Please note that I received this book via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review.
So this was really good. I like a good retelling and Craig does a great job with "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" by the Brothers Grimm. We follow the main character Annaleigh who is intent on figuring out if her older sister was murdered. From there we have Craig work in Gothic elements as well as some pretty dark horror elements as well. I loved the world building and would be interested in reading more about the sisters. The main reason why I gave this 4 stars though is that the book noticeably drags in a lot of places. And honestly, I started to get all of the sisters confused after a while except for Verity and Annaleigh.
"House of Salt and Sorrows" follows Annaleigh Thaumas who is reeling from another funeral. Her sister was found dead and this makes this the fourth sister (out of 12) who has died over the past few years. Many in the community believe that the Thaumas sisters and family are cursed. With Annaleigh's father remarrying and expecting a son, she wonders if someone out there is out to hurt Annaleigh and her sisters due to the manor and all of their riches going to the eldest child, not the male heir.
Annaleigh was a great heroine to root for. She loves her sisters, misses her mother, and is trying with her newest stepmother. However, she starts to wonder if someone or something is stalking her sisters and her. When she and her sisters start to sneak out to dance at balls (they have been dealing with mourning rules for about 5 years) she initially doesn't think what they are doing is wrong. However, she quickly grows afraid since she keeps getting visions about her sisters dying all around her. When she meets a young man named Cassius, Annaleigh starts to dream about maybe falling in love and marrying.
The other sisters besides Verity kind of got lost to me after a while. I know that there were triplets (I think) and there may have been twins. Seriously. I needed a family tree or something like that when the book first starts that I could have flipped back and forth to make sure I was tracking people correctly.
I loved Cassius and his whole backstory. I don't want to spoil, but that is why I thought that Craig did such a great job with world building that I think she can revisit these characters or locations in subsequent books.
The writing does a great job with blending the fairy tale elements (an island that is devoted to the sea and has their own High Mariner) as well as taking Gothic and Horror elements and blending them all together. The flow though as I said was a bit of a mess. I get the idea behind slow burns books with mystery elements (Annaleigh trying to figure out if her family is being murdered or cursed) but the book stops in a lot of places that had me going eh. There's some things that could have been cut to make the story much tighter.
The world building as I said was fantastic. I loved this society called The People of the Salt that seems focused on the first born (not caring about whether it's a boy or girl) with their own beliefs and rituals dealing with returning their loved ones to the salt when they die. We even have gods and goddesses in this one that influence people we find. There seems to be some other kingdoms/gods in this one that I definitely wanted to know more about.
The ending was very well done though I wanted more repercussions once the mystery is finally solved. What can I say, I am all about the vengeance. This was a very good and solid book!