Thursday, December 19, 2019

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

House of Salt and Sorrows
House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
Publication Date: August 6th, 2019
Hardcover. 416 pages

About House of Salt and Sorrows:

"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 wasn't planning to write a full review for House of Salt and Sorrows when I first read it and instead planned to include with some mini-reviews I'm planning to do, but... then I read it and sort of fell in love with even more than I expected to and, well, I thought it deserved it's own review. I was so hyped up for this one and I am endlessly relieved that the books actually lived up to my expectations that were bolstered my immense hype for this book.

House of Salt and Sorrows is  dark fantasy inspired by the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale, which is one that I've really grown to enjoy over the years. I actually just a Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling earlier this year (The Girls at the Kingfisher Club) and I loved it, so I've been all hyped up for another retelling. This one was much different, but equally engrossing with an array of daughters that create a truly atmospheric and vibrant story.

This is one of those books that will leave you feeling dazzled, wholly immersed, and impressed by the different turns and ideas the plot explores. There are some really great twists in this one that I relished each and every time they happened.

Since this is a retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses, you might assume that there are quite a few characters involved... and you'd be assuming correctly. When we start the story, four of the sisters have already died for differing reasons, so we are down to only eight daughters who are starting to struggle with keeping up a positive face. Because of the deaths, which includes the death of their mother as well, the town they live in has started to whisper that the girls are cursed, which makes future marriage prospects start look a bit slim for the girls. I thought that Craig did a great job of introducing all of the girls and their personalities in different ways that helped me to remember each one and their general attitude. Our protagonist, Annaleigh, has had to grow up far more than she ever should have had to at her age after so much grief, but she still maintains an admirable strength that keeps her going for her sisters. We also meet Annaleigh's father, stepmother, and childhood friend, all of which were crafted as well as the daughters and had great development. I actually managed to care about just about every character in this book and was invested in each person's role in the story, which is something that isn't always a given, especially with a cast of this size.

There was an unexpected amount of spookiness, mind-twists, and more psychological components in this book that I didn't expect, but that were such a welcome. Craig really played with a lot of interesting storytelling elements that I turned this into a truly engrossing and exciting story. The addition of the more 'haunting'-type elements added a lot of depth and I think Craig handled these scenes in some really heart-stopping ways that I loved. These elements also all play into the pacing of House of Salt and Sorrows, which I have zero complains about. It was fast-paced when it needed to be, but thoughtful and able to take to the time needed to slow and experience certain scenes or moment when necessary.

Lastly, I'll just note that there is a bit of romance in this, which I know a lot of people seem to dread these days in YA fantasies, but I think it was done in a really careful way. It was free from insta-love (that I noticed, anyway) and it had some really surprising twists involved that made it completely worth it. Plus, despite the fact that the romance is present, it doesn't play an overbearing role in the story and doesn't take over from the main plot events that are also happening.

Overall, if you haven't already guessed, I've given House of Salt and Sorrows five stars! If you like your fantasy a bit haunting, atmospheric, and page-turning, then this is the one you want to check out!