Monday, May 11, 2020

House of Salt and Sorrows - Erin Craig

Summary: 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. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

My Review: Although my husband has always been the one who reads bedtime stories to the kids (don’t worry, I read a lot to them during the day), we’ve really stepped up our game with the quarantine going on. Instead of just the normal short storybook (sometimes really short depending on how late it is or how sick of the kids we are ha!), he’s been reading from both the Usborne Illustrated Stories from the Greek Myths and Usborne Illustrated Grimm’s Fairy Tales. These aren’t just short little storybooks; these stories can be quite lengthy and detailed. My kids have enjoyed them, and even my two oldest sons postpone their teenage coolness to sit and listen. There’s nothing lovelier than watching your kids sit cuddled around a person they love who is reading them a story, amIright? Anyway, one of my good friends had read House of Salt and Sorrows for a Twitter book club she’s part of and thought I would enjoy it so she lent me her copy. I hadn’t really looked at it much as it was on my “to read” pile. One night my husband was reading the story of “The 12 Dancing Princesses,” and then that very same night I started this book and realized that it was a re-telling of that very same tale! It was a great coincidence, as the original story was fresh in my mind and it made it a lot easier to compare the two. 

First of all, House of Salt and Sorrows is quite different from the original story. Although most fairytales are pretty dark, this one was even darker. It was awesome. To start off, the cover is amazing and does a really good job of capturing the feel of the book. This is not a fairytale with princesses that are happy and carefree—they have faced a lifetime of sorrows and those sorrows continue and the consequences are dire. It has a lot of things that make fairytales glamorous—sumptuous descriptions of clothes and jewelry and balls and handsome people. There is opulence and a kingly father (and his suspicious and young new wife). In many ways, this fairytale felt familiar to other fairytales. I loved the descriptions, and I loved the setting. Taking place in a manor by the sea, there was much that living on an island contributed to the story—the isolation, the ocean and the storms, sea life, and the rotating cast of characters that come from a port city. I really enjoyed the mixing of reality and mythology, as these people worshipped the God of the Sea and his various relatives. Also, although it is completely morbid, I loved the funeral scenes where they would release their dead into the Salt (which is what they called the ocean) to become part of it again. The atmosphere was great. The islands and the ocean played a huge part and I loved that. There was so much mystery and so many unknowns that come with the sea. This book played into the mystery and suspense that comes from living by something that they are largely at the mercy of.

The story itself was deliciously creepy and mysterious. There was the normal teenage love and drama, multiplied by the fact that there were so many sisters, but there was also the love and camaraderie that comes from a family who is close and isolated both by their station in life and also by the geographic location. It allowed for disagreements and also their love and devotion for each other to play out in a close and unrelenting relationship that comes from proximity. There were also ghosts and mysterious demons, and mythological Gods that wreak their havoc or blessing upon mere mortals. There was plenty of human drama, of course, and any book like this would be incomplete without love and love stories that add a layer of confusion and tension to any scene.

Although this book fits firmly in the genre of YA fic, especially paranormal romance and the re-telling of the fairytales, I found it to be refreshing. The characters were interesting and the re-telling of the original story was different and fresh yet a familiar homage to the OG. If you are into this genre, I highly recommend this one. It’s a quick, fun read, and promises to be a welcome diversion from COVID and quarantine and all that’s going on right now. It’s definitely a nice escape and I read it in just a few days (because I read several books at a time. I could have done it in a day).

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some teenage romance and kissing, but the book is clean.

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