Title: House of Salt and Sorrows
Author: Erin A. Craig
In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.
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’d been dying to read this one since pre-ordering it and I was not disappointed!
The air of mystery and loss is immediate at the start of the book. The story wastes no time in diving into the strange occurrences at Highmoor, and it’s not long before Annaleigh takes it upon herself to get to the bottom of things. Though very much the dutiful daughter – and, though not the oldest, clearly the most responsible – she’s not beyond rebelling in meaningful ways and going behind her father’s back to investigate the deaths of her sisters. As the story progresses, we dive deeper into the lore, and learn how magic is seemingly both a fact of life and its own mystery.
At first I thought this was the type of world where magic and gods were hypotheticals – the kind of things you either believe or don’t. But then it becomes obvious that is not the case – the gods are very real and the magic within the story – though misleading at first – exists as well. It makes for a sometimes confusing read, but that honestly only adds to the story and helps us feel Annaleigh’s confusion all the more. I won’t go too deep into it to avoid spoilers, but this is one of the best mysteries I’ve read in a while. The twists and turns caught me off-guard almost every time, and that’s not something that happens often. There were hints throughout the book, but it was so immersive and well-written that I was too deeply engrossed to notice them until after the fact.
Annaleigh and her sisters are all very well-written, as well. As a writer, I struggle to juggle more than a handful of characters – something the author of this book does with great skill. Every sister – even the dead ones we only hear about through other characters – come across as complete people on their own, unique and fully-developed to the point that they wouldn’t be confused with each other. As for the rest of the cast, I was surprised at how invested I was in all the other characters. Every one of them made me feel something from disdain to sympathy and everything in between.
I devoured this book in three days – and I probably would have gotten it done sooner if I didn’t force myself to take breaks because I wanted to enjoy it. Needless to say, this one will probably be going in my top ten for the year.