Subtle Horror: House of Salt and Sorrows

22 Jul

Whenever anything horror related is connected to fantasy, it often falls under the genre of grim-dark, things like The Witcher, A Song of Ice and Fire, The First Law series, and The Broken Empire trilogy just to name a few. All of these have elements of violence and some semblance of horror to them. But for all of the ones that have these elements out on full display, how many fantasy ones use it in a more subtle way? Horror can be a utterly shocking, but it can also be used to build up a quite atmosphere of dread and fear throughout the story it’s telling.

This is where House of Salt and Sorrows comes into play. Written by Erin A. Craig, it tells the story of the Thaumas sisters, once known as the Thaumas Dozen, four of them having died a tragic death prior to the book’s beginning. Our protagonist, Annaleigh, one of the remaining sisters is attending the funeral of the fourth latest dead sister when the book starts. When she starts to receive hints that the death of her sisters maybe no accident, she starts to investigate who could be behind the possible murders.

Part retelling of Grimm’s The Twelve Dancing Princesses and part horror suspense novel, Craig weaves a fantastical tale that will satisfy those looking for a story with strong fairy tale horror vibes.

Written By:
Lauren Lapinski
Circulation Assistant

Magical Histories of New York: Witches of New York and The Age of Witches

15 Jul

Sometimes when I’m at my desk in our library building with its tin ceilings and ornate woodwork, I wonder what it would have been like when the building first opened in 1897 or even earlier in 1890 when the library was first created. Back at the turn of the century when Ami McKay’s Witches of New York and Louisa Morgan’s The Age of Witches were set, Hoboken was just taking shape evolving from a pleasure resort for the wealthy to a popular shipping port and a place of invention by the newly created Steven’s Institute.  I enjoyed both the magical fantasy aspects as well as the insight these books give into history. 

The Witches of New York
by Ami McKay
The Witches of New York is set during 1880 and focuses on 17-year-old Beatrice who newly an adult, leaves her Aunt’s home near Sleepy Hollow to answer an ad for a shop girl in New York City which includes the mysterious phrase “Those averse to magic need not apply.”  There she meets Adelaide Thom and Eleanor St. Clair, two witches, who help Beatrice find her own powers and inner strength.  Here witchcraft is used as a metaphor for the power of women and the way in which that power was often suppressed and maligned in history.  I found the characters very enjoyable and there were enough hinted at possibilities for future storylines I have the impression it is likely not the last we will be seeing of these characters.  The three women’s story continue in the novella, Half Spent was the Night.  Adelaide also was featured in an earlier novel by McKay, The Virgin Cure

The Age of Witches
by Louisa Morgan

Set in 1890’s New York and England, The Age of Witches also looks at a group of three woman and the magic they possess, although in this case they are not all working in harmony.  Annis Allington is a young woman who wants nothing more to ride her horse and have the freedom not often given to woman of her age; her social climbing stepmother, Frances, however, sees a good marriage for Annis lifting them from their noveau riche social circle and into the highest levels of society.  Frances had previously used her magic to snag Annis’s father so that she could be lifted out of poverty.  Added in to this mix is Annis’s Aunt Harriet who wishes to keep Frances from manipulating Annis and awaken the young woman’s own power. The characters are strongly written and even when Francis falls into the evil stepmother trope there are still sympathetic aspects to her as a woman looking to rise above the limited circumstances society allowed her at the time.

Want more fantasy stories about witches?  You can read some more of my witchy picks here including Louisa Morgan’s A Secret History of Witches.

Check out The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco and join us for a Zoom book discussion (online or you can call in with your phone) on July 20 at 6 PM. You can email hplwriters@ gmail.com to receive a Zoom invite.

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Information and Digital Services

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