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

Saturday, 23 November 2019

"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've been dying to read this since its release day back in August because of three things. The first being that it's set by the sea. The second being that it's a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. The third being that, aesthetically, it's a pretty bloody beautiful book.

It's absolutely fair to say that I was instantly captivated by this book. I mean, how could you not be when the opening chapter is a dreary, atmospheric funeral of Eulalie, one of the twelve sisters - the lively, charismatic, flirtatious sister who plunged from the edge of the cliffs to her death in the middle of the night?

Admittedly, after that first chapter, the first 1/3rd of the book is a lot tamer than the remaining 2/3rds. The first part of the novel is very fairytale-esque; dress-up glamorous balls that are all very sparkly and enchanting. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the first part of this book, because I did - a lot - but the rest of the novel was a whole other experience that consists of stunningly haunted scenes that left me thinking about them long after I put this book down.

Erin. A Craig has an extrordinary talent for writing scenes that enthrall you and draw you in. Some of the creepier and more sinister chapters had my heart literally racing, especially with the youngest sister, Verity, who draws sketches of her dead sisters, detailing the horrific and gory scenarios they died in - not to mention she talks out loud with them, too. There were twists and turns that I genuinely did not see coming a mile off, which was probably one of the reasons I read this book faster than average (for me, anyway!)

If I had a nit pick though, I would say that there are times when Annaleigh is incredibly passive as a heroine. Often she completely abandons all sense of investigation into Eulalie's death and to figure out who the mysterious killer is. It's a little hard to believe that a girl as suspicious as her would simply do away with trying to figure out what's going on and simply go ahead and scoot through magical doorways that lead to magical worlds full of dancing and ballrooms.

Having said that, I do absolutely love that fairytale retellings are a thing, and I imagine that as an author, it's hard to create a fresh, new perspective on a well known fairytale, in this case, the Brother Grimms' work, but I think Erin. A Craig did a fantastic job and it had me hooked from the get go. She somehow managed to add a creepy, gothic and eerie take on a classic fairytale, that also had elements of romance and mystery too, and yet, the story flowed so easily and so naturally, despite the fact it had huge potential to be a bit messy by covering so many different elements.

Now, I must admit that whilst I didn't care too much for the love story going on, I was genuinely shocked with the revelation about the delusions. I don't want to give too much away, but it was truly mind blowing and at one point I think I let out an audible gasp. It was amazing. Like, truly, utterly amazing story telling and I lapped up every single word on the page.

This book has made me want two things. The first being to read more fairytale retellings, and the second to read whatever Erin. A Craig comes out with next. I loved this book so much, and if you're a fan of mysterious, creepy yet beautiful stories, you'll absolutely devour House of Salt and Sorrows.

Verdict: ★★★★★

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