Honestly, I kind of hated House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig. But I can get where, at times, it could be said to capture your attention as a reader. A horror-esque retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, this story follows what is meant to be twelve sisters–though the number has dwindled to eight by the beginning of the novel–who appear to be cursed as death has been slowly picking off the eldest one at a time, having begun first with their very own mother. As the book begins with the funeral for the fifth death, their father’s new wife unaccustomed to such consistent mourning heralds the end of their bereavement with the announcement of her pregnancy. She also pushes the other girls to go out in society in search of husbands.
Despite my general dislike toward horror-like stories, there were parts of House of Salt and Sorrows that were incredibly gripping. As you’re still trying to figure out if the sisters are actually cursed or not, the mystery aspect is enough to keep you engaged on the edge of your seat. You cycle through who the possible killers are, unsure for a good portion of the story. And the truth behind the nights spent out dancing was a truly fascinating and disturbing one.
With that said, this book has some pretty disgusting and disturbing moments that were definitely not within my tastes. Still, my simply disliking it for personal reasons wouldn’t be enough for me to dock two stars.
To start with something small, I never really once believed the sister bond that was said to be held amongst all twelve of the girls. At most I believed Verity loved Annaleigh and Annaleigh loved Verity and Eualie (though Eualie at times was a bit of a stretch). Barring Annaleigh, the sisters are frustrated with the inconvenience of mourning and rather than upset that the fourth of their sisters has died. Now, traditional mourning such as is portrayed in the book is a bit over the top and unreasonable, so I can’t say I am against characters trying to be happy instead of perpetually depressed and reminded of the deaths they are surrounded by. But none of the girls seem the least bit sad about the death and Annaleigh only seems to care because she believes Eualie was murdered.
Cassius and Fisher, the love interests, are okay at times but ultimately made the story a bit more convoluted. Both suspects for who’s behind the curse, each boy’s ultimate story was just a bit ridiculous. Fisher’s made more sense, ultimately. Cassius’ was centered around a rather confusing and unexplained magic and religious system that ultimately just served as poor world-building and a set up for some awful deus ex machina.
Which brings me to the worst part of the novel and the reason why I don’t consider this to be a well-written book that I just didn’t like: the truth behind the mystery. The ultimate villain of the novel was very predictable as I was 95% certain of them throughout the course of the entire story. The other suspects occasionally made me wonder and even then I figured out the accomplice quite easily, though I will give Craig some credit as I didn’t quite figure out how the accomplice fit into everything.
The conclusion was very poorly done, leading the plot to feel very pointless and contrived. Everything was wrapped up quite quickly with a giant info-dump and an attempt to make you pity the villain, something that has always annoyed me immensely. And once again I was left feeling as though the characters couldn’t care less about each other in the end. Annaleigh turned out to be incredibly selfish and only really cared about two other characters despite the fact that she was said to have cared about more. It was very hard to like her by the end of the novel.
Suffice to say, I don’t think I’ll be keeping this one.