House of Salt and Sorrows (Amazon Affiliate Link)
Author : Erin A. Craig
Published By : Delacorte
Year/Date Published : August 6th, 2019
Genre / Tags : YA, Gothic, Romance, Mystery, Fantasy, Horror, Fairytale Retelling
Mood : Glum yet beautifully mysterious
Formats : Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook
# of Pages : 416 pages (Hardcover)
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.
I made a mood board for this one.
Planning to make more mood boards in general for the books I’m reading. ♥️
Content warnings – Dark themes, death
What drew me to House of Salt and Sorrows immediately is the gothic atmosphere. Even the book’s summary seems promising of an atmosphere rich in baroque or victorian-style imagery of massive manors and grand halls and sumptuous aesthetic, blended with spooky-yet-sophisticated horror and an air of mystery.
Add that to the approachable nature of YA conventions and it seems like an unusual recipe for a book I’d love. What this title does have in abundance is description. Over use of description is very hit or miss for me. Generally speaking, I don’t care for it and prefer an emphasis on fast-moving plot. My feelings change a bit when regarding beautiful or immersive description. Thankfully, House of Salt and Sorrows does well in that area.
However, it’s still very worth mentioning that this is something of a quiet book, shrouded in a mystery that moves gradually and with subtle tones. The storyline is often distracted by talk of the main character’s large family of sisters and their goings-on. Our main character is Annaleigh and she has a lot of sisters. This book is veritably drowning in sisters, I at times felt that their personalities blended together. The ones that stand out in a big way are Verity, her youngest and very cute little sister who sees ghosts. And Camille, one of the older and more outspoken sisters.
Annaleigh herself is a good character, but she didn’t inspire intense or outstanding feelings. The story’s earlier parts can be described similarly. The romance between Annaleigh and Cassius is a bit insta-lovey as they both develop feelings for each other nearly on sight, but it does take a long time for the pair to be frank with their feelings so I wouldn’t necessarily shelve this as insta-love. The appeal of this book hinges largely on one’s bond with the atmosphere and aesthetic. I flew through this one easily due to those aspects.
A major drawback or criticism I have is about what a whirlwind of excitement and fun the last 20% or so of the book is. The plot goes from gradual to fast-moving, lots of important things are revealed that had me questioning all previous events and it just reaches such a fantastic height at that point. If this book reached that grand point halfway through instead of so late, it would easily get a 10/10 rating or 5 stars.
As it stands, I still enjoyed my time and really want to see more books adhering to this theme. If you look up the gothic section on Goodreads for example, this is nearly the only book of its type within YA and even amidst gothic books in general, most are from 20+ years ago. House of Salt and Sorrows has a good writing style and a good storyline, but definitely gets some extra accolades from me for its rarity.
Further, the Twelve Dancing Princesses Grimms fairytale seems rarely adapted. I had not even heard of this fairytale until hearing of this book, and there have been so many The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast retellings, so it gets credit for that bit of differentiation as well.
Overall Rating – 9/10
Why You Should Try It – House of Salt and Sorrows is a dark fairytale retelling that has a unique blending of characteristics, along with a source material that seems rarely adapted (12 Dancing Princesses) It’s great to see a gothic mystery with some romance and spooky horror atmosphere. Some beautiful imagery. In the last quarter of the book, very interesting and more thrilling story elements are revealed. I found Annaleigh likable enough as a heroine.
Why You Might Not Like It – I felt like the story winds up slowly, and takes too long to reach its more exciting points. Some of the sisters come off vague in characterization. There is a lot of death and a somber tone.
House of Salt and Sorrows (Amazon Affiliate Link)
I’m glad to finally have read this book! It didn’t quite match the extreme enthusiasm I had built up for it- but I still flew through this experience in two days and enjoyed the time spent. I will definitely keep an eye on this author in the future. Have you read House of Salt and Sorrows and have any thoughts on it? Or do you plan to read it in the future? As always, your comments and likes are always appreciated.