Apparently, “House of Salt and Sorrow” is a retelling of the Brother Grimm’s fairy tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”, a fairy tale of which I was not aware. Given it is a Brother Grimm’s tale, one can expect it to be dark and goth. The retelling certainly delivers on that aspect!
On Erin A. Craig’s version of the story, three of the twelve sisters have died and the fourth dies as the story begins. There seams to be some kind of a curse on the Thaumas family, given the pace the family females lose their lives. After their mother died, about 6 years ago, the daughters have been following her leaving the impression of a cursed family. The Thaumas have been mourning for so much time and they still have to mourn for the fourth sister. Everyone things that they should be avoided. They don’t need that curser or whatever it is to be shed upon them.
Annaleigh, one of the Thaumas sisters, does not believe that their family is cursed or that the latest death of her sister Eulalie was an accident or a suicide. She is certain that it was a murder and she is determined to find her sister’s killer. In the meantime huge changes happen at Highmoor, the family estate. Annaleigh’s stepmother is pregnant and her father decides to put a stop to the family’s mourning and throw a ball. The mourning clothes and shoes are burned in a bonfire and new happy clothes and fairy shoes are provided to all the sisters. Annaleigh doesn’t agree with that, but she backs off in order to make her father family. After all he deserves to have some happiness again in his life. Apart from the new clothes and shoes, new experiences come to the Thaumas sisters, as they find out about a passage used by the Gods to travel wherever they want. This way the sisters start travelling and attend balls, where they dance all night having a great time and looking for suitors, ones that have not yet heard about the curse.
The dark element is so intense in this story. The shadows lurking in the dark. The sisters that have died. The unclarity behind the last sister’s death and the stepmother in the picture are only some of the clues that should have the reader prepared for what is coming. Taking also into account the different Gods that the people in the book worship, it becomes clear that we should be expecting something related to those Gods. And there is connection to them, not only with one of the Gods that makes the story more interesting. Strange as it is, the Gods are actual and go among the mortals, which is not the usual God behavior.
The beginning of the story was kind of slow and not so exciting. It was all about fairy tale balls and dancing and beautiful dresses and shoes, which is nice. Thankfully I kept reading and then the creepy things started. From the youngest sister drawing her dead sisters in her sketch book and claiming to see them, to the so vivid nightmares Annaleigh starts to have. Then the climax came and it became all so much more interesting and intriguing.
“House of Salt and Sorrows” is the debut novel by author Erin A. Craig. That being said, one can understand that her writing needs some more work and practice. For sure though she has some really good ideas!