I recently finished House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig. It was one of the books I read in the Love Your Shelf challenge, in which I aim to read books that have been sitting on my shelf for a while. After finishing the book, I would give it three stars, which is really unfortunate because the first half rated much higher.
House of Salt and Sorrows is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. In this version, our main character Annaleigh is on a mission to discover why her family members keep dying. After her mother and three sisters die within a span of 6 years, there are whispers of a curse on the family. In the midst of this, the remaining sisters find a door that leads them to mesmerizing balls, where they dance all night, returning home with tattered shoes. From here, they try to connect all the dots as to what is happening to their family. All at once, Annaleigh meets mysterious strangers and reconnects with old friends, leading her to speculate on who she can trust.
The story started out so richly, with a kingdom that is well-spun and woven deeply with its own culture and gods of worship. This lush fairytale setting was threaded with wisps of fantastical horrors and illusions. The story builds up so easily and at about the halfway point, starts to meld into something slightly confusing as illusions become more common in the story. This was fine, as I was sure it would be explained later. It was explained and reasonable enough, but the last quarter of the book felt like the author just threw more and more outlandish things together to try to explain the web she weaved. It was overkill at a certain point. The parts that did make sense were overshadowed by the ridiculousness of certain plot lines. A few of our characters were supposed to ride the line of moral ambiguity and the way they were portrayed was so unconvincing. They were not redeemed as the author intended, in my eyes. I did like Annaleigh’s romance, though that took a weird turn towards the end as well. The one thing I will say, is that you do expect a bit of the bizarre and unbelievable with a fairytale style of storytelling, so my bewilderment might not be the case for the average reader of this book.
Through all the weird or plain bad, this book took my mind off all the craziness in the world, so even if it wasn’t a five stars, I don’t regret reading it.