Why ‘A House of Salt and Sorrows’ is a Brilliantly Spooky Retelling

Cover of A House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig on a white background with coffee stains on opposite corners.

I recently finished reading A House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A Craig. It is easily one of the best books I have read this year. I rated the book four stars. I just had some issues with the plot twist at the end of the book otherwise it would have been five stars.

Warning: This review will have some spoilers. If you do not want to be spoiled do not read past the synopsis.

Synopsis

A House of Salt and Sorrows is a dark and spooky retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses. Unlike the original fairytale, several sisters are dead at the beginning of the story. 

The Thaumas’s have experienced a death in the family every year for the last 6 years. The youngest sisters only know how to live in mourning. The deaths in the family have led the local people to think that the family is cursed. 

After the latest death in the family, Annaleigh is determined to prove that her sister was murdered and that her family is not cursed. What will Annaleigh discover on her journey? Will she discover who murdered her sister, or will she discover that her family is indeed cursed?


What I Liked

Erin Craig’s writing is amazing. Through her writing, you can feel all of the emotions of the characters. You can tell that whether or not the family is truly cursed, the idea of a curse may tear the once close-knit family apart. 

Her writing style truly lends itself to the dark and spooky atmosphere of the book. The settings are dark and twisted and often rotten. Craig’s writing style makes it so that you can picture these images in your head perfectly.

All of the sisters had their own personalities that came across clearly in the story, even the dead sisters had clear personalities. None of the personalities was lost throughout the story. 

The only time the sisters acted out of character was when a goddess was forcing them to go mad. The sisters also acted as real sisters do. They bickered and fought with each other, but at the end of the day, they loved each other and each other’s backs.

The world in which the story was set. Erin Craig created an amazing world in this story and not just for the set of islands that the Thaumas’s lived on. Each region of the country has a clearly defined culture to it, usually based on one of the gods in the belief system in the book. 

The mythology of the world and the culture of one of the regions play a big role in the plot of the book. One of the regions worships a trickster deity; it is this deity that curses the Thaumas family. The world created by Erin Craig has the potential to have more books set in it that explore mythology. 

The relationship between Cassius and Annaleigh was one of the greatest parts of this book. Despite them not knowing each other for long, they started a relationship based on getting to know each other and open communication. 

This open communication is how Annaleigh figures out what has been happening to her family. Cassius also shows himself to be one of the better characters of the islands by interacting with the Thaumas sisters and not avoiding them because of the curse.

The plot twist at the end was great. Rather than choosing between a curse and a murder, Erin Craig made it both. Several of the sisters did die because of a curse, but Eulalie was actually murdered. 

In the end, it is revealed that Annaleigh and her sisters have all been living in an illusion created by a goddess brought into the scheme by the trickster god. This goddess has been manipulating their lives in ways to make the sisters go mad and kill themselves.


What I Disliked

Morella as the main villain in the book would have been more powerful if her relationship with the sisters had been more focused on than her just being the stepmom intruding on their lives.

I wanted more of Eulalie in the story as well. I feel like the story would have been stronger if we knew more about her character. After all, it was her character that prompted Morella to push her off of a cliff.

Final Thoughts

If you have not read this book yet, you absolutely should. It is a unique and spooky take on the 12 Dancing Princesses fairy tale. I have read many fairy tale retellings and this is one of the most creative of those I have read. 

I enjoyed it so much that I immediately picked up Erin Craig’s most recent book, Small Favors. The spooky and atmospheric setting makes ‘A House of Salt and Sorrows’ a perfect fall read. 


Stuck for what to read next? Check out our Reading Recs page. And if you’d like to support our work, please consider making a donation via our Donations page. We’re trying to raise money for paid commissions, so we can support and work with more writers from underrepresented backgrounds, who cannot afford to write for free. Thank you for reading!

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