Title: House of Salt and Sorrows
Author: Erin A. Craig
Genre: YA, Retellings
Published: August 6th, 2019 (Delacorte Press)
Synopsis: 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.
Annaleigh Thaumas lives at Highmoor, with her father, stepmother and eleven sisters. But lately the family is rumoured to be cursed, as one after another, four of the sisters have died in mysterious and tragic accidents. But Annaleigh is certain something else is going on, and that the latest death, Eulalie’s, was in fact a murder. Equally mysterious is a secret door that the sisters find on the estate, that leads them to anywhere they desire, and the girls begin to sneak out, night after night, attending grand balls like they’ve always wanted to. But is everything really as it appears or is something more sinister lurking under the surface?
I expected this to be a rather dark retelling, but I was not expecting it to be quite that creepy! The Twelve Dancing Princesses is a familiar tale for me, and my personal favourite retelling of it is Wildwood Dancing – but this might just replace that. I really have to applaud the atmosphere created by the author in this book, which is absolutely perfect. The manor by the sea, the glittering balls and ghostly visions all lend a magical, yet ominous vibe to the tale. In the minimal time this book had as a standalone, the world-building was surprisingly well done, with many nations, their religions and traditions, and perhaps most important to the story, the interactions between gods and humans.
And then there are the multitudes of twists in the plot that it becomes legitimately hard to keep up with after a while, and the last 100 pages or so were completely wild. It was so well done that there were points in the story where I started questioning exactly what was real and what wasn’t even as Annaleigh struggled to separate the facts from the visions. This was perhaps the first time I’ve enjoyed a story with an unreliable narrator as it usually tends to annoy me more than anything. There is a bit of a love triangle, but not one that is overly dragged out, and it quickly went down a completely unexpected path, especially for a fairytale retelling, and it became quite impossible to know who to trust, because nothing was as it seemed. The ending wasn’t really what I expected, but with the number of twists, it was impossible to really predict anything in this story. I did like how things turned out, even though it did leave a few things unresolved, and the epilogue in particular was, I thought, a rather nice addition.
House of Salt and Sorrows was a thrilling ride, and fans of darker fairytale retellings, like Stepsister, are sure to enjoy it. This was a captivating read and I would highly recommend it!
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!