The House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
Publisher: Bantam Dell Publishing Group
Publication date: 06 August 2019
Genre: YA fantasy
Page count: 416 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
This is a spoiler-free review.
I’ve been in a big slump when it comes to YA fantasy – it has been absolute ages since I read the genre consistently. Despite this, I was totally drawn to The House of Salt and Sorrows (possibly due to that fantastic cover, look at it!) I didn’t know a huge amount about it before picking it up in the shop and was absolutely delighted by this fantastic fairy tale retelling.
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.
The House of Salt and Sorrows is a retelling of my favourite fairy tale – the Twelve Dancing Princesses. Despite my love for this tale, I wasn’t entirely sold on the concept, as not a huge amount happens in that tale that could be turned into a full length novel. However, Craig expands on this book in such an inventive way, creating a spooky and atmospheric story of murder and madness. It is this atmosphere that I think makes this book worth reading — it is so incredibly spooky and eerie. Annaleigh has horrifying visions and is haunted by her sisters after their gruesome deaths — these scenes were so incredibly effective and added so much to the haunted atmosphere of the book.
I don’t think that the characters or the romance are particularly inventive in this book — everyone is a pretty standard YA character. Annaleigh is interesting enough, she’s much more cautious than her sisters and is of an age where she feels truly caught between mourning her deceased sisters and wanting to live her life. She understands the implications of her family’s tragedies — they struggle socially despite their power and the people they live among distrust and shun the family. However, I didn’t find anything particularly extraordinary or different about Annaleigh– she’s not a hugely memorable character and didn’t have that memorable spark. In addition, I didn’t find the romance or love interest particularly interesting either. They’re suit the story well and are used well within the plot, but I don’t think the characters are the most memorable thing about this book by a long shot.
Overall, I had an absolute blast reading The House of Salt and Sorrows. What it lacked in unique characters it more than made up for in terms of plot and atmosphere — I really enjoyed Craig’s writing style and the horror elements in the book. The House of Salt and Sorrows is the perfect book for your October TBR!
CW: murder, suicide, some gore
Want to try The House of Salt and Sorrows for yourself? You can pick up a copy at the following sites (affiliate links):