House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
Published by Delacorte on August 6, 2019
Genres: Fairy Tale Retellings, Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Retellings, Young Adult
Length: 416 pages Source: NetGalley
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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.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from NetGalley and Delacorte in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Wow, wow, wow.
This book was so so good.
I have to admit – I had pretty low expectations for House of Salt and Sorrows. There’s been a lot of YA retellings out there in recent years that start with a promise of an original story in a rich world, then turn around and say, “actually no i made a romance is it not magnificent.” To all those books, I say no. It’s not magnificent – I was promised a retelling and you have failed me.
House of Salt and Sorrows, you have not failed me.
This book is a retelling of the Grimm Brothers’ Twelve Dancing Princesses. While I’ve read this fairytale, it has been a WHILE so I remembered very little of it. Therefore, if there were hinted twists and turns toward the ultimate ending, I was not expecting them. Our protagonist, Annaleigh, is one of the middle daughters of twelve. She is, as it is put in the book, the one with the “softest heart”. Annaleigh is a good person and it’s easy to love her. You feel her sorrows and her fear, and that makes the book come alive.
Erin Craig had the challenge of coming up with eight different girls who felt different enough to be their own people, but similar enough to be sisters. She did a fantastic job. I had mixed feeling on Camille, whom I didn’t always like but who I could respect in some ways. The triplets and the Graces were delightful and written with really good balance to be minor characters you still cared about, but didn’t need to see more of. Verity is a precious smol child and needs to be loved and protected at all costs. If it was just the sisters, it would have been wonderful character writing, but she did a great job with the parents and Fisher and Cassius and just… everyone?
And guys? I don’t often find myself rooting for the love story, but I was here. I won’t give away because it’s a fun subplot, but I really really enjoyed it and there’s a part at the end that broke my heart a little (a lot). Also the VERY VERY end was super cheesy and I loved it so I don’t even care.
Now let’s talk about the dark and creepy. AGAIN, I don’t want to give stuff away, but Erin hit the creepy vibes perfectly. Beyond being just a retelling, she managed to make House of Salt and Sorrows a psychological thriller, a ghost story, a fantasy, a love story. Is there anything this woman cannot write? She had me going with the psychological thriller bits and the ghost story moments were brilliant. I feel completely powerless here to impart my enthusiasm about the atmosphere and aesthetics and the little ways the plot twisted and turned. I need you to just trust me when I say, it was absolutely glorious.
I am so entirely impressed with this book. While I think it ended just fine and everything is tied up really nicely, I find myself a little disappointed there’s no chance for a sequel, because I loved the cold, salty winter and the sparkling gowns and grotesque drawings and the wonderful characters. This one will be ripe for a reread this fall, and I’m looking forward to it.
Do you enjoy dancing? Frankly, I’m not sure I would have gone with the sisters to night after night of balls! Maybe one or two though. Tell me in the comments how many nights of dancing you would attend!