Saturday, January 25, 2020

Review: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Book: House of Salt and Sorrows
Author: Erin A. Craigh
Series: Standalone
Publication: August 9, 2019

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

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.

A dark retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses? Yes please! Except I had no idea just how dark and creepy it would be...we're talking madness, long hallways, ghosts, and a lot of dead people.

The book began with such an incredible and spooky setting: a funeral on craggy shores. Right from the start, the book's world building and atmosphere was strong. And it just kept getting better from there. I could literally feel the constant salt and the bashing ocean waves in every chapter. I heavily applaud the author for just how grim the entire book felt, and the overall atmosphere she created. Even during the balls and the dancing, which were supposed to have a fairytale essence, the author cleverly lay hints of unnaturalness and eeriness through it.

The main character is Annaleigh, the sixth of twelve daughters. However, with four of her sisters dead, she's become the second eldest. What I liked about her was her determination to get to the bottom of her recent sister's death. She literally left nothing deter her, even when her sisters were out experiencing the splendour of the balls. Annaleigh was a girl of doing, not content with sitting around or letting herself be distracted from the problems she was beginning to see. And given the Victorian setting, where girls are expected to wear corsets and seek suitors, this was an extremely strong personality trait and made her very likeable. 

The plot itself was just so interesting. It took all the familiar plot lines of the Twelve Dancing Princesses and embedded them into a dark story chock-full of grief and mourning as a means of escape to drive the story forward. This book essentially took the fairy tale and fused it with rich gothic themes of madness and ghosts, then threw in some beloved fantasy aspects like magical doors, gods, and omnipotent abilities. It's definitely one a kind; not quite a retelling, not paranormal, not quite fantasy, not quite horror, but something mixed in between. All which I thoroughly enjoyed!

The suspense in this book literally kept me up all night. Everything was so gripping. There was also one point where I legitimately thought I was going crazy myself, because I was completely uncertain how the plot was going to unfold or whether the main character was actually crazy or not. I was honestly scared that I had been following around an unreliable narrator, that everything the Annaleigh had done or seen actually had never happened. I don't read a lot of spooky books, but that level of fear and uncertainty I felt definitely was enough to get my heart going.

The only thing that put me off was the resolution. I felt like there could have been just a tad more to wrap up the fantasy aspect to it, to comfort me that all the horrors were truly behind the characters. But it was left a bit open ended, which I suppose was the point to keep the readers guessing and hoping nothing else bad happens...

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book. It just has so much to offer in it, and blended so many different genres together wonderfully. I'm definitely going to read whatever books the author writes next!


  1. great review, erika, and i'm so happy that you enjoyed it! like you, a lot of people really loving the creepyness of the atmosphere but they also mentioned that the resolution might not be satisfying... so i'll definitely keep that in mind!

  2. This one sounds great! Thank you for the awesome review 😊

    Katie @ The Queen of Teen Fiction