House Of Salt And Sorrows By Erin A. Craig
Erin Craig’s August 2019 release, House of Salt and Sorrows is a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. If one person said this, it could possibly be a joke on me but since the publisher, author and a league of readers say it? I’m assuming it isn’t some huge conspiracy.
I was an educator for fifteen years. I have never heard of any such thing ever. IN. MY. LIFE. NEVER. So…
It is, however one of the backlist books in my Spring/Summer Fling 2020, so YAY! Success! Scratch it off the list! Not that I don’t keep adding to it, or anything. I mean the Three Dark Crowns series (One Dark Throne’s review is coming this weekend) wasn’t there, initially. But then Becky happened and now… There it is!
Do I type in Spanish? I’m just wondering. I mean I know that I can’t edit my own writing for shit. I get that part. I mean, I think the greatest typo in the history of the written word…
…proves that point.
Even so, I believe that I’ve beaten the dead horse about messing with the fae, yeah? So, when I see the words “fairy slippers,” I figure that it is kind of guilt by association. Apparently not. So, let me try this yet, again.
Don’t. Mess. With. The. Fae. Including, but not limited to their:
- Bargaining (DEFINITELY DEFINITELY DEFINITELY NEVER EVER OR EVER)
- Extended family members (aka… pixies, tricksters, sirens, Gods of Mischief <yes, I’m looking at YOU, LOKI>
Before you tell me to stop beating the dead, Erin Craig’s next book, Small Favors (Goodreads link for your ease), involves a small town having their deepest and darkest desires granted by mystical creatures for tiny favors, in return.
We are going to move on for a little while but don’t worry. We’ll get back to the fairy slippers in a bit.
We The People Of The Salt…
…need a damn drink or ten. By the time I was into the story, I needed a pitcher and some xanax.
At the start of House of Salt and Sorrows and I mean right at the start of the story only seven of the twelve Thaumas are still alive. Let’s not forget that their mother is also dead, and her death is the least mysterious of them all. She died in childbirth. To be honest, after eleven children, I don’t blame her for checking out on the twelfth. I have the Council of the Ninja Magical Cats and I want to off myself most days.
Then there came a plague,
murder hornets whoops, I mean a fall off the cliffs to the sea, tripping off the ladder and drowning in the bathtub (a little suspect for a seafaring family).
When one of the youngest sisters, Verity starts drawing ghosts of her dead sisters doing dark, ghoulish things, the main character Annaleigh becomes increasingly concerned that something more than accidents are causing the Thaumas sisters to disappear from Highmoor. As a morose, grieving and decrepit air threatens to swallow Highmoor whole, the girls’ newly pregnant stepmother declares the normally years tradition of mourning over.
New dresses and shoes are made. The house is drenched in a dizzying array of colorful flowers and draperies. Not everyone is thrilled with the idea but go with it all the same. It is at this point that the words fairy slippers are mentioned. I knew…
I think I’m going to join the Fae. First, I’m pretty sure they are the only ones making it out of this mess of a world. Second, I just think that if people aren’t going to listen than it is more fun. I mean look how much fun they are having messing with every other species in the world. And they always win. Who doesn’t want to always win? They’d kicked Thanos’ ass straight up. Dr. Strange gave up the time stone ALL WRONG. He should have made a Fairy deal and EndGame would never have even been necessary.
Hell. For all you know, I already am Fae. I’m a shapeshifter that just looks human. Let that marinate for a minute.
And so, childhood friend, Fisher and these remaining girls, girls that by all means should be put in one of those hamster balls… you know those clear ones that they can roll around the house in…
By all rights these remaining girls should not go ANYWHERE, unless they are in one of those. Instead, they put on these fairy shoes to dance at secret balls and balls where you dance obviously have music and food. That my dear friends is FAIRY BINGO!
Am I spoiling anything? NAY NAY– this was my inference from the words FAIRY SLIPPERS. The summary mentions that they are sneaking out to attend glittering balls, dancing with who or what. So, I took clues from the text and added my own background knowledge to make an inference. Is that inference, right? Well you will have to read the book to find out.
Mysterious characters, mostly men thankfully because all the women are dropping like flies, come and go throughout the story. Either they are suspected of murder, trying to help stop the dying, are murdered themselves or most unfortunate, end up a combination of the three.
If all of these incredible plot lines running parallel to each other until they start entangling and ensnaring, Craig delivered the bonus brilliance of Gods. She built a whole new set of meddling Gods to interfere in the ways of men and not so men. And oh, the ways they interfere are quite interesting… but let me just stop there.
So, Should You?
Break out the alcohol (if you are of drinking age). Because…
Craig’s biggest strength is the dark, gothic, creepy, masterful writing throughout this book. Look. I may not know anything about the 12 Dancing Princesses, but I was in education for fifteen years and taught second grade for eight of them. So, I know fairy tales as far as their structure, which characters are the villains, the mysterious key to the story etc… So, my ability to guess certain things along the way are more due to fairy tale structure than anything.
House of Salt and Sorrows is my own purchase.
It would have been really easy for House of Salt and Sorrows to either bore me to death or feel incredibly childish even as an example of a child’s first exposure to modern dark side of literature (Grimms is dark but ancient dark). Not once was ever bored. Not once did the story feel predictable, even when structures gave me a clue to certain pieces and never once did House of Salt and Sorrows feel childish. YA? Yes. Of course. It is YA. But never childish.
With Macabre Comes Twisted Humor
Craig hits those notes of dark twisted humor right on beat and in tone. I almost wondered if the characters were drinking. Maybe she was drinking. Either way? I was laughing and laughing hard because it was perfect. When the father first announces that they will be ending the mourning period early, he tells snaps at Annaleigh:
“I’ll not have you in drab weeds while the rest of us get on with our lives.”
<Annaleigh> sucked in my breath, but the fiery barb could not be contained. “I’m sure Eulalie wishes she could get on with her lie, as well.”
When Annaleigh’s younger sister shares some very dark visions, Annaleigh tries to share her concerns with the Governess, Hanna.
“And she didn’t know Eulalie broke her neck.”
“The girl fell a hundred feet from the cliff walk. What else would her neck have done?”
Summation (That’s Fancy) …
House of Salt and Sorrows wasn’t on my radar up until about three or four months ago when I started seeing the words goth and dark thrown around. So, I took a chance. It completely paid off. It is the best fairy tale retelling (whether I understand the reference or not) I’ve read so far. Fairy tales were not meant to be happy or have happy endings, most of the time. Until Disney got a hold of them, they were mostly dark, grotesque and taught very dark, hard life lessons. All of this is done brilliantly by Craig.
To this end, that would have made House of Salt and Sorrow even better, would have been to scrap the “Seven Months Later” chapter. I won’t say why, because of spoilers. For those who read it, they could easily call it. And from my end, I can easily figure out that I’m in the minority in wanting to scrap that chapter. So, I can happily pretend it doesn’t exist so everyone else can have it!
…Just don’t tell the Fae we made a deal. Unless of course, I am the Fae…