House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
Summary: 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. Get ready to be swept away.
Have you ever bought a book purely because of the cover? That’s how I got my hands on House of Salt and Sorrows, and I don’t regret it one bit. It was dark, it was magical, and it kept me on my toes! Opening on the funeral for Eulalie, formerly the third-eldest daughter of the Thaumas family, readers follow Annaleigh, formerly the fifth-eldest daughter, as she tries to unravel the mysteries surrounding her older sister’s deaths. Thought cursed by the townspeople, Annaleigh believes that foul play is involved since each death becomes more traumatic than the last. As the plot thickens, family ties are tested, everyone is a suspect, and readers are left guessing until the final chapters. There was something so enticing and refreshing about this book. It was a retelling of a story that I grew up with, but it had such a creepy and thrilling twist that I didn’t feel like I was simply rereading The Twelve Dancing Princesses in a different fictional setting. Of course, this hits all the right points to be an accurate retelling - the girls sneaking out dancing, wearing out their shoes, and sleeping in the next day - but Craig weaves that tale in almost as a subplot since the Thaumas girls’ deaths take center stage. The magical and world building aspects of HoSaS reminded me of Caraval. You have the isolated family in their small, connected community, and there are enough hints of the greater world to provide contrast with the Annaleigh’s perspective. Salten, and it’s neighboring islands are incredibly connected. They’re people of the Salt and rely heavily on the sea, and they’re very different in their traditions - while worshiping Pontus, god of the sea. And these religious/magical aspects shape the story in such fun and unpredictable ways. I don’t think I’ve read a thriller/mystery that grabbed me this much in a long time. After every chapter I found myself guessing at who the murderer was, if there even was a murderer, and then changing my theories over and over. Do I want to find magical doors anymore? Not particularly. Do I want to visit a greenhouse anymore? Certainly not alone. And for goodness sake, don’t read this alone at night. The way HoSaS ended, I almost wish there was more to the story. The plot resolved well, but a few loose ends could make for a great sequel. (And maybe that’s just because I want more Cassius - not sorry.) Craig certainly leaves the door open for something more, but she’s also working on another book that’s sure to be just as exciting. Learn more about Erin Craig here: www.erinacraig.com.