Hot off the Enchanted Kingdoms rush, I'm still in fairytale land with House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig--a Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling.
Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor with her sisters and their father and stepmother. Once there 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 her sister's deaths were no accidents. The girls 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. House of Salt and Sorrows is a spellbinding novel filled with magic and the rustle of gossamer skirts down long, dark hallways. Get ready to be swept away.
Review: I'm giving this book one of the highest honors I can give a book: I sat down to read one or two chapters before bed and accidentally read the whole book. It pulled me right in from the first page and didn't let go. Everything about it is just beautiful, from the writing to the world. House of Salt and Sorrows is a ghost story meets a fairytale, and it's perfectly lush, spooky, and magical. I was worried about the amount of characters to follow, with twelve sisters just to start, but they managed to each be important and distinct. The unusual family dynamic felt real, equally tense and loving, and I was on edge hoping the so-called Thaumas curse wouldn't strike again and take away a sister. Add in some absolutely insane twists, and this is a thrilling little story.
My one gripe? The romance. Protagonist Annaleigh and her love interest were just an little too insta-love-y for my tastes--while I appreciate the time and attention given to the family and mystery instead of the romance, more will-they-won't-they and deeper development of that relationship would have taken the story to the next level. Likewise I was disappointed by the lack of developmental arc on the love interest's part. I saw the seeds of potential for it but they were never realized, which kept him from growing at all as a character. He was fun to read and I was certainly rooting for him and Annaleigh, but he came across as just a little too perfect.
For those who want to focus on a fantastic, creepy murder mystery with a magical twist, House of Salt and Sorrows is for you. It stands out as one of the best fairytale retellings I've ever read, even with its romantic weak point. But if you're in search of a new book boyfriend who's more than the expected knight in shining armor, tread carefully.