Nightmares or Dreams?: A ‘House of Salt and Sorrows’ Book Review

The minute I heard about a dark retelling of “12 Dancing Princesses” I was on board for this novel.

I adore mystery, dark gothic atmospheres and dying girls, what can I say? I had originally requested this novel in netgalley, but was denied.


But the book gods heard my plea and I won an ARC from the GOODREADS giveaway! <3 Soooo, Here we go!

★ ★ ★ ★

Author: Erin A. Craig
Publisher: Random House Children’s
Format/Source: Publisher provided ARC
Goodreads, Indiebound, Amazon, Book Depository

From GoodReads: 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.

The Book Dragon breaks down….

Plot: ★★★ 1/2

World: ★★★★

1/2 Writing: ★★★★★

Character Development: ★★★★

…. the writing…

I’m not a horror fan, so I was really worried about the content. I have to say while the writing is superb, I didn’t really find it “SCARY” or particularly CREEPY as many have said. It was vivid, graphic and in your face – without a doubt, but scary or creepy is not really something I’d attach to it. #sorrynotsorry.

All that to say, even if you do not enjoy HORROR – you would probably enjoy this one. There are only a few scenes that really stuck out in my mind but otherwise, I felt it was pretty on par with today’s violent YA content.

Craig’s writing is gothic but modern, easy to read but also easy to get lost in. The world building her writing created was stunning. The manor was a character itself and that was entirely because of Erin’s magical writing.

…the characters…

The characters were to die for. Literally. I loved Annaleigh. Lately it seems like there is a trend of some MC coming across like your best friend from 2015, not the 15th century duchess they are. She was full of spunk, smart and curious but not brash or annoying, and felt like she actually BELONGED in her world.

The love interests are unfortunately a love triangle – but I didn’t mind it! Mostly because one of the love interests was very one sided. (I wont tell you which! 😉 ) You’ll have to read to find out! I will say that Cassius and Fisher are well written, and extremely likable – regardless of who wins Annaliegh’s heart. The romance was one of the few parts I really did find a bit…eerie, especially once the big reveal came. I shudder just thinking about some of it. *shudders again*

Morella was a surprising character for me. Her ups and downs felt grounded in reality. I can imagine it would be extremely overwhelming for someone to marry into a houseful of girls almost grown – and then to find out you won’t inherit the manor. HAHAHAHAHAHA! Such a pitiful existence.

…the plot…

The tale started out strong. Craig hits us immediately on the first page… “the same question lingered in her eyes, just below the surface, impossible to miss: Which one of us would be next?”


Oh Shit. This shit is about to get REAL. How much worse could it get if we are starting the entire book off with a death? I’m in it to win it!

This story took a very unexpected turn towards the last 1/3 of the book. I really can’t say much without it being spoiler-y, but while the writing was beautiful and kept me engaged – the story was slightly nonsensical.

I understood and loved the twists of questioning what was real and what wasn’t, I just felt like the source behind it should have been introduced a little..sooner? Then again, maybe they were and I’m just too dense have registered it. HA!

Either way, it was probably the biggest reason my rating dropped from a 4.5 to a 3.5 star. Also, there was a scene that was kind of disgusting and I couldn’t help but gag so bravo, Erin! 🙂

…final thoughts…

Over all, this book did it’s job. While I had issues with some of the plot line, I have not been able to stop thinking about events in the book, NOR have I been able to stop bugging my friends to hurry up and read it so I can discuss the demented event that has kept my mind blowing. While I originally rated the book a 3.5 once I was finished with it, while writing this review, I’m bumping it up to a 4 star – because obviously I felt way more for it than I thought, and that means Erin is doing her job, and very damn well.


Mixed with a gothic world, a slow burning romance and fantasy twists that leaves the reader both in awe and completely confused, House of Salt and Sorrows is a dark and twisted retelling of “12 Dancing Princesses.” Craig”s writing weaves a tale that gets into your mind and under your skin. While some plot points fall short for me, the over all work of fiction kept me engaged, and several times my heart tore into pieces. This magical thriller is a solid debut for Erin A. Craig. Final Rating: 4/5 Stars!

About the Author:

After getting her B.F.A. from the University of Michigan, in Theatre Design and Production, she stage managed tragic operas with hunchbacks, séances, and murderous clowns, then decided she wanted to write books that were just as spooky.
An avid reader, a decent quilter, rabid basketball fan, and collector of typewriters, Erin makes her home in Memphis, TN with her husband and daughter.
She is represented by Sarah Landis at Sterling Lord Literistic.