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.
Welcome to a deliciously morbid world where twelve sisters reside in an eerie manor by the sea. Or, at least there were twelve sisters.
House of Salt and Sorrows has been at the pinnacle of my TBR for a while now. First of all; it’s a dark retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses blended seamlessly with elements of Edgar Allen Poe’s Annabel Lee to create a moody world of brine and terror. Second, House of Salt and Sorrows is deeply atmospheric – the perfect spine tingling book for the spooky month.
And let me tell you – I got all the Dark Shadows vibes. Creepy seaside manor? Check. Plaguing family curse? Check, check. Plummeting fall off a craggy cliff? Yep. Ghostly apparitions that stalk the halls? You bet.
I guess it goes without saying then that House of Salt and Sorrows isn’t one for the faint of heart. Trust me – this book will seriously keep you up at night. So, if you’re partial to grotesque figures and horror than this probably isn’t the book for you.
What initially stood out was House of Salt and Sorrows’ vivid aesthetic and general spooky feel. There’s this definite unsettling vibe that just encompasses everything, including the setting. I mean, you just know that your girl was all about this immersive watery world. You have the shabby port town, a lonely lighthouse, a craggy coastline and Highmoor itself which work to set the overall tone. There’s this air of dampness to the pages, the smell of brine – the sense of a cold, dark, isolated world that just completely sweeps you away in it’s veil of mystery.
And then there’s the plot.
Obviously the original source material is borderline creepy but the way Erin Craig weaves her tale will actually give you anxiety. House of Salt and Sorrows swells with equal parts enchantment and madness while lavish masquerades lull you into a false sense of security. And, as the magic slowly starts to dwindle, the plot becomes frantic, almost feverish. It gets seriously intense and I was LIVING for it.
There’s also an unreliable narrator element that I really appreciated. As the plot progresses into the third act, the novel’s reality becomes wildly distorted. I mean, I got to the stage where I was questioning literally everything and everyone. In hindsight there is a trail of hints scattered throughout but so many other characters had a motive! I won’t spoil the ending but all I’m saying is this; was that actually real…??? One could argue that it was the result of a woman trapped inside her own mind…
Just kidding but not really.
As for the characters, sorry but I’m keeping this one vague. What I will say is there is a beautiful sense of sisterhood that made me fall deeply in love with these characters. I cried and ached for the grief they experienced. Also, our protagonist Annaleigh gave me all the Genevieve [Barbie and the Twelve Dancing Princesses] vibes. She’s kind, clever and fiercely devoted to her family.
Basically, House of Salt and Sorrows is a brooding fairytale that’s suspenseful and gothic in atmosphere. The plot is brimming with plenty of twists and turns with a classic whodunit element that will leave you desperately grasping at reality. It’s deliciously dark and haunting – the perfect book to read by candlelight on a wuthering, stormy night.