Well that was surprising!
I was not prepared for the delicious spookiness of this novel … but friends, do yourself a favour and read this in September or October. Trust me.
House of Salt and Sorrows is a loosely based 12 Dancing Princesses retelling (Full disclosure: I am not familiar with this classic so cannot comment if it is good retelling or not, I can only comment on how much I enjoyed it!).
We follow Annaleigh who lives a life of privilege at Highmoor, her family’s luxurious manor by the sea, with her nine sisters, stepmother and father – the duke of the Salann Islands. Tragedy and death have plagued the Thaumas family – first their beloved mother, followed closely by three sisters. Are they cursed?
Annaleigh is convinced these deaths are not an accident and sets out on a spooky “whodunit” mystery. Lavish balls, mysterious strangers, and ghostly encounters weave throughout this nail biter novel … who will be next?
I’m not a big fan of stories with a constant focus on balls, gowns, and the primping that goes along with it all. A good portion of the first half of this novel unfortunately does focus on this — it is a 12 Dancing Princess retelling after all. But luckily this is balanced quite well in the later half of the novel. And there are enough thrills and chills between the dress discussions that kept me invested during the first half.
I’m so glad, because this turned out to be so much fun. I love the kind of spooky this novel delivers, just chills right up your spine. The rocky, misty, island setting furthers this tone of gloom and doom … with a draughty, cold mansion … you can practically smell the salt and feel that ocean spray. So atmospheric. Maybe a bit cliche, but I think that is kind of the point of thrillers/horrors?
Annaleigh is a really fun main character. I found her smart, compassionate, and luckily brave … I wouldn’t be chasing after those ethereal little girls in white nightgowns, down dark castle hallways at night thank-you-very-much! There are an exceptional amount of sisters – 9! – so the character fulfillment on all of them is limited, but not to a detrimental degree. Annaleigh, Camille, Verity, the stepmother and the father are the main focus and are nicely developed.
There is a brief love triangle and satisfying romance. There is magic. There are thrills a minute. Just a really fun fall/October read that never goes too far into gory territory.