Book Review | House of Salt and Sorrows

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: House of Salt and Sorrows

Author: Erin A. Craig

Format: Hardcover (owned)

Pages: 416

Categories: 12 Dancing Princesses Retelling, Fantasy, Romance, Mystery, Horror

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. 

In a Top Ten Tuesday topic about childhood favorites, I listed the Twelve Dancing Princesses as one of mine. House of Salt and Sorrows was exactly everything I wanted in a retelling of one of my favorite childhood stories.

But let me talk about the cover first! I got the OwlCrate version and it’s lovely. I love how the inside cover is black with a octopus and masquerade mask design in gray. It’s gorgeous. This totally spoke to the island girl in me with the tidepools and the tentacles on the cover.

Quick personal story: My dad had a boat when I was young, I mean it’s Hawaii so he loved to fish, many people do. He’d be out with our neighbor fishing in the early morning and he’d come back with so many kinds of fish, limu (seaweed), crab, and octopus. He sold some to our neighbors, gave some away to relatives and freeze the rest. One of the chores my sister and I had to do was help clean…everything. I hated cleaning octopus because some of them were huge and still alive and my dad would hold it as I would watch it wrap its large tentacles around his arm. Then my dad would show me its teeth, which looks like a little black whole. As a child I was so afraid it would eat my finger! 😩 So instead he let us clean the baby octopus, and we cleaned it with….SALT. I’ve come to respect octopus and love how beautiful they are, tasty to a lot of people, but they are just awesome, smart creatures. Slimy though. The octopus is the crest for the Thaumus family in this book – which I adore!

House of Salt and Sorrows was the perfect book to get me into the fall season with Halloween around the corner. I am a wimp and when this book went into creepy and horror territory, I vowed to only read it in the day time! Yes…I did start off reading it at night until a few scenes in the book gave me the spooky tingling feeling. 😅 And one sister’s name is Lenore?! A name I love because of Edgar Allan Poe. I LOVE IT. I am trash for Poe. This whole book was a vibe that I was looking for!

Annaleigh is one of twelve sisters, but four sisters have lost their lives, leaving her, Camille, the three Graces, and the triplets. These sisters are close and have a special bond which I love. I would want them to be my sisters! They live on an island surrounded by the sea. When someone dies they return them to the Sal, to the sea. I enjoyed learning about the rituals of the Salann Islands.

I wish this book had a map because the other parts of this world sound fascinating! The world building was intriguing with its own mythology, similar to Greek but except Poseidon ruling the seas, the god of the sea in House of Salt and Sorrows is named Pontus. We learn about a few other gods and goddesses in the book, but I want more. I want to learn about all the other parts of this world that was mentioned in this book: People of the Bones in the Cardanian Mountains, People of the Stars in Versia and so much more.

Now let’s talk about the mystery, just like in Twelve Dancing Princesses, Annaleigh’s father asks that someone uncover the truth about the princesses ruined slippers. I loved the mention of it and I loved the twist! I seriously thought I was losing my mind along with Annaleigh at one point, but the reveal at the end was good!

And the horror? One scene involving a bathtub scared me, which was why I decided to read it in the day time. Yes, I’m so weak! 🤣 Horror is not my favorite genre. But I could totally see this story as a horror movie! There were other scenes in the book that gave me even more nightmarish vibes but it’s so fun. Scary fun!

Of course, because there is a little bit of everything in this book, there is romance! It’s not one that the book centers on, but I loved it because it was a little shining light in Annaleigh’s life which up to that point was just mired in death, curses, nightmares and….madness. It was sweet!

This has to be one of my top favorite books this year! I really hope we get to visit this world again, even if it’s just to follow where the surviving sisters go. I want more mystery/horror/romance stories set in this world! Basically I want to read whatever this author writes next. House of Salt and Sorrows is a fantastic debut novel that surpassed my expectations. 😍

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