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  • Writer's pictureAmelia Hooke

Review of 'The Wicked Deep'

By Shea Ernshaw, 2018, Simon Pulse, Thriller, Paranormal, Romance

Rating: 👻👻👻 1/2 (3.5 out of 4 boos)

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow… Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town. Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under. Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into. Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters. But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.”

What’s the main character like?

Penny Talbot lives as an outsider, haunted by the disappearance of her father and the effects that had on her mother. To attend school or have any kind of social life, she must travel by boat from the isolated Lumiere Island to the small town of Sparrow. Lucky for her, she seems content being on the outskirts and is happy with her one friend Rose. Her first-person narration is strong. She is quiet but not shy. She speaks poetically and observes so much, a gift her outsider status affords.

How scary is it?

Eerie best describes this book. A handful of times, Ernshaw describes the sensation of drowning a little too well, and that got me paranoid about what it would feel like. Those descriptions scared me. Otherwise, the book is hauntingly beautiful, nautical, dark. But if you have any kind of ocean fear, maybe steer clear.

Who might like this book?

Although set in modern times, this book feels old in the best of ways. Sparrow is a small town stuck in the past because the past refuses to let them go. With consistent chapters dedicated to describing the Swan sisters when they were alive, readers of historical fiction who especially love anything related to witches will enjoy this book. Also, readers who prefer plots that are slow (not boring, just slow and meant to be savored) will enjoy reading The Wicked Deep. And of course, any girl who’s ever felt like a Penny, a bit on the outskirts of life, will be all over this book.

What did I like best?

This book had a beautiful sense of magical realism that evoked Gabriel Garcia Marquez, as well as a constant disturbing darkness that evoked Wuthering Heights. Penny Talbot and the residents of small-town Sparrow simply accept that the Swan sisters return every year to kill boys, the way others towns might accept that they get a lot of rain. Ernshaw does a fantastic job of showing how these townspeople, especially the teenagers, have embedded the Swan sisters into their lives, doing things like having a bonfire the night of the Swan Sisters’ return. There are also beautiful, quirky little details that give Sparrow some eerie charm: a cake shop, for instance, that sells seaweed coconut cakes meant to cure someone of bad memories. And all of the sea and moon-themed details create a vivid, eerie setting.

What wasn't my favorite?

Some readers will find the plot predictable. I guessed some things that were going to happen but not all of them. Also, some readers might be anticipating more witchcraft and history because the back cover (of the version I read, anyway) focuses on the witchy Swan Sisters and doesn’t even mention Penny, the star of the plot. With all of this being said, I think the book was beautiful and would not personally cite these as flaws.

What was my personal experience reading this book?

I was one of those readers who gave the book’s back cover only a cursory glance before I thought, based on the front cover alone, “Yep, I want to read this book.” I kind of hate knowing what things are about. I don’t even like watching movie trailers anymore because they give too much away. Anyway, I was expecting the book to be about historical witchcraft accusations because I did not read the back cover or inside jacket at all. I was pleasantly surprised that the book blended historical scenes with modern ones, all taking place in Sparrow.

Anyone willing to share what scares them most about the ocean? The idea of drowning? Sharks? Its fathomless quality? Razor-fanged mermaids perhaps? Share below...deep, deep below...(or just right below my post is fine.)

Next up, a book by an author with the last name F...

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