House of Salt and Sorrow is billed as a retelling of ’12 Dancing Princesses’, a Grimm fairy tale. Since I was unfamiliar with the original, which itself is a variation of fairy tales passed on to the Grimm brothers, I did not research the origin until after I finished the book.
House of Salt and Sorrow may take its inspiration from a pre-existing fairy tale, but there is much that is different here. Craig brings sophisticated world-building and descriptive skills. You can almost taste the salt air and feel the chill in your bones as winter winds sweep in over the water.
The story follows Annaleigh, who was the sixth daughter, but is the second-oldest remaining. House of Salt and Sorrow begins with a funeral for Eulalie, who had been the eldest remaining daughter until her untimely death. Something about her sister’s death isn’t sitting well with Annaleigh, and she beings to ask some questions and search for answers. She soon pieces together that Eulalie had a beau, and was planning to run away with him and elope on the night she died.
Could her fiance be her killer? Or was there someone else there that night? Annaleigh suspects Eulalie was murdered, but doesn’t understand why, and if she can determine why she just might be able to identify who is responsible.
Her inquiries lead her to a chance meeting with Cassius, a handsome man who she’s immediately attracted to. A part of her has always been smitten by childhood friend Fisher, and it seems he is equally smitten by her when he returns for a visit.
Caught between two men and a pregnant stepmother at war with her sisters, with a nagging feeling there’s a killer on the loose and another unexpected death, Annaleigh begins to have horrific nightmares that plague her. Her father isn’t listening to her and she is brushed aside again and again while others in the story focus on their own self interests.
There is also the lingering question of the rumored curse plaguing Annaleigh’s family. Their mother and four sisters have died, and many believe it’s only a matter of time before more sisters follow.
Can Annaleigh shake off the nightmares and find the truth before it’s too late?
While the stage is set to uncover the truth about Eulalie’s murder from the start, the story weaves in family drama, romance and intrigue. It is not a heavy procedural where that dominates every page or chapter. Part of the reason has to do with the strange forces at work, but this is also a good way of establishing a story that infuses multiple genres into a YA fantasy and offers a little something for everyone.
While some of my early suspicions were correct, the motivations and methods were revelations, and I certainly hadn’t guessed everything. I found Annaleigh to be a compelling character and enjoyed the journey with her, so much so that I finished the book in less than a weekend. It’s a very impressive debut offering from Craig, and I am interested in seeing where she takes her readers next.