House of Salt and Sorrows: A Dark, Atmospheric Retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”

4/5 Stars

Author: Erin A. Craig

Publisher/Imprint: Delacorte Press

Edition: Hardcover, 400 Pages

Publication Date: August 06, 2019

A Spine that Shines? Quite Well

‘We are born of the Salt, we live by the Salt, and to the Salt we return.’

High Mariner, House of Salt and Sorrows

Initial Thoughts

I hope everyone is having a relaxing weekend! I just finished reading Erin A. Craig’s House of Salt and Sorrows last night, and I really enjoyed it overall. I adore fairy tale retellings, so this was right up my alley!

Here are some points to note:

  • This is a retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” written by the Grimm Brothers. Erin Craig’s tale is certainly dark, but so is the original fairy tale.
  • I truly appreciated the elements that remained similar to the original; if you read the Grimm Brothers’ version first, you’ll recognize some of the original aspects mixed in.
  • However, Craig does a wonderful job making this novel her own creation. In some ways, her novel is very different from the original.
  • House of Salt and Sorrows is certainly atmospheric, and I loved the setting and all of the mythology.
  • Annaleigh is in a race against time to figure out who is murdering her sisters. I enjoyed this murder mystery aspect even though the novel is “fantasy.”
  • Craig’s writing successfully sucks the reader inside Annaleigh’s mind. It is really difficult to ascertain what is real and what is only an illusion. Is Annaleigh actually going mad? Are her dead sisters haunting her?
  • There are some really good twists, and the romance is so sweet!

Once there were twelve of us: the Thaumas Dozen …. Had we somehow angered the gods? Had a darkness branded itself on our family, taking us out one by one?

Annaleigh, House of Salt and Sorrows

Characters & Romance

House of Salt and Sorrows LanternThere are certainly a lot of characters to juggle in this novel: Annaleigh and her seven surviving sisters, their father Ortun, their stepmother Morella, Cassius, gods/goddesses, and other side characters. So I won’t go into detail about all of them. But here a few of my favorites:

  • Since four of her sisters have died, Annaleigh is now second-in-line to the family inheritance. She must determine what is happening to her sisters before another one is killed. In her spare time, she joins her sisters in dancing at magical midnight balls. Along the way, she meets Cassius, a handsome stranger who has come home to nurse his ailing father.
  • Cassius remains a mystery for much of the novel, and there is one big secret he is hiding from Annaleigh. But I found their romance to be quite touching, and Cassius demonstrates his devotion to Annaleigh through his actions.
  • Out of Annaleigh’s other sisters, I think Verity is my favorite. Verity is the youngest sister, and I think the author wrote her character very well. She behaves and speaks like a young child would, and there is just something eerie about her ability to see her dead sisters’ ghosts when no one else can.

Nights like this were meant to be shared, remembered, and talked about for years to come. Skies like this were made to be kissed under.

Annaleigh, House of Salt and Sorrows

Final Thoughts

So why am I only giving House of Salt and Sorrows 4 stars, not 5?

The pacing is slow and steady for most of the novel. A large portion of the book is actually devoted to family drama, and the dancing doesn’t really come into play until roughly 130 pages in. Now, if you enjoy books with a slower pace, you may read this novel and fly through the pages! The writing is lovely, and the setting is described well. Personally, it took me a while to finish the book, and the pace didn’t pick up as soon as I’d hoped it would. But things definitely became more interesting in the final 100 pages, and there are some good twists throughout.

I also had mixed feelings regarding the events of the climax. Some pretty horrific, disturbing stuff occurs, but I suppose it is intended to be a horror story of sorts.

But overall, this is a very good debut, and I loved the epilogue! If you enjoy retellings, I’d recommend giving this one a chance. I certainly intend to check out the author’s future novels. Have you read this book yet? What did you think? Happy reading 🙂

*Content Warnings: Bloody birthing scene with lots of screaming, mention of violent deaths/possible suicide, decayed ghosts, dead bodies, severe burns, a woman is ravished and killed by a monstrous being*

P.S. If you’re interested, check out my two current giveaways on my Bookstagram. They’re both open to entries until September 20 at 8 PM EST.

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UNITED STATES GIVEAWAY CLOSED – As a thank you for 1k followers, I am doing 2 giveaways! 1 for adult books and 1 for YA books – since I have followers who are interested in both. This giveaway is for GENTLY-USED books that I collected from used bookstores. (I would like to do an Amazon/BookDepository giveaway in the future, but that will probably have to wait until I get a full-time job 😁) – TERMS -Must be AT LEAST 18 YEARS OLD or have PARENT PERMISSION to enter -I am NOT responsible for the books after I've shipped them and sent the winners confirmation of shipment -Winners must be willing to give their U.S. mailing address (no P.O. boxes because I can't guarantee the books will fit) -No spam or giveaway accounts -Must be public account so I can verify entries (unless you’re a private account I’m already following) -Giveaway not affiliated with or sponsored by Instagram or any other company -Giveaway ends Friday, September 20 at 8 PM EST -I will contact the winner through DM; winner must respond within 48 HOURS of notification or else I will select a different winner. I am serious about the 48 hours. I will NOT wait for you to respond after the 48 hours are up. – -HOW TO ENTER: 3 STEPS 1. Like this post 2. Follow me. DON'T follow to unfollow. It’s not nice, and I can ban you from future giveaways. If you don’t want to follow me, find a different giveaway to enter. That’s ok. 3. I’m adding this (if you’ve already entered before I added, don’t worry about it); but from now on, comment which book in the giveaway you’re most excited about so I can keep track of initial entries. Thanks! – EXTRA ENTRIES -Tag 2 friends in 1 comment (You may do this 3X if you wish.) – -May the odds be ever in your favor!

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Spines that Shine

3 thoughts on “House of Salt and Sorrows: A Dark, Atmospheric Retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses””

  1. I’ve been looking forward to this one. I actually don’t really know the story of the 12 dancing princesses. Sad, but true. I only watched the Barbie version of it a long time ago because of my daughter. 😜 maybe it’ll be good for me , since I won’t have anything to compare it to?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds good actually. I like walking in blind with no knowledge of the original story to tell you the truth. Sometimes it ruins things for me if I have something to compare it to. Great review! And thanks for the mental note 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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