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The Wicked Deep

Review

The Wicked Deep

If you love CRUEL BEAUTY by Rosamund Hodge or THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER by Michelle Hodkin, pick up THE WICKED DEEP by Shea Ernshaw.

THE WICKED DEEP is a tale surrounding the seaside town of Sparrow, Oregon. It has become a regular phenomenon in this town for teen boys to mysteriously drown in the sea every June. These boys are lured to their death by the ghosts of the Swan sisters, three girls who were persecuted as witches two hundred years ago. The myth surrounding their deaths has attracted tourists from all over the country and our main character, 17-year-old Penny Talbot despises this cultist obsession that has developed.

"There are some flaws, but this book cannot be labeled as uninteresting. If you want something quick and entertaining to read, give this novel shot!"

This year is different, however, as the arrival of a teenage boy named Bo causes Penny to rethink her passive acceptance of these murders. In order to protect Bo, together they embark on a journey of sorts to end the sisters’ reign.This is occurring alongside a witch hunt which has taken hold of the town. The locals begin rounding up girls and accusing them of being one of the Swans. They believe if they can figure out which girls are inhabited by the spirits, they can kill those girls and thus prevent the spirits from returning to the sea, thus breaking the curse. 

This book is a whirlwind experience as we explore what this town will do to protect themselves and what lines they will cross to achieve this goal. My favorite aspect of this novel is the setting and the backstory given to the Swan sisters. The atmosphere is made chilling both by the damp, briny streets of Sparrow and by the notion of a 200-year-old curse. The Swan sisters and their story was fascinating and as a lover of the paranormal, I couldn’t help swoon at the sheer, daunting nature of it all. Three women persecuted for their beauty, and for years, they have been exacting revenge on the young men of their town? Sign me up. These spirits are very similar to sirens in the sense that they lure unsuspecting men into their lairs to kill them. Really the only difference is that these spirits inhabit human bodies and walk on land. If I were to rate this novel on these attributes alone, it would be an easy five stars.

However, the characters and the premise of this book left me immensely frustrated. This town literally has no qualms about their children dying. These parents stay in this town knowing their sons could die and their daughters could be inhabited by ghosts and become murderers, yet they reside in this town willingly. This does not make sense at all. I could not enjoy this book fully knowing the entire plot was based upon an unrealistic premise. In addition, Penny and Bo’s relationship had no chemistry at all. It was most likely because, as readers, we have know idea what Bo’s personality is. He is supposed to be this mysterious, pensive guy, but when authors play this trope, they should still attempt to flesh out their character and portray him as someone more than this persona. Ernshaw did not do that here. Whereas Penny was a boring, Mary Sue type character that I simply could not become attached to. This detracted from the quality of the novel so much that I had to lower my rating to three stars.

In this novel, there are a few heartbreaking surprises, a passionate act of sacrifice, and neighbors are turning on neighbors in order to stop a centuries-old curse. There are some flaws, but this book cannot be labeled as uninteresting. If you want something quick and entertaining to read, give this novel shot!

Reviewed by Melat E., Teen Board Member on March 22, 2019

The Wicked Deep
by Shea Ernshaw