House of Salt and Sorrows Book Review! // an atmospheric retelling with a dash of gothic horror

Hi friends! I’m super excited to share my thoughts on a book that’s been on my TBR for FOREVER*.

*well technically eight months but that’s basically the same thing

TW/CW: talk of suicide, murder, generally horror-y things

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

i’ve finally found my aesthetic.

It’s gothic horror and dark academia. Huh. Who knew I wasn’t a marshmallow sword-wielding, pixie dust obsessed fairy dragon? This was such a gift to listen to. The narrator deserves the world for making this world come to life. This story of a girl trying to figure out why her sisters keep dying off is honestly one of my new favorite retellings.

Okay but lowkey, every time something from The Twelve Dancing Princesses happened, all I could think about was the Barbie movie. This…is not that Barbie movie. This is far, far darker and honestly more grotesque than I was expecting. I LOVED IT*.

*why am i like this

Annaleigh is a fantastic main character. I adored seeing her relationships with her sisters. Verity and Camille got the most development out of all the sisters. Some of the others sort of blended into one another but that’s to be expected. WHY CAN’T WE HAVE MORE SISTERLY RELATIONSHIPS IN BOOKS. They’re truly everything.

THE WRITING. Beautifully crafted atmosphere is my weakness. I was actually creeped out listening to this book, due to the excellent narration and the atmosphere Erin Craig created. She somehow managed to perfectly balance this idea of gowns and balls and bright, pretty things, with the unsettling atmosphere always lurking behind the facade. Also, her ability to write mind-bending, Matrix-y type of “is this real or not?” is really impressive.

One of my major disappointments, though, was the worldbuilding. The 12 Dancing Princesses aspect was done so well I could cry. However, the author throws in her own mythology too. And honestly? Your girl was CONFUSED. I wasn’t sure what was fantasy and what wasn’t until the very end. To be honest, if you asked me to describe the world I’d literally just say “knock-off Poseidon did some things and there is salt in the sea”. I felt like the worldbuilding wasn’t as clear as it could have been, if that makes sense.

Also the romance wasn’t really my speed. Although, I usually don’t end up liking romances in stand-alones? I’m a sucker for a good slow burn! However, I can definitely appreciate why some people would enjoy this element. It’s mainly a me thing!

I totally wasn’t expecting to enjoy this as much as I did. Especially considering that this is a debut! Again, I’ a sucker for some good atmosphere, the darker the better. Tell me:

Is this on your TBR?

Do you have a favorite gothic novel?

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11 thoughts on “House of Salt and Sorrows Book Review! // an atmospheric retelling with a dash of gothic horror

  1. Lovely review, Kaya! I’m happy to hear you enjoyed that one overall, despite the confusion about the world-building. I’m so, so curious about this book and especially the atmosphere of it all, I’ve heard so many good things! Thank you for sharing your thoughts! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oooh, you nailed both the things I loved about this one AND the stuff that didn’t quite sit right. Erin Craig is an atmosphere POWERHOUSE (another one? Rory Power, 10/10 would recommend if you can handle some body horror), but she did jumble things up a little between the world-building and the romance. They needed stronger roots than they had, I think, and to fit in better with the whole seaside gothic vibe.

    Still, it’s a great book, and you’ve written an excellent review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. i’m so glad! i was hoping it would come across well😁 OOH i’ll definitely check out Rory Power’s work, thank you! Yesss, i agree. they felt like so unnecessary.

      thank you so much! i hope you have a lovely september💜🖤


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