A House By The Sea
Hey howdy hey! Welcome back y'all! Guys warning now.... this is probably gonna be a long post. With a lot of spoilers. But lets start with the basics... this book was an amazing... this is Erin A. Craig's debut novel and man did she deliver! For a first time author this book really has everything. Romance that doesn't take away from the main story as well as some horror aspects and what I enjoy the most is the how this retelling does stick so close to the original story of the 12 Dancing Princesses with such a wild rife attached. I will say now that the fact there are SO many characters does make it a little hard to keep track of. The 12 sisters alone I had to work to remember them all! So lets jump in!
For everyone's sanity since this is a rough outline... I'm gonna provide a list of the sisters in order!
Rosalie--- these are triplets
Honor----- are twins
We start the story at the funeral of the 4th oldest daughter named Eulalie who died from falling from the cliffs of their family home. So a little background info the setting of this book is called the Salt and from wha I've gathered its a section of islands that are ruled over by the girls father Ortun whose recently remarried to a woman named Morella. The girls mother died in childbirth while having the youngest of the 12 sisters. This culture believe in a group of Gods but pray mainly to the god Pontus who is ruler of the sea. So when people pass away they return their body to the Salt to be with their God. So Elizabeth has died along with her 3 older sister who have passed in various ways. And the family has been in mourning for years due to all the death. The people of their village know believe the women of Thaumas house to be cursed and doomed to death. Annaleigh who is our main character believes the deaths to be foul play and begins to investigate.
The girls stepmother announces she is pregnant with the lord's first son at Eulalie's wake and then convinces Ortun that everyone has mourned enough in the last few years to last a lifetime. And Ortun lifts the mourning wear and such. This upsets Annaleigh who has already decided that her sister was murdered. But when everyone decides its the right choice Annaleigh relaxes some.
Annaleigh travels to talk to the sailors who found Eulalie's body which had "fallen from a cliff". They recall not much that isn't already known, it is mentioned that she had a bag but we also meet Cassius for the first time. Annaleigh is smitten. He's important down the road. Annaleigh returns to Highmoor and investigates Eulalie's room and finds a locket with hair in it and is confronted by Verity. At this point they are interupted by the announcement that shoes that had been ordered to be worn for the triplets birthday celebration. Morella makes a comment about the girls being easy to wed off and Camille who is the oldest heir tells Morella that she will not being leaving Highmoor because she is heir. Morella is then educated that on the islands the oldest child regardless of their sex will receive everything.
SIDE NOTE: How progressive is this?! I mean way to be Craig! AND HUGE RED FLAG HERE!! Morella shows up gets preggers and just assumes her child gets everything....
We flash forward to the girls being fitted for dresses where Annaleigh sees a gentleman Eulalie was sweet on and was a possible suitor. He also happens to have the same hair as that of the locket. She attempts to confront him to help her figure out what happened to Eulalie. He scurries away from her and is no help!
We return to Highmoor and Annaleigh is faced with wet footprints and the scent of her deceased sister Elizabeth but find Verity who she confronts and assumes is responsible. Verity claims it was Elizabeth and shows Annaleigh a sketch book full of drawings that depict their dead sister doing various things around the castle. Verity tells her to keep her eyes out for their sisters.
I SEE DEAD PEOPLE!
We are now introduced to Fisher longtime family friend of the Thaumas family. He is a character you see or hear about often but isn't extremely important until the end of the book. Although he does provide initially important info. So I won't touch on him much to leave you something to look forward too!
We are now at the eve of the triplet's birthday party and at this point Annaleigh has an extreme scare in the bathtub involving Elizabeth trying to drown her. This is Annaleigh's first encounter seeing her sister's dead form. So after the traumatic bath we go to the ball and even though these girls are considered royalty no one wants to dance with them. The Triplets and Camille are convinced its the "Thaumas curse".
The next day Annaleigh decides to attempt to tell her father about what she has found out regarding Eulalie's death. She walks into breakfast and it's obvious that its not the correct time to do so as everyone is discussing how the curse ruined the ball. Morella overhears the convo and decides to become upset because she thinks her child will be cursed as well. Ortun scolds his daughters and tells them they are in the wrong. Annaleigh runs off to town with Fischer to escape the awkward. She confides in him all she feels about Eulalie's death as well as the fact she believes she has seen the other sister's ghost. He reminds her of a legend regarding Pontus's door in which you can walk from the God's world to the mortal world.
We flash forward a week and find out Morella is having twins and Edgar comes to visit in attempt to discuss the events of Eulalie's death. He becomes upset that Camille doesn't believe him when he tell her the Eulalie and him were betrothed and had planned to run away together. Camille has him thrown out of their home. After a teary confession about finding her own love story Camille is convinced by Annaleigh to get their sister's to search for Pontus's door so the can attempt to leave the islands to find people who don't know of their "curse".
Annaleigh and Camille share what they hope to find with the other girls and the search starts immediately. On a wild hair the group ventures into the tombs and approach the statue of Pontus and find the door. As some of the sisters go through the portal and return they share with the others an invite given to them by someone on the other side to attend a ball that evening. They return to the tombs later that night dressed to fit the theme of the event and go through the door to the other side to be greeted to many people who dance with them through the night and into the morning. Annaleigh runs into Cassius a second time.
AFTER a few nights of the parties Annaleigh wakes in a frenzy from yet another nightmare. All of the girls sleeping have been effected by the balls. It is now that their father returns home and the girls have to tell him they need new shoes. Camille and Annaleigh get into an argument when Annaleigh tries to discuss Eulalie again with her father. Ortun dismisses her yet again. But all the girls get to go to town to get replacement shoes since they have destroyed the ones they just got.
While in town Annaleigh goes to Edgar's place of work to apologize for letting Camille throw him out of the house. They agree to work together to figure out what had happened with Eulalie. Annaleigh leaves to catch up with her younger sisters who are at a local pub. It is here we meet Cassius yet again. They talk until a giant commotion erupts outside and they run to see what has gone down. Edgar has been pushed out of his work's upper floor window! DUH DUN DUN!!
When they return home Annaleigh begs her sisters not to go to the evening's ball, no one listens. While getting ready for bed something spooks Annaleigh who as she is investigating runs into the family's butler, Roland, who was Edgar's top pick as to who murdered Eulalie. Annaleigh casually questions Roland and finds out he was in town the eve of the murder. She leaves Roland and begins to head back to her room where the black blur that originally spooked her has returned and is moving towards the library where she stumbles upon Verity who begs her to look at her drawing which is again disturbing and recounts memories Verity cannot possible have. Eulalie then appears to Annaleigh and attacks her with a fury of moths. Annaleigh runs to her father's quarters where she interupts.... some personal time and drags her father to the library where all the horrors have vanished. She returns to her room thinking that her exhausted brain is at fault for what she saw.
At this point Morella begins to feel pain from the babies and Annaleigh provides aid for her from knowledge she has from helping the midwives with her mother's various births. Morella confides in her and her sisters that she is overwhelmed with the duties that come with planning for an extreme important event called the Churning Festival. Annaleigh and most of the sisters volunteer to help with the planning. The girls all meet to discuss then list and Annaleigh begs her sisters to stop attending the balls while they plan the festivities. They reluctantly agree and begin on the plans.
We flash to the Churning where all of the guests are beginning to show up and the girls have accomplished all that needed to be done. They greet their guests and Annaleigh is faced with Cassius yet again. He has come in his father's place as he has passed away. After introductions there is a feast that is held in which Ortun and the other male guests become very intoxicated and Ortun declares whoever figures out why the girls have been going through their shoes so quickly may marry any of his daughters. The girls are obviously upset since the men at the table vary in age and stature. Annaleigh leaves the table and runs into who... but Cassius. They char and then Annaleigh goes to tend to Morella and her stomach after the feast in which Morella tells Annaleigh she is beginning to look at her as a friend as well as a step daughter. They discuss Morella's courtship with Ortun and Annaleigh leaves. The next day we celebrate more of the Churning and learn more of Cassius. And they share their first kiss... and second. Everyone returns to Highmoor and goes to bed until Lenore bursts into Annaleigh's room screaming that Rosalie and Ligeia are gone and are missing. The curse is immediately to blame as Lenore says she can feel that they are dead. Lenore accuses Camille of telling them where the ball would be but Camille denies the accusation. Annaleigh immediately decides to go look in the family's tombs and along the way her and Cassius find the two missing triplets frozen to death in a thicket. Lenore becomes a recluse and all of the guests leave Highmoor so the family can mourn their most recent loss. At this point the family is hosting Rosalie and Ligeia's funeral and everyone begins speculating on how the twins died and how they got to the thicket. Fischer immediately points the finger at Cassius and Annaleigh starts to believe the claim as evidence begins to mount against him.
Over the next few days Annaleigh has been tending to Lenore who has shut herself off from the world. Annaleigh is struggling with sleep and is attempting to convince herself that Cassius can't possibly be responsible. Annaleigh decides to take a nap in hopes to calm herself and help her sleep. Lenore suddenly appears by the tub and then stumbles out of the room. This is another instance of Annaleigh's deceased sisters haunting her. I won't go into too much detail as I would be here for way too long. She ends up falling asleep in the solarium where she has been run off to and is found by Cassius who she accuses of the murders of her sisters. They have it out before Cassius manages to convince her otherwise and insists they tend to her injuries before anything else. He teleports her to his homeland of Versia where he heals her and we find out that he is basically half god half mortal. This is where we learn more about his upbringing and his heritage and such. But we find out here that Cassius was never at the first ball as Annaleigh remembers. They concoct a plan to figure what is really happening in connection to the balls.
Annaleigh plans to bring Cassius along to the ball the next evening. After prepping the much smaller group goes through the portal and are immediately transported to a ball. Cassius is no where to be found and as the party continues on Annaleigh begins to see horrific things. She begins having a melt down at this point cycling further and further down. She is awaken by Cassius who tells her that she was dancing with no one. She runs to find that all of her sisters are still entranced and still dancing with no one. But when she approaches Verity's room Annaleigh realizes there is something very very wrong with her youngest sister. Trying to figure out how to pull her sister from the possession she is suffering from there is a loud argument hear that wakes all of the house. There has been a crash involving one to the larger of the families ships and all the men are being sent away to handle the problem. Leaving Annaleigh who has experience in the lighthouse to fix what caused the issue in the first place. The islands lighthouse has gone out. Cassius jumps them to the lighthouse as a storm starts where they find that the keeper of the lighthouse has passed. As Annaleigh begins to fill the kerosene tank to get the lighthouse up and running she comes across the body of a severely decaying Fischer.
SIDE NOTE: I am really trying to give as few details as possible when it comes to this summary because I want you all to read this book. I will say if you don't want the ending ruined at this point I would skip the next paragraph entirely. And go straight to the review portion of this.
So we are now confronted with Kosamaras or the Weeping Woman who is a legend and has been mentioned a few times though out the story. We are then told that she has been sent to destroy the Thaumas family by a trickster named Viscardi. A lot of just extra stuff happens between this moment and where I will finish off my summary which ends with us finding out Morella is behind everything and had had a torrid affair with Ortun after the death of his wife and was wronged by him and the entire scheme of getting pregnant with his child and the torment of his family was revenge for her wrong doing.
REVIEW: Alright like I said I skipped a bunch of things in the last few chapters because I wanted to leave some mystery left to be found out. This book was a solid 4.5 with my main issues being a few small plot holes that aren't even big enough to mention. The story has a little bit of everything including romance that doesn't take away from the plot and enhances the story. I also appreciate that even though there are so many characters involved in this story it is not hard to recall which characters do what and who they are. This is an amazing debut novel and I genuinely can't wait to see what this author does next.
These pages take me places and I cannot wait to see where we go next!