House of Salt and Sorrows
by Erin A. Craig
Dark Fantasy Romance - Twelve Dancing Princesses Retelling
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Get swept away by this “haunting” (Bustle) YA novel about twelve beautiful sisters living on an isolated island estate who begin to mysteriously die one by one. This dark and atmospheric fairy tale inspired story is perfect for fans of Yellowjackets.
"Step inside a fairy tale." —Stephanie Garber, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Caraval
In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.
Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor with her sisters and their father and stepmother. Once there 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 her sister's deaths were no accidents. The girls 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. House of Salt and Sorrows is a spellbinding novel filled with magic and the rustle of gossamer skirts down long, dark hallways. Be careful who you dance with...
I've read my fair share of "dark retellings." Neon Gods, for example, promises a dark and sexy twist on Persephone yet can't commit to the dark theme and instead presents the most interesting and supposed gray character as simply misunderstood. That is a common approach throughout many retellings. *THIS* book does no such thing. This book leans in and embraces the darkness, gripping readers in a thrilling, twisting, unsettling ride until the last page. If you are looking for that creepy, Halloween-mood read - this could be it.
The romance definitely is a sub plot to the mystery unfolding within Highmoor - though I'm not sure it matters as the action and puzzling developments rightly deserve the attention. I'll even admit that when I was reading parts of this alone in the dark, I got spooked enough to check out my surroundings more than once. Annaleigh and Cassius make a good a couple to root for and their feelings, toward the end, are quite moving. All in all, I wanted more from them, more time and care put into their development and time together. I really liked what was there, I just wished there would have been a handful more scenes with them connecting. I wouldn't say their relationship felt rushed, just not substantial.
As for the four stars instead of five - I really needed more background about the gods and goddesses. This book needed the baseline context introduced like how Disney sets up the foundation of the story usually with a brief recap like in Beauty and the Beast, or how the grandmother teaches the children about the legend of Maui in Moana, etc. There was no foundation laid to create a full picture and therefore bring the story full circle. The circumstances ended up feeling somewhat random only because the reader didn't have the context to anticipate anything or appreciate pieces falling into place. It all came together out of left field, IMO.
With that said, I highly recommend this as a creative, unique read that lives up to every hope for a true dark retelling.