I have developed my following by being 100% honest, whether or not a book is popular. I think this is especially important in the YA genre, when many books are over-hyped in a way that comes across as incredibly artificial and manufactured at times. I'm sorry, but you can't all be the #1 best-selling YA book, especially not if you're all doubling down on the BLANK of BLANK AND BLANK forgettable title game. I mean, come on. I can barely remember my own name half the time, let alone a baker's dozen worth of best-selling YA titles that all sound virtually the same.
HOUSE OF SALT AND SORROWS appealed to me, in spite of my misgivings, because of several things. 1) it's a faerie-tale retelling and I love those. I love them a lot, in fact. I was raised on faerie-tales from all over the world, and I will never stop feeling that same magic and mysticism from reading them. 2) it is a gothic novel and if you have been following me at all, you know how much I love me a dark and creepy novel set in some crumbling manor home on a cliff and peopled with ghosts. It's bomb. Combined? That's a c-c-c-combo breaker to the MAX.
The book is about a girl named Annaleigh. She and her sisters are the daughters of this incredibly rich dude who lives in a crumbling manor home on a cliff. Her sisters are dropping like flies, beginning with the death of their mother, and some say it's because of a curse. We meet them when they're all gathered at the funeral of their latest dead sister, and mood is grim. Helpful and oblivious stepmother Morella thinks it's time that morning be over because she's preggers and wants to party. Never mind that she is the same age as her stepdaughters and they'd so Parent Trap her sorry behind if their mother was still alive. As it is, they're stuck with her, but at least they get new shoes out of it.
Mysteriously, the new shoes end up tattered within a week. And other weird things start happening. Images of their dead sisters. Parties that nobody remembers. Suspicious deaths. A love triangle-- oops, scrap that last one. That's not weird at all, just par for the course in YA land. A whole bunch of other stuff happened, too, but I skimmed the middle of this book pretty heavily because I wasn't really amused by the sad descriptions of the heroines lackluster attempts at Nancy Drewing.
In the last act, the book manages to valiantly rise to the task of bringing this book to conclusion. There are some truly creepy scenes in here, and honestly if the whole book had been like that, this could have been a four- or even five-star read for me. If you've read this, you know what I mean. That ballroom scene. YES. I also think the author could have played up the use of the creepy masked man, instead of having him pop up only twice and immediately be a figure of suspicion. That's the problem; if the middle is SUPER boring, I'm going to jump on exciting things when they happen, and everything is going to seem super obvious. I figured out the "surprise" twist right away.
The writing in here is decent and the author is capable of setting the mood well when she so chooses. But someone-- the editor-- should have cut about 100 pages from this book and had the author rewrite the beginning to be more suspenseful. Likewise, there was some inconsistent characterization in this book, as Heather pointed out in her review. Morella was all over the place, as were several of the sisters, and the father went from being an oblivious patsy to kind of abusive and scary? As I said, foreshadowing would have fixed ALL of this and made the ending feel less... convenient.
I was going to give this book a 2-star review, but the ending sufficiently wowed me enough that I feel like I can be generous and award a paltry half-star. I'm definitely not blown away by this like some of the other preliminary reviews were, though, and while this author is definitely a cut above the rest when it comes to some of the other BLANK of BLANK and BLANK authors, I'm not sure I loved this enough that I'd instantly race out to acquire anything else she writes. But maybe. The jury is still out on this one. My rating, however, is decided.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
2.5 out of 5 stars