The salt-steeped seaside setting of this fairy-tale retelling is beautiful, with depth and darkness very much like the ocean which plays such a large role in the lives of the residents of Highmore, where the Thaumas family, with their twelve daughters, lives and presides. This is a fantasy setting where gods and magic are accepted fact, but are largely distant from the day-to-day lives of most people--including the nobility. I fell in love with everything about the setting, and am impressed with how smoothly Craig introduces readers to this world she has created without ever drifting into the sort of exposition or narration that might have broken the mood of the tale being told within that world. This novel blends elements of dark gothic romance, supernatural horror, psychological thriller, and fantasy. While doing so, Craig makes excellent use of the bones of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale to bind everything together.
I won't say too much more here, as I will leave details which include spoilers to my discussion with Mary later this month, but what I will say is this: House of Salt and Sorrows easily enters the ranks of my favorite fairy-tale novels of all time. I found myself unable to put the book down once I'd started, reading it all in one sitting. Craig strikes a perfect balance between description and narrative, telling a story that is incredibly atmospheric in the best way. At times, I felt as though I were reading a ghost story such as The Haunting of Hill House or The Turning of the Screw, at others I was reminded more of the brooding mood of Wuthering Heights.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good fantasy, and especially to anyone who enjoys a dark reimagining of a fairy tale. I'm so in love with this book, I went out and bought Craig's second book, Small Favors, (which just released a month ago) to enjoy next.
Elizabeth Wilcox. Writer, Avid Role-Player, Amateur Mixologist. Survivor.