Twelve Dancing Princesses- A Retelling

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A Craig

Publication Date: August 6, 2019

Summary from NetGalley:

Get swept away in Erin A. Craig’s mesmerizing House of Salt and Sorrows. As one by one her beautiful sisters mysteriously die on their isolated island estate, Annaleigh must unravel the curse that haunts her family. Be careful who you dance with. . . .

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor with her sisters and their father and stepmother. Once there 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 her sister’s deaths were no accidents. The girls 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. House of Salt and Sorrows is a spellbinding novel filled with magic and the rustle of gossamer skirts down long, dark hallways. Get ready to be swept away.

ARC provided by Random House Children’s via NetGalley for an honest review.

Confession:

About a year ago, I did a Top 5 Wednesday post about classics that I wanted to see retold. Twelve Dancing Princesses was one of the stories I talked about in that post. Now I had envisioned an urban fantasy murder mystery, which I still think would be cool, but this is the retelling that I really needed. This was an absolutely fabulous retelling with amazing world building and a plot that will keep you wanting more.

The story is told through Annaleigh. She is not the oldest, but not the youngest of the 12. Her family has already lost 4 of the sisters, plus their mother and has been grieving for many years. Annaleigh is struggling with her grief for most of the book, but she is strong, and smart and able to stand tall even when things go totally wrong around her. I really liked Annaleigh, she was very kind and personable and the sister that everyone looked to for help when it was needed.

The other sisters are perhaps not as well fleshed out as Annaleigh, but except for maybe Camille, they were all likable. The triplets were hard to keep separate as to who was who, but they were very flighty and fun. The three youngest children were called the Graces because of their names. Verity is the only one of these three we get to know well. She plays an important roll in the story. She is the youngest and like in the original, she knows something is wrong way before anyone else suspects anything. Camille is the other sister we get to know somewhat well. She is the oldest of the surviving sisters, but she was my least favorite. She was conniving and not always kind to her sisters. But by the end of the story, she kind of grew on me a bit.

There are two other characters that need mentioning, as they play important roles. Fisher is a childhood friend of Annaleigh’s and has come back to the manor for a celebration. I really liked him and thought that he was only looking out for Annaleigh and her sister. Cassius is the love interest, and even though I didn’t trust him at first, I saw how devoted he was to Annaleigh and grew to like him as well. The romance was perhaps a tad on the insta-love side, but it fit with the story and was not the focus of the plot, so I was ok with that.

The world building was very well done. I liked that the world was drawn out slowly with the reader learning things about it as we went along. There was a rich mythology and religion that was important to the story. The island setting and everything that entails was also marvelously well done. The time period was similar to the original story, no modern conveniences and the girls wearing long dresses. But women were seen as pretty equal to men in that they could inherit property and titles.

I devoured this book in two days, but probably could have read it in one go if life hadn’t interfered. It is a little slow in the beginning, and the dancing part of the story doesn’t show up until about 100 pages in, but I was riveted from the get go. The author did a fabulous job of melding the original story with the intricate plot that she developed. There were some delightful twists and turns to the story, and the mix of mysticism and mythological was just about perfect.

This ended up being the Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling that I didn’t know I needed or wanted. It is hard to believe that this is a debut. The writing is excellent as is the story. If you like fairy tale retellings than this is one you don’t want to miss.

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