House of Salt and Sorrows – Erin A. Craig ~ Review ~

~ in a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed ~

House of Salt and Sorrows is a dark, gothic YA retelling of the ‘Twelve Dancing Princesses’ fairytale. Expect drama, mystery and plenty of horror in these pages that kept me wanting to turn the page to get more. The ‘Twelve Dancing Princesses’ lore is woven beautifully into the plot and doesn’t feel garring at all to me and turns the story into a strong fantastical horror. The story begins at a funeral, throwing us straight into the disturbing events that have been surrounding our main protagonist and narrator Annaleigh. She is one of twelve sisters that live at Highmoor, which is her family estate by the sea and definitely draws inspiration from Georgian period settings.

I want to say before getting into my thoughts that there are hard themes throughout the whole of this novel, including violence and suicide. These are talked about in detail and sometimes graphic, so if this is something you are not comfortable with please bare in mind before picking up this book.

𝕋𝕙𝕚𝕟𝕘𝕤 𝕀 𝔼𝕟𝕛𝕠𝕪𝕖𝕕

  • I loved the atmosphere and setting in this novel. It truly was a dark, gritty gothic island that was easy to picture. I could see myself walking down poorly lit manor halls, hear the harsh waves breaking against the cliffs and taste the salty air. (Having lived by the sea the majority of my life, probably helps with this.) Craig’s horrific descriptions were as chilling as I wanted them to be and I was happy that she didn’t shy away from the gory details.
  • Annaleigh. Annaleigh for me was such a great protagonist, I instantly felt drawn to her and her voice and wanted to know about her story and what she had to say. I felt she was very fleshed out and easy to empathise with. She was fundamentally a teenager with real teenage emotions that were relatable to her situation. As the story progresses, we as readers are unsure if Annaleigh is as reliable of a narrator as we are lead to believe in the beginning. I feel this is in theme to the mystery and suspense running through the novel and although I’m not always a fan of unreliable narrators, Craig has written this beautifully and in such a captivating way that I can’t help but love what it adds to the plot and overall narrative.

𝕋𝕙𝕚𝕟𝕘𝕤 𝕀 𝔻𝕚𝕤𝕝𝕚𝕜𝕖𝕕

  • The secondary characters really let me down in this novel. They weren’t as padded out and likeable as our protagonist and for this reason good out to me, and not in a good way. Annaleigh has twelve sisters and although all are named and, if anything, vital to the main plot of the story, I felt they all kind of blended into one. I don’t think this was helped by six of the sisters being constantly regarded to as the Graces and the triplets. I couldn’t remember which sister was apart of which trio and any distinguishing features/traits fell short to stand out. These characters could have been brought to life so much more vividly, and I wanted so much more from the sisters. I wanted that bond of sisterhood to be stronger throughout the novel and sometimes due to not investing in them, I failed to engage at major plot points. I just wanted more overall development of these characters.
  • Probably due to to how I feel about the secondary characters, I felt the romance in this story fell short. Apart from Annaleigh I wasn’t really rooting for any of the characters and therefore I wasn’t engaged with the romance element in the story. I honestly felt the romance written was an unnecessary subplot and extremely underdeveloped. Annaleigh was very much the subject of insta love, which in amongst such dark gothic themes I didn’t feel was the right type of romance. I have no problem with romance in YA or in horror when done correctly and felt this missed the mark for me.

𝕆𝕧𝕖𝕣𝕒𝕝𝕝 𝕋𝕙𝕠𝕦𝕘𝕙𝕥𝕤

Despite having a few hang ups, I throughly enjoyed this novel! I read this is in one day and didn’t realise I needed a YA horror in my life. Craig’s writing style was right up my alley and this is a great debut novel. I look forward to whatever she writes next. I hope it’s just as haunting as this one!


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