It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these, I know! But I was absolutely entranced by Erin A. Craig’s House of Salt and Sorrows. The moment I read the first chapter, I knew this was a book I’d fall in love with, and I wasn’t wrong. It’s an utter jewel of a book, from the moment you start until you’ve finished. Although clocking in at just over four-hundred pages, it speeds by, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to savor every chapter, every paragraph, every sentence.
It was the sort of book that every time I put down, I immediately wanted to pick back up again.
A little bit about House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig:
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.
House of Salt and Sorrows is truly a magical book, even if it might not be evident from the first chapter—a funeral. It’s a clever blend of fairy-tale, magic, and fantasy, with classical undertones. A richly-drawn world that I managed to get lost in every time I opened the book. It’s easily readable thanks to a fluent writing style with its fast dialogue, well-done pacing, and gorgeous description. If you’re a fan of the classic fairy-tale Twelve Dancing Princesses, you’re going to love this book—although it’s inspiration is clear, it’s subtle enough to feel like a fresh, different kind of story. If you’ve ever looked at my blog, then you know I adore fairy-tales and fantasy (both reading and writing them!) But like with most retellings, there are a ton out there already, and it can be difficult to find one (or, indeed, write one) that has a unique spin. But this book carefully balances the line between creating something new and different, and the nostalgia of a familiar tale.
Set by the sea, the world is vividly imagined; I could taste the sea air, feel the sister’s grief, then their euphoria of magical dances. (the title, especially the salt and sorrow part, is very, very apt.) But beneath that—like, really, all fairy-tales—there’s an element of danger, and darkness, and at times, utter horror. I wouldn’t inherently call this book horror, but parts are deliciously eerie, and I loved it all the more for that. House of Salt and Sorrows bears an undercurrent of darkness, romance, mystery, and intrigue that drew me in from literally the first page. All of it is expertly woven together. Not to mention that Erin A. Craig handles a large cast of sisterly characters which their own quirks, personalities, and motivations, all in the span of four-hundred pages, which I thought was truly impressive.
It’s a self-contained novel, cleverly and tightly written, with every chapter leaving me wanting more. I would love to read another book set in the same world; I feel like there’s so, so much more to explore, though the worldbuilding is already fantastic: gentle, not overbearing, and gorgeously magical. My “review” of this book isn’t going to do this book justice, but I’ll leave you with one final suggestion: read it.
Erin A. Craig is a talent not to be overlooked, I think.
I cannot wait to hopefully read more by the author—and hopefully soon!
Also, as a side note, if you’re interested in reading my blog post about writing fairy-tales (and mythology—so retellings in general), you can check out my post here.
Other books I’ve enjoyed recently…
- Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman (Australian authors! Amazing sci-fi: action-packed, a lovable cast of characters, and twisty plot—I’m very, very excited for Aurora Burning, releasing May 2020.)
- Roman Mythology: A Traveler’s Guide From Troy to Tivoli by David Stuttard (A really cohesive guide to Roman mythology centered on the main places/cities in Italy. A book I wish I’d read when I traveled there in 2018! It would’ve given some amazing context and insight into what I saw. I’m also very interested in reading Stuttard’s other books, especially on Greek culture and mythology.)
Currently reading: THE BEAUTIFUL by Renée Ahdieh
Currently listening to: “Wait” by The Tech Thieves (I LOVE their new EP “Red.” Go listen to it, seriously!)