Small Favors by Erin A. Craig – Review

Ellerie Downing lives in the quiet town of Amity Falls in the Blackspire Mountain range–five narrow peaks stretching into the sky like a grasping hand, bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest from which the early townsfolk fought off the devils in the woods. To this day, visitors are few and rare. But when a supply party goes missing, some worry that the monsters that once stalked the region have returned.

As fall turns to winter, more strange activities plague the town. They point to a tribe of devilish and mystical creatures who promise to fulfill the residents’ deepest desires, however grand and impossible, for just a small favor. But their true intentions are much more sinister, and Ellerie finds herself in a race against time before all of Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves go up in flames.

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Thank you so much to Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read an eARC of this second novel from Erin, whose prose I fell in love with after also receiving an ARC of her debut book– House of Salt and Sorrows. Let me just say right up front that if you enjoyed that retelling, you will LOVE Small Favors. Erin has a penchant for taking fairy tales and unraveling them, taking the bones hidden inside and building a whole new beast out of them; not unlike the twisted creatures encroaching upon Amity Falls. I would not have even known this was a Rumpelstiltskin re-imagining until the climax of the novel if I hadn’t seen hype for it on Twitter. THAT’S how effective and unique this author is. She has crafted a stunning world all her own in this work.

We are introduced to Ellerie Downing and her family. They live in a small, rule-driven town surrounded by forests and completely cut off from civilization. The Downings’ role in this town revolves around their bees– her father is an apiarist, and her mother creates treats and other crafts with the wax and the honey. They are closely tied (for better or for worse) to the other families in the town, and adhere to the restrictions set by the Elders of the settlement. However, things start to fall to pieces quite quickly– the author wastes no time bringing in the conflict while still showcasing the characters and their personalities. A supply run is laid to waste by strange animals with deformities, hunters come across impossible game that they can’t explain, and all the people in Amity Falls start to feel mistrust towards their fellow man as things go missing, are destroyed, or are revealed.

After a horrific accident, Ellerie is left in charge of her two sisters. Even with the crippling weight of seeing her family through the hardest winter she’s ever seen– Ellerie starts to fall for a mysterious trapper who opens her eyes to the luck (both good and bad) surrounding her. As things escalate in the town, Ellerie has to summon all of her strength and ingenuity to figure out what supernatural forces are at work before all of Amity Falls goes up in flames. It is a thrilling roller coaster ride, and has so much to offer. It’s a story about family, love, and aplomb. In addition, it is a STUNNING dark fantasy– guaranteed to make your hair stand on end and look for silvery eyes staring back at you from the forest, and the absolute body horror will bring the utter devastation and unheard of malformations in your nightmares; Erin is a master of description, bringing stags with too many horns and colts with exposed spines to life in haunting detail.

Honestly, I am already foaming at the mouth for Erin to release another novel in this vein. It hits so many particular story-telling kinks for me, and in a time where it’s been a struggle to make myself relax enough to enjoy reading– this book was something I always looked forward to at the end of the day. It really and truly transported me to the tainted atmosphere of Amity Falls, and it was hard for me to put it down. These books (including House of Salt and Sorrows) fill a specific niche in the YA community that I consider sorely missing– because though there are an infinite amount of retellings, (art is either plagiarism or revolution) most are not as imaginative and intrepid as I find these. I want so much more YA horror, and I hope we are lucky enough to get more of it from Erin.

5/5 stars

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig – Review

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.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for this ARC! What a whirlwind of a book! It starts off with a bang, throwing us into this mystical and fantastical world with tragedy, family, and power, and what a striking world it was! The world building in this novel was awe-inspiring. I would love another novel on just the different gods and goddesses!

For this narrative though, we start out by being given a mystery, and I was very literally kept guessing until the end! There a small clues dropped, red herrings delicately placed, and enough twists and turns to make your stomach roll like you’re dropping from a great height.

I enjoyed the journey from start to finish; it was a delectable spin on an old tale -Twelve Dancing Princesses- but you can tell from the very first chapter that the author made it her own in a variety of ways. My absolute favorite of those is how absolutely dark the story is. Murder, ghosts, madness, and tension that is so tangible you can almost choke on it all make this story wholly original and a delight to have had the pleasure of reading.

I had chills the majority of the book, and it was extremely hard to put down. I didn’t want to miss a second of the Thaumas saga! I love retellings, but this book exceeded all of my wildest dreams. It’s a perfect read for a dark and stormy night!

5/5 stars