and goes to any length to save her sisters. While I adored Annaleigh as a character, I did find the other Thaumas sisters lacking in the same development. There was nothing special about any of them, nothing that distinguished them from each other. I found the triplets, in particular, blurred into one. I didn’t particularly care nor connect with any of the other characters.
Strong familial bonds and relationships are one of my favourite tropes. I adore stories that feature this heavily, and House of Salt and Sorrows did not disappoint me there. I loved Annaleigh’s relationship with her sisters, especially with her youngest sister, Verity. The sisters argued and fought and disagreed but, ultimately, they were always in each others corner, fighting for each other. As someone with an older sister who I’m quite close with, seeing the relationship between the Thaumas sisters warmed my heart.
‘When his creation was molded just so – two arms, two legs, a head, and a heart – Pontus breathed some of his own life into it, making the first People of the Salt. So when we die, we can’t be buried in the ground. We slip back into the water and are home.’
There is a romance. It’s not my favourite. It comes out of nowhere and happens very suddenly. It’s a typical YA romance. The love interest, Cassius, didn’t leave much of a lasting impression for me. Although I did love his backstory and I would have liked to have seen that explored in more detail.
I have not read a book as descriptive, immersive, and atmospheric as House of Salt and Sorrows. The writing is hauntingly beautiful and gave me chills when I read certain lines. While I found this book lacked in certain areas, such as character development, what cannot be denied is Erin A. Craig can tell a story and tell it well she does. Craig delivers on the creep factor so much that it gave me goosebumps while reading. I felt on edge and, at one point, I even had to put it down and stop reading at night because of how vivid the descriptions were.
House of Salt and Sorrows is a fantastically creepy debut with hauntingly beautiful writing that makes it the perfect addition to your spooky TBRs.
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