Review of House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I listened to the finished audiobook, but also had a review copy provided to me by Delacorte Press in exchange for and honest review.
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.
LOVE LOVE LOVED THIS. AH! I have so many thoughts. House of Salt & Sorrows swept me off my feet and into a waltz worthy of a masquerade.
I love the way Erin blended the stories of Twelve Dancing Princesses and Annabel Lee into this. I loved the decidedly Crimson Peak and Agatha Christie vibes. This book has an undeniably eerie and gothic atmosphere and I was absolutely living for it.
The story’s narrator is Annaleigh, one of twelve daughters of the Thaumas family. Annaleigh has five older sisters, however only one is living. The story begins with the funeral of her sister Eulalie, the latest tragedy in a string of untimely deaths that claimed four of Annaleigh’s older sisters and their mother. The people of the Salann Islands have begin to suspect the Thaumas family and their manor at Highmoor are cursed, and the family has begun to suspect so themselves.
However, Annaleigh will not settle for that answer. Curse or not, she believes there is a reason for her family’s terrible luck and seeks to discover why. This story blends fantasy, mystery and mythology, with incredible and atmospheric world-building to create a story that will constantly have you swept up into its wondrous landscape and asking “whodunnit?”
As Annaleigh searches for answers, she is joined by her sisters, childhood best friend and a mysterious young man new to the islands. After so many years of mourning, their family seeks a way to move on without seeming callous to their beloved lost and the communities of the islands. Under secret, the sisters attend peculiar balls of grandeur where they dance their shoes to bits and as her sisters become increasingly obsessed, Annaleigh begins to suspect all may not be as it seems.
In addition to the mystery surrounding the Thaumas family deaths, the sisters feeling increasing pressure to find a suitor and marry. Annaleigh herself finds love may not be as unobtainable as she had previously suspected. I thoroughly loved the romance sub-plot in this book and found it interesting and charming, especially as more light is shed about the mystery at the core of this story.
One should know this story depicts some horror elements in possible poltergeists, gore and talk of murder/suicide. I didn’t find this to be too much, personally – if anything it really added to the atmosphere of the story, however those that scare easily may want to skip a few paragraphs here and there.
Overall, this story had be guessing until the end. I suspected some of what came to be, but much of it took me by surprise – hat’s off to that because I was certain I had it figured out!
And even then (hover for SPOILERS for the ending!) >I have to wonder if Annaleigh is truly a reliable narrator. Near the end she is questioning what is real and whether she may truly be mad. While I want to believe her story truly ends the way it’s spelled out on the pages – one could believe that the HEA was all truly a vision and that Annaleigh is locked up in her “sepulchre there by the sea” (the lighthouse) because she has gone mad.
Finally, after reading or listening to this – definitely reread Edgar Allan Poe’s Annabel Lee. You’ll be in for a treat when you see all of the ways Erin was able to inject the poem into this story.
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