I’ve seen such great things about this book all over WordPress and Goodreads, so I’m very sad to announce that I didn’t love it. I’ve been really into spooky reads lately, and this definitely had some really disturbing and creepy parts, but the rest of the book didn’t live up to my expectations.
In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.
Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they 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 the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters 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.
This book has my feelings so confused. I can’t decide if it was boring, atmospheric, spooky, intense, or what, so I have to give it a pretty average rating.
I think bullet points would be the best way to approach this book, so let’s dig in!
Things I Liked
- The characters: The characters are plentiful but distinctly written. There are a lot of sisters in this family and a good amount of side characters, but the author wrote them to be pretty different from one another. Keeping track of the large cast was pretty easy, especially as people kept dying off (too soon? too morbid? sorry). Annaleigh was a likeable main character and a pretty decent detective given the information she was able to find out, so it was fun to follow her along the mystery of who killed her sister(s) and explore new relationships with her.
- The spoooookiness: When the author decides to be spooky, she doesn’t hold back. The ghost scenes in this book are descriptive and gave me chills. The ghosts are described in such creepy ways, eerily staring/pointing, attacking Annaleigh, disfigured, etc. I’m a big chicken so these really got me spooked. They also added a lot of intrigue to the book and kept me turning the pages.
- The wealth: I’m a sucker for ball gowns and manors, and House of Salt and Sorrows has plenty of this. The sheer opulence described in these pages is enchanting and immersive.
- The setting: I loved the emphasis on the sea, the island, the gods, and the overall atmosphere attached to all this. It added a lot to the spooky tones and the deaths. The festivals, customs, and beliefs attached to the island and the gods were well-described and imaginative.
Things I Didn’t Like
- The romance: It isn’t like I disliked the romance, but I didn’t really like it. By itself it’s definitely something I ship, but within the context of the book it felt a bit off. Cassius and Annaleigh were definitely in a unique situation, but their connection felt a bit too instalovey for me, I didn’t really see on the page how they bonded so quickly, and Cassius himself didn’t seem like a super developed character. He does have an interesting backstory but he just didn’t have as much page time as I would have liked.
- The pacing: The segments in between the really fast-paced creepy pieces leaned more toward the dull side of things. There was a fair amount of suspense, but there was also a lot of Annaleigh’s thoughts, dancing/balls, wondering what happened, etc. These aren’t bad but there was a large amount of “downtime” between the major plot points.
As you can see, there are a lot of things I liked about this book. I just wished that the really good pieces were more prevalent throughout the book rather than just sprinkled here and there. If the creepy mystery elements had been amplified more throughout the book I could see this being an easy 5 stars.
Still, I would recommend reading this if you’re looking for something to give you goosebumps just in time for Halloween. There’s a lot of great atmosphere and mystery in House of Salt and Sorrows if you’re willing to stick with some of the slower parts of the story!
Have you read House of Salt and Sorrows? What did you think of it?