Summer is closer than you know, and in light of the amazing weather we’ve been having, I decided to dedicate this week’s book review to a beautifully detailed, suspenseful beach read which will have everyone itching for sun-baked sands and shimmering ball gowns.
“House of Salt and Sorrows” by Erin A. Craig follows the story of Annaleigh and her 11 sisters, four of whom had recently died under mysterious circumstances. The 12 once lived in harmony within Highmoor Manor. Once a beautiful mansion, it is now a haunted reminder of their past and how life will never be the same for the remaining eight. The plot trails after Annaleigh as she finds undeniably suspicious clues regarding her latest sister’s death, convincing her and her only that it was not a suicide, but a murder.
As Annaleigh and her sisters sneak off to glamorous balls to escape the rumors of the cursed sisters of Highmoor, they encounter mysterious masked characters who distract both the characters and the reader, dragging us farther away from the serious tasks Annaleigh must face in order to find the truth. Between the gory visions of ghosts roaming Highmoor’s halls, and the untrustworthy suitors who lurk around every corner, Annaleigh is determined to find the source of the dark cloud that reigns over her family before it rains over her head as well.
“House of Salt and Sorrows” falls into many genres, starting with fantasy fiction and ending in paranormal mystery and mild horror. And in truth, it was better than I originally expected. As someone who has read many “nautical” themed fantasy books, I find that the oceanic details can get a bit repetitive if the author runs out of descriptive words which fall into that category. The words “pearl” and “abalone” can only be used so many times before the reader rolls their eyes as they gloss over it and onto the next paragraph. But Craig managed to steer the story around and away from the sea sickness by dropping subtle hints at Highmoor’s Octopus emblems and sea glass tiled floors.
To start, I would have to describe this book as complex in terms of the character names, as there are way too many to recall off the top of my head. But don’t worry about the minor confusion you may feel in the book’s beginning chapters, as it does fade due to their uniqueness. Even though the story is told solely through Annaleigh’s point of view, we still get an accurate representation of each sister’s personality. And since the love interest in the story is a part of the mystery, I can’t say much without spoiling an exciting aspect of the plot. All I can say is that it is exactly that– exciting.
My personal favorite touches Craig sprinkled over the plot would have to be how each sister had specific color schemes, personalized scents and talents. For example, by mentioning something as simple as the scent of lavender, we, as the reader, recognize that the scent belongs to a specific character, dead or alive, and I applaud Craig for thinking about the subtle clues that most authors would skim over. Each bell-ringing detail had me racing to the end of the page, flipping as fast as I could to reach the next clue.
I genuinely didn’t expect this book to be as gruesome as it was, but some chapters deserve trigger warnings due to their blunt depictions of how the sisters died. As someone who has sisters, and strictly reads at night, I have to admit that I checked their rooms hourly out of pure paranoia, jumping at each creak in the floorboards down the hall. But if gore doesn’t bother you, then the “jump scares” are actually well written, as if seeing them from your very own eyes.
If you’re familiar with the story of the 12 dancing princesses, then you’ll love Erin A. Craig’s grim “who-dun-it” twist with the tale. This story is a standalone novel, meaning that, unlike the late Highmoor sister, you won’t be hanging off a cliff at its end. However, in July of this year, Craig is set to release a new book following the sisters of Highmoor, “House of Roots and Ruin.” I will definitely be first in line to grab it.