Review of The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…
Two centuries ago, in the small, isolated town, 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 from the depths, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them down to their watery deaths.
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 or the fact that his arrival will change everything…
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.

I got a copy of The Wicked Deep in a book sub box, I had seen it around but didn’t know much about it which is perfect because sometimes knowing can turn me away, as i’m often a creature of habit.  I’m not really a fan of fantasy in a contemporary setting but this book changed my mind completely!  I think that this is because the small town of Sparrow doesn’t feel contemporary.  Forgotten for most of the year, it’s a crumbling town being slowly reclaimed by the sea.  With no chain stores or high street names it’s kind of trapped in time, which all ends up adding to the authenticity of Swan Season – A short time each year where it’s said that the drowned witch Swan sisters return to the shore to claim the lives of men in the town. Despite there actually being annual deaths, tourists still flock to Sparrow every year.  The story is also nicely interposed with chapters about the history of the town and the Swan sisters time there, which also gives it a less contemporary feel.

Before I go any further I want to cut to one thing, this book has been published by Simon and Schuster’s Children’s Division – so set your sights here.  Yes this is a tale of darkness, murder and revenge, but don’t expect it to be graphic or horrifying – I mention this as I have seen some people complain that it isn’t enough of those things.  YA covers a large age range and sometimes it’s going to be towards the lower end and to be honest, the story telling is so fantastic that it doesn’t need to be graphic or over the top.  I think Shea Ernshaw does an amazing job of conveying dread without resorting to shock. That’s also evident that despite the subject matter this is a really easy and captivating read, I couldn’t put it down and read it in a day!

There isn’t a character I disliked.  The sisters were portrayed brilliantly, all reacting differently to the 200 years of vengeance and I found it a really interesting take on how they can become either weary or sharpened by this.  The children of the town as well were thoughtfully considered with how they have come to accept the fate of the town they were born into, and almost embrace it like a birthright, despite knowing what the fates could have in store.  I want to be careful of saying too much about the characters as there is some brilliant misdirection and a twist to this tale, which kept me on my toes.

The story feels very ethereal, from the mists of the sisters song to the decrepit lighthouse island and the run down township.  Even the antics of the children at the start of Swan Season seems as if they are already under a spell rather than the elaborate dares they look to be playing – perhaps that is a spell over the whole town, in that they float along knowing what is coming yet seem in no hurry to change or move to do anything about it.

I loved this book for so many reasons and it’s beautifully not afraid to be a stand alone which is so refreshing at the moment. The cover is gorgeous too!  I have no hesitation in giving this book 5*

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