HOUSE OF SALT AND SORROWS by ERIN A. CRAIG
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
Welcome to Spooky Season, everyone! The most wonderful time of year. The air is finally getting colder, the leaves are finally starting to change, and Hocus Pocus is on a different TV channel every single night until Halloween. It’s also the month where I review YA horror novels! Enter House of Salt and Sorrow by Erin A. Craig, a much-hyped debut based on the “12 Dancing Princesses” story from the Brothers Grimm. Salt and Sorrows is more of a Gothic romance than a horror story, but I enjoyed it all the same.
Set in a Victorian-inspired fantasy world, Salt and Sorrows is almost Poe-like in its horror. Our main character, Annaleigh Thaumas, is one of twelve sisters of the noble Thaumas family. She, her sisters, her father, and her step-mother live on the island of Salten, in a grand manor called Highmoor. One by one, Annaleigh’s sisters keep dying of increasingly mysterious circumstances. Annaleigh is determined to find out why they keep dying, finding herself in some rather terrifying situations along the way. There are ghosts, pretty dresses, mysterious balls, churning oceans, and a lot of octopi. Seriously, there’s an octopus embossed on the over beneath the dust jacket.
Synopsis aside, I really enjoyed House of Salt and Sorrows. It’s the type of book I would love to see more of in YA. Not quite horror, not quite romance, it sits squarely in the Gothic romance sub-genre, which is one of my absolute favorites. Gothic romance is not meant to be terrifying, rather eerie and unsettling. Salt and Sorrows succeeds in creating this feeling of dread, and some of its creepiest scenes evoke a rather gooseflesh-inducing spookiness that completely fits this time of year. The novel admittedly starts off slow at first and takes awhile to pick up steam. The first 100 pages are more of a murder mystery than anything. It’s around the halfway mark where the book takes a turn for the supernatural. I loved it, but be warned if you’re looking for a more straightforward story.
Salt and Sorrows is not a character driven novel, so you shouldn’t go into it expecting a ton of character development. It’s much more about the atmosphere and the setting, as so many Gothic novels are. Annaleigh as a protagonist is fine, if not a little boring, but I did enjoy Cassius, her love interest quite a bit. I also found the worldbuilding to be quite interesting, if not a little vague. Everything about Annaleigh’s world is evocative of the ocean and the island she and her family inhabit. You can practically smell the saltwater as you read.
All in all, House of Salt and Sorrows is the perfect book if you’re looking for something spooky for the season, not necessarily scary. You can check out our copy at the Oreana library today!