Title: The Wicked Deep
Author: Shea Ernshaw
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: March 6th 2018
When the town of Sparrow drowned the Swan sisters, convinced they were witches, they set upon themselves a curse that has plagued the small town for two centuries. Penny Talbot hasn’t had a normal life since her father disappeared three summers ago, but in a place like Sparrow, it’s hard for anyone to have a normal life. Each year the Swan sisters return, inhabiting the bodies of young women and lure young men to their deaths. Every year the families of Sparrow are devastated by the loss of their sons, but are powerless to stop it. When Bo, an outsider, wanders into Sparrow with no knowledge of the town curse, Penny befriends him despite the warnings in her head. But soon the sisters begin their killing spree and Penny becomes desperate to keep Bo from danger, but secrets from both their pass threaten not only their new bond, but their lives.
Shea Ernshaw’s The Wicked Deep beguiles with its eerie setting, transporting readers to a place where the town’s transgressions are a tourist attraction to outsiders, but an inescapable curse upon generations of inhabitants. The most interesting part of this book is by far the town itself. Not only its history of executing young women suspected of witchcraft, but how it has both embraced and feared the consequences of its actions. The young people of Sparrow throw parties when the summer solstice rolls around perhaps because most of them don’t quite believe in the curse. But it’s enough to keep many of them away from the water where it’s said the sisters claim their host bodies and where their victims are eventually led to drown. It isn’t surprising that this uncertain and deadly time brings about a level of paranoia. Just because the town’s curse hasn’t been broken doesn’t mean it can’t be and for a few desperate individuals hunting down the sisters and killing them before they can do more harm is the only way to stop them. But with no way of knowing who has been possessed, the town becomes the center of a witch hunt and history often repeats itself.
Penny has never quite gotten over how her town treated her father. As an outsider, he was never fully embraced and when he disappeared, Sparrow found little time to care. For the last three years it has been Penny who maintains the lighthouse on the little island just outside of Sparrow. Her mother is no more than a shadow of her old self and with no other occupants on the island, Penny feels both its isolation and comfort at once. Bo, who carries his own losses close to his chest becomes a kind of mirror for Penny. Their connection represents the part of herself that longs to escape Sparrow, but which inevitably knows Sparrow is both her beginning and end. Bo is a tricky character to really get a handle on. Ernshaw relies on belated reveals to shock the reader and while I will say I enjoyed most of her twists, this method made Bo’s character in particular feel inconsistent. What we discover later didn’t mesh well with the Bo we meet at the beginning. I felt little sympathy for him and found myself actively rooting against him at times. The ending as a result of all the plot twists also didn’t sit well with me and kind of left me feeling that Penny really got the short end of the stick in the end.
Shea Ernshaw’s The Wicked Deep is atmospheric and eerie. The mystery of the town’s curse and romance between Penny and Bo will have many readers enthralled. The ending however left a bad aftertaste in my mouth.