House of Salt and Sorrows is is supposedly a retelling of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale “12 Dancing Princesses” with which, unfortunately, I’m not familiar. Thus, I can’t comment on their similarities one way or another. But I found this book to be an utterly gripping story.
The story opens to a funeral and is told from the point of view of Annaleigh Thaumas. We learn that Annaleigh is one out of whom where once 12 sisters but tragedy (or, according to the villagers, a curse) has hit the family pretty hard resulting in the recent deaths of four of the sisters.
Shortly after the funeral, their Stepmother convinces her father that they all should stop mourning and dress in beautiful, bright clothing, attend balls, and enjoy life once again. Shortly after the girls receive new clothing and each a pair of “fairy shoes,” they discover a secret/magical passage that takes them to different towns wherever spectacular balls are being held. So each night, the sisters slip through the magical doorway and dance the night away, enjoying new adventures around people who aren’t aware of their so-called curse.
But then, another sister goes missing, and after a series of ghostly apparitions, Annaleigh suspects that her sisters’ deaths may not have been as accidental as everyone has believed. She then takes it upon herself to unravel the mystery, and it’s at this point that the story takes quite a dark turn, especially once Annaleigh realizes that she doesn’t know who to trust. She also begins to suspect that there may be something sinister behind the magic portal that whisks her and her sisters off to elegant balls every evening.
So first off, I loved how atmospheric this novel was. The settings have such an eerie and gothic vibe to them, and I felt that the author really did an excellent job of bringing to the reader a vivid and evocative sense of place. I thought the descriptions were moody, immersive, and utterly intoxicating, and I appreciated the lush attention to detail.
The story also has plenty of twists — most of which I didn’t see coming — which kept me glued the page throughout. The world-building was terrific with well-developed characters, plot, and sense of place, resulting in an ethereal and beguiling story. The author creates here an atmosphere of constant tension and unease as you begin to suspect, along with Annaleigh, that there is something seriously wrong with her sister’s apparent “accidents.” We then learn that not everyone is as they seem, and this is where the creep factor really begins to escalate. I actually found it a lot of fun to unravel the mystery along with Annaleigh and was definitely gobsmacked when I learned the truth of it all.
All in all, I loved House of Salt and Sorrows and finished it in just two sittings. It was a gripping and super spooky story, and while reading, I felt as though I’d been enraptured by an old-time dark fairy tale that, strangely, had a modern feel to it at the same time. A great book to read on a dark and stormy night!
A huge thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a review copy of this book.