The following review contains untagged spoilers regarding the ending of the book in the final paragraph and brief mentions of specific scenes throughout the book.
I picked up this book because I was (still am) going through an intense ‘lighthousecore’/Gothic ocean/sea monster phase and I knew I would love it just based off the cover and the description. I didn’t know it was a retelling until I read a handful of reviews so I can’t fully weigh in on the accomplishments of this book as a retelling. I then started to expect a typical YA fairytale retelling – ‘evil’ stepmother and all – and, fortunately, there was nothing typical about this book.
Annaleigh is one of the eight remaining Thaumas sisters, believed to be cursed after the eldest four died in what most people believe to be a series of tragic accidents. However, Annaleigh is haunted by these unexplained deaths, and these leads to her investigating if her sisters were murdered or if the Thaumas family is truly cursed.
I love the atmosphere of this book. A dark and haunted manor that is somehow full of life in contrast with secret spectacular balls that are simultaneously full of nightmares. The island setting is super dark and eerie, and I love how the first chapter really established the mood and some key plot elements: a funeral, a god, a curse. And a lighthouse that exists for more than the aesthetic *chef’s kiss*. The writing itself was so lyrical and flowy and beautiful that I felt like I was engrossed in a movie, and the realness of it made the handful of absurd scenes seem believable.
Even though this story isn’t exactly a horror novel, it has so many of the classic elements that I wouldn’t want to deprive it of that genre. I definitely felt the Grimm influences more in the second half of the book through the rise of stomach churning, nightmare worthy scenes of visions and hauntings and bad dreams. The one scene that stuck out to me the most is the one where Annaleigh is walking through the house and seeing her sisters dancing in their sleep. It’s not the most horrific or gory scene in the book, but it’s one that has such a simplistically eerie atmosphere that I couldn’t stop thinking about it when I put the book (well, my phone) down.
I would probably rate this as 4.5 stars rather than a full 5. The lost half star is due to the romance, or the specific character involved in the romance and their backstory. Cassius is a descendant/relation of a religion/some gods that come into play in the final few chapters, and I feel like their introduction came out of nowhere. It seems like such a key plot component, but it felt very rushed to me and overcomplicated the ending. However, I did like that they were genuinely a part of the story throughout the rest of the book and the romance wasn’t entirely consuming, although it was a bit instalove.
In summary, I want to read more retellings or anything Erin A. Craig decides to write.
Rating: ★★★★★ (4.5 stars)