House of Salt and Sorrows
Author: Erin A. Craig
Length: 13 hours
Narrator: Emily Lawrence
Publisher: Listening Library
Original Publication Date: 2019
Genre(s): Young adult, Fantasy, Retelling
The Thaumas sisters live in a manor by the sea with their father and step-mother. There were 12 girls in all, but now only 8 remain. Ever since their mother died, tragedy seems to strike the family every year. People say the family is cursed. And now that another sister has died, Annaleigh, now second-eldest of the girls, begins seeing her dead sisters’ ghosts. She begins to suspect they were murdered. As things get weirder—a mysterious door, far-away balls, a beguiling stranger—they also get more dangerous, and Annaleigh is starting to wonder if her family really is cursed, or if someone—or something—is after them.
WOW. Do you ever pick up a book that looks okay but you really don’t think you’ll love it? Like, it’s just there and available and it has the potential to be good? That’s how I felt starting House of Salt and Sorrows. And guys, I AM SHOOK. This novel surprised me. It blew me away. IT’S SO GOOD. The novel is told in first-person POV from Annaleigh’s perspective. It is a retelling of the Grimm fairytale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” I made sure to read the short story before starting this novel. I’d never heard of it before, but it was definitely interesting and on the less-creepy side of the Grimm fairytale spectrum. But I’ll tell you what, House of Salt and Sorrows is SUPER spooky.
At first, I was really, really lost. Twelve sisters, the father and step-mother, various friends, new acquaintances… TOO MANY NAMES TO REMEMBER. I don’t think I ever really got all the names straight. It wasn’t too terrible, as long as I remembered the main characters, but it was a lot.
Slowly, though, I became engrossed in the story, and I couldn’t get enough of it. What I really love about the plot is how layered it is. It’s not a simple story about a curse, or girls sneaking out to go dancing. There’s curses, ghosts, a murder mystery(?), strange men, a mysterious door, a king’s challenge, scandals, gods… Phew. It’s a fantastical mystery novel, and you never know what to focus on and it’s amazing. I love stories like that. I think it could easily have become too busy, but for me, it wasn’t. It was always interesting, and the shifting focus constantly made you guess and re-guess who the culprits were. I thought it was smart.
I have to say, though, I wasn’t a fan of our MC Annaleigh. She was quite naive and just didn’t think hard enough about her decisions. I constantly was just thinking “WHYYYYY” every time she did something. It doesn’t ruin the story, though. It’s not like I couldn’t stand her. I just judged every decision she made. But she was still somehow likable. Some of her sisters kind of blended together, but then others were easier to keep track of. I think I hated Camille the most, but I usually do tend to hate older sisters in books. As for Cassius… Well, I figured he had to either be a bad guy or die, because he was soooooo perfect. Like otherworldly perfect. Annaleigh’s first description of him even made ME blush. Ugh. I won’t tell you how he ends up.
I can’t BELIEVE this is Craig’s debut novel. Seriously, it was so much better than I anticipated. Really well done. Captivating, even. I wanted to tear through the book just to figure it all out and tie up all the loose ends. The writing was great. I know a lot of people are concerned about worldbuilding with fantasy novels, and though I’m sure Craig could have expanded her world a little more, I thought it was just the right amount. I understood the world more and more as the story went on, and anything unknown only added to the mystery element of the story.
I’m really glad I decided to read this gem. If you like horror, mystery, fantasy YAs, you’ll love this—it’s all 3 blended together exceptionally. Major Haunting of Hill House Netflix series vibes.
So don’t read it in the dark!