The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw has been on my TBR list for what feels like forever, and I took advantage of the lockdown to read it.
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.
The book alternates settings, giving glimpses of the life, death, and ghostly existence of the Swan sisters, along with Penny’s present-day reality. She doesn’t have an easy life, but she deals with it as best she can:
“I’m the girl who lives on Lumiere Island, whose mom went mad and dad went missing, who never hangs out in town after school.”
The town is caught in the grips of events that happened 200 years earlier, but hasn’t quite been able to move past. Mainly because the people living in the small town are still held hostage by the ghosts of the Swan sisters. Instead, they have embraced this gruesome legend and turned it into a source of tourist income and a reason to party, all rolled into one:
“Tonight’s party is the start of a season that will bring more than just tourist dollars — it will bring folklore and speculation and doubt about the town’s history. But always, every year without fail or falter, it also brings death.”
The writing has a beautiful flow, and it honestly made me feel like I was right there with the characters — with the wind, rain, and chill in the air, and the feeling that danger is lurking around every corner.
“We pass the small greenhouse where herbs and tomato plants and leafy greens were once tended and grown, the glass walls now tarnished and smudged so that you can no longer see inside. The island has taken back most of the structures, decaying walls and rot seeping up from below. Moss covers every surface: a weed that feeds off the constant moisture and cannot be contained. Rust and mildew. Slop and mud. Death has found its way into everything.”
I wasn’t exactly sure what I was expecting, but this wasn’t it. Not in a bad way at all, though. I found the book so interesting and unpredictable. Penny is a character that I liked, and Bo was enigmatic and interesting. Nothing in this was really what I expected, and while there were surprises, there was only one really big plot twist, but it was a doozy! I loved the writing style, the characters, the setting, and the story itself.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn't an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 8
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars