Tag Archives: dark fantasy

Review: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin Craig

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin Craig

House of Salt and Sorrows (Sisters of the Salt #1)
Erin Craig
Delacorte Press
Published August 6, 2019

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About House of Salt and Sorrows

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

My Review

I’ve had this book for years. I think I ordered a copy the year it was published, but I only just got around to reading it now that there’s a sequel. Truthfully, I’m glad I waited so long to read it because I would not have been prepared for how creepy/horror-adjacent it is. I think I expected more of a Marissa Meyer fairy tale retelling vibe, and it definitely read as darker than that.

The setting really pulled me in. Annaleigh’s family celebrates holidays and burial traditions anchored to her culture and their worship of Pontus, the god of the sea. The sea itself, the lighthouse, and Annaleigh’s family home all felt very real.

I also liked the mystery element of the story. Annaleigh worries that someone has murdered her sister and chases down every lead she can find searching for the culprit. The sisterly love and the unexpected discoveries that the mystery led her to definitely kept me engaged in the story. I also enjoyed the romance between her and Cassius.

The pacing of the story felt a little uneven to me. Like, a LOT happened in the last fifty pages of the book. Annaleigh learns a lot of new information and faces some pretty intense stuff. Those late chapters also have one of the most intense psychological horror scenes of the whole book.

I found myself wishing a little more of that information had been revealed or at least hinted at earlier on, rather than rushed through at the end. I think the way things played out also muddled some elements of the plot, such as which deaths had unnatural causes versus which didn’t.

All in all, I am glad I finally read it, and there were things about the story I enjoyed. If you enjoy dark fairy tales with a horror element to them, HOUSE OF SALT AND SORROWS will definitely scratch that itch.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Major characters are white.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used pretty infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl.

Spiritual Content
Annaleigh and one of her sisters see ghosts and encounter some haunting experiences. Annaleigh and her family worship the god of the sea, Pontus. Other people from other places worship different gods or goddesses.

Violent Content
Situations of peril. Tentacled arms grab a girl in the water. Sketches show girls who’ve died, including details alluding to the manner of their deaths (an obviously broken neck, for example). Several scenes include someone finding people who’ve died. One scene shows a nightmarish party with really gross food and drink served. That scene and another include situations and descriptions that would qualify as psychological horror.

Drug Content
Social drinking, such as champagne at a party. At one party, several men get drunk and say cruel or inappropriate things to women there.

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Review: Brick Dust and Bones by M. R. Fournet

Brick Dust and Bones
M. R. Fournet
Feiwel & Friends
Published July 18, 2023

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Brick Dust and Bones

A twelve-year-old cemetery boy and monster hunter–along with his flesh-eating mermaid friend–has to race against the clock to save the ghost of his dead mother in Brick Dust and Bones, M.R. Fournet’s magical middle grade debut.

Marius Grey hunts Monsters. He’s not supposed to. He’s only twelve and his job as a Cemetery Boy is to look after the ghosts in his family’s graveyard. He should be tending these ghosts and–of course–going to school to learn how to live between worlds without getting into trouble.

But, Marius has an expensive goal. He wants to bring his mother back from the dead, and that takes a LOT of mystic coins, which means a LOT of Monster Hunting, and his mother’s window to return is closing.

If he wants her back, Marius is going to have to go after bigger and meaner monsters, decide if a certain flesh-eating mermaid is a friend or foe, and avoid meddling Demons and teachers along the way. Can Marius navigate New Orleans’s gritty monster bounty-hunting market, or will he have to say goodbye to his mother forever?

My Review

Darker middle grade (or YA) isn’t something I have a lot of experience reading, so I was a little nervous picking up this book. I’d never heard of it until a copy from the publisher arrived in the mail, but I wanted to check it out. Darker books have surprised me before, after all. (See THE PLENTIFUL DARKNESS by Heather Krassner or THE DARKDEEP by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs.)

Some of the imagery is very creepy. Monsters stand over sleeping children. What appears to be a woman unzips her skin and a green, sinewy monster steps out. Things like that.

What I truly loved about this story is Marius. He’s alone and lonely, desperate to save his mother and protect his best friend, a monster mermaid who has sworn off eating humans. Marius bravely faces monsters, stopping them from hurting children. At one point, he encounters a boy who indicates he’s being abused. Marius gifts the boy a magical necklace to protect him.

While this isn’t a book that readers in my house (who all seem to have vivid nightmares easily inspired by books or movies), I could see readers who love scary stories eating this one up. It has great characters and a very immersive story world.

A second book in the series is currently scheduled for release next summer.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 10 to 14.

Marius is described as being basically shades of gray rather than a member of a specific race. Minor characters are POC.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
Kiss between boy and girl.

Spiritual Content
Marius encounters a boogeyman who feeds on the souls of children. A magic book captures monsters through a recited spell. Marius visits various magical shops and encounters other magical creatures and people who possess magic, like witches. His family is responsible for the care of the ghosts in the graveyard where he lives. Some humans enter a pact with a demon in which they temporarily receive power but owe their soul to the demon.

Violent Content
Situations of peril and scary imagery, such as monsters trying to attack a child.

Drug Content
References to adult characters telling stories while they’re drunk.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of BRICK DUST AND BONES in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Bid My Soul Farewell by Beth Revis

Bid My Soul Farewell (Give the Dark My Love #2)
Beth Revis
Published September 24, 2019

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indiebound | Goodreads

About Bid My Soul Farewell

The stunning finale of the epic fantasy duology from New York Times bestselling author Beth Revis.

Alchemy student turned necromancer Nedra Brysstain has made a life-changing decision to embrace the darkness–but can the boy who loves her bring her back to the light before she pays the ultimate price?

Lunar Island is trying to heal. The necromantic plague that ravaged the land has been eradicated, and Emperor Auguste, the young and charming leader of the Allyrian Empire, has a plan: rid the island of necromancy once and for all. Though Greggori “Grey” Astor wants what’s best for his people, he knows that allying himself with Auguste threatens the one person he loves most: necromancer Nedra Brysstain. Feeling like he already failed to save Nedra once, Grey becomes determined to help the Emperor rebuild Lunar Island while still keeping Nedra safe from harm.

Back at the quarantine hospital, Nedra’s army of revenants are growing increasingly inhuman by the day. Wracked with guilt for imprisoning their souls, Nedra vows to discover a way to free the dead while still keeping her sister by her side.

But, still reeling from the trauma of the plague, the people of Lunar Island are looking for someone to blame, and Grey can only protect Nedra for so long. And when Nedra and Grey are thrust into a battle with an even more terrifying adversary, Nedra will be pushed to the darkest depths of her necromantic powers. But can Grey let her go that far?

My Review

This was the first book I read after having my miscarriage in December. I had been meaning to read it for a while, but it seemed like it was going to be dark and have a lot of grief in it, since Nedra loses so much in the first book. I picked it up just before Christmas and looked at the cover and thought, yep, she looks about how I feel. And I knew it was the right time to read it.

So many things about this book really met me where I was. I totally identified with both Nedra’s grief and her desperation to somehow bring back the sister she’d lost. Her frustration with the people around her who just didn’t understand where she was coming from emotionally totally resonated with me. And the way it complicated her relationship with Grey– who loved her every minute of her journey, but had to find his own way to heal, and also couldn’t support some of the things she was doing felt so real to me, too.

It IS a bit of a dark read. The people in Nedra’s colony are recovering from a plague that left many people dead and many more amputee survivors. Nedra desperately wants to find a way to bring her sister back from the dead. Grey wants to help the people who’ve been overlooked by the government and he wants to protect Nedra, too.

Even though it’s dark, I really needed this book and I’m so glad I was able to read it right now. Sometimes a book is perfect for a certain time in your life, and I feel like I found this one at exactly the right moment.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Nedra is an amputee. Her sister was bisexual.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used once.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl. One scene shows a woman undressing in front of her lover and then the lead up to them having sex. It’s suggested that they are intimate again after that but nothing happens in scene.

Spiritual Content
Nedra believes in the god Oryous, and visits a temple. Grey has grown up with religious traditions but doesn’t have a personal connection to them or personal faith.

Nedra learns to see and have some control of the souls of others as part of her powers of necromancy. As her power grows, a darkness in her grows, too.

Violent Content
Some brief descriptions of battle and the aftermath of battle, including some graphic descriptions of gore.

Drug Content

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