All very Freudian, one might say, but unlike the Grimms’ princesses, Annaleigh and her sisters don’t need a brave little soldier to rescue them. They figure things out for themselves, and she figures out who’s doing it too. It isn’t rocket science, and it isn’t all magic either. But if the gender bias of the Grimms is exposed and rejected, their class orientation toward brave sailors rather than princes, and poor old women rather than duchesses, is magnified and applauded ... It’s a fairy tale, a young-adult romance (though gothic enough for adult readers) and a whodunit too. Erin Craig works them all together with the modern storyteller’s more complex craft. The Grimms provided the blueprint, one might say, and a very good blueprint it is, but after two centuries of dominance by the realistic novel, we need more than the sketch of a fairy tale. We need personalities, we need individuals, we need to understand the heroine’s interior life, all engagingly presented in this charming remake.
Atmospheric, intense and macabre, House of Salt and Sorrows is a smorgasbord of gothic subgenres but a murder mystery at its core. Once the story builds momentum, it rapidly revs up the stakes, making for a devouring and page-turning read.
This moody maritime retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses blends elements of suspense and horror for a gothic twist on a familiar tale. A memorably built world populated with a hauntingly doomed family.
Evocative details and lyrical, moody prose distinguish this tale ... Craig offers a well-placed element of grotesquerie as the sisters become puppetlike pawns controlled by a malevolent force. Certain elements—including a duplicitous central character’s arc and the story’s budding romance—carry a degree of predictability, but these are minor distractions in an otherwise richly conceived story that blends mythic and Gothic storytelling.
Annaleigh and her sisters read like interchangeable paper dolls, their painstakingly described gowns, jewels, and shoes the most distinguishing features about them; they spend their time screaming, swooning, and alternately competing for and cowering behind the men in their lives. The island setting is extremely one-note, as if an ocean-themed children’s party became an entire culture, and there is no consistent interior logic to the rules of magic and gods that seem to shift, like the tides and the weather, according to narrative convenience. The writing is self-consciously stiff, and the story reads like a mood board, full of repetitively atmospheric images and scenes but never creating a substantive whole. All characters are white ... More about costume than character or story.