The original “Twelve Dancing Princesses” fairy tale is surprisingly un-gory. Silly me, I thought a modern retelling would be the same. Not so much!
If you’re not familiar with the original fairy tale, it goes something like this: there are twelve sisters (princesses, natch) who, every night, sneak out of their castle and dance all night at an enchanted ball. Their dad, the king, wants to know where they go every night so he sends out the call that anyone who can figure out their secret gets to marry one of them. If you don’t figure it out, you’re executed (I guess it’s a little gory). Finally some guy figures it out and marries one of the sisters; the end.
House of Salt and Sorrows is an interesting twist on this story. It’s about a family of 12 sisters, but when the story starts, the four oldest are all dead through various misadventures. Annaleigh, the fifth sister, decides to try to solve the mystery surrounding her fourth sister’s death–she fell off a cliff, but Annaleigh thinks she was pushed. She’s actually pretty sure that none of her sisters’ deaths were accidental, but that instead, she and her sisters are under a curse.
This is really a pretty fun book to read, if you’re into fairy tale retellings. It has some good twists and turns, some small scares, and an atmospheric creepiness that reminded me of Daphne du Maurier. At least, that’s most of the book–up until the big twist, which takes a sharp right turn in stomach-turning goriness. Blech.
Of course, if you’re reading a fairy tale retelling I suppose you should expect some grossness. If you’re into that sort of thing, this is a pretty fun one set in an interesting fantasy world.